Category Archives: Democracy

The Beautiful Struggle

I’ve yet to meet a grown-up who, at some point, hasn’t felt a bit like a hamster in the wheel – spinning mindlessly towards some opaque goal, and for some abstract, poorly understood reason.

Life can feel that way sometimes.

So you can imagine my surprise when, while visiting a small public high school in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, I encountered a group of boys working on an indeterminate project out of plywood and a handsaw.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“We’re building a human-sized hamster wheel,” they replied.

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Categories: Assessment, Democracy, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality, Voice

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This is the end of education (& the future of learning)

Or, more specifically, this is a video about a conversation of those issues. It features yours truly, but also Jaime Casap, the head of education at Google, and a number of other great educators in both K-12 and higher ed. Check it out, and see what it ignites in your own thinking . . .

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Categories: Democracy, Design & Space, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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Why We Need To Kill Our Darlings

Every writer knows what it means to “kill your darlings.”

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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The Difference Between Hannah Graham and Relisha Rudd

On March 1, eight-year-old D.C. resident Relisha Rudd disappeared. She was, according to news reports, homeless, hungry, and in the care of a man who likely killed her. The search for her body didn’t even begin until almost three weeks after she was last seen, and, after just one week and a dwindling number of tips, police effectively stopped looking.

On September 13, eighteen-year-old University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham disappeared. She was, according to Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo, a “bright, intelligent, athletic, friendly, beautiful college student who’s been part of our community for the past two years.” Hours after she went missing, state emergency management officials launched a massive search effort that was fueled by more than 4,000 tips. A little more than a month later, her body was recovered.

What can possibly account for the dramatic differences in these two stories?

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Categories: Democracy

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In memory of Ted Sizer

Several years ago, as the director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, I was lucky enough to meet Ted Sizer. A lion in the field, Ted was warm, welcoming, and eager in both theory and practice to create space for a new person like me to join him in his life’s work.

Ted died five years ago today — too young, at 77. In 2011, I edited Faces of Learning: 50 Powerful Stories of Defining Moments in Education, to try and honor his work and the impact it had on my thinking. It was a book that stitched together 50 people’s stories of their most powerful learning experiences, and the final one to share was Ted’s.

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Categories: Democracy, Learning

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Has Oprah come to embody what’s wrong with modern American culture?

I’ve decided that if I were to pick one person who embodies the ersatz character of contemporary American cultural life, that person would be Oprah Winfrey.

Let me explain.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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A School is Not a Pet. And Yet . . .

This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.

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Categories: Democracy

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New Orleans is an all-charter city. Is that a good thing?

This week, the last five traditional neighborhood schools in New Orleans’ Recovery School district were closed – making it the country’s first district made up entirely of charter schools.

That’s a good thing, right?

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning

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OK, Brown v. Board is 60; Now What?

As I travel around the country this month, participating in public conversations about the promise and peril of school choice, it seems fitting that right as we marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I would end up having lunch with Michael Alves.

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Categories: Democracy, Equity, Learning

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The Neuroscience of Democracy

In the ideal educational future, is there a single design principle that matters most in establishing the optimal learning environment for children? That seems like a pretty important question to consider. And if you were to go by today’s leading reform strategies, you might conclude that the answer is, variably, greater accountability, better use of […]

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Categories: Democracy, Learning

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