Tag Archives: Arne Duncan

Should Schools be More or Less Democratic?

Like most parents of a young child, I’m trying to decide which environment will be the best for my son when he enters a public school for the first time next fall. At nearly every open house my wife and I attend, cheerful administrators and educators tout the advantage of being a “participatory” school, and of “giving children the opportunity to learn and work in groups.” Send your child here, they tell us, and he’ll acquire a core set of democratic skills – from working collaboratively to acting empathetically – that will help him successfully negotiate our increasingly interconnected global community.

Sounds great, I say – until I open my Sunday New York Times and read a cover story warning against the rise of a new type of groupthink. “Most of us now work in teams,” writes author Susan Cain, “in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

Whom should we trust? Have we overvalued democratic skills like collaboration and shared decision-making to our own detriment? And, in the end, should our schools be more or less democratic?

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Categories: Democracy, Learning

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What We Talk About When We Talk About School Reform

With all due respect to Flannery O’Connor, my vote for greatest American short-story writer goes to Ray Carver. And with all due respect to America’s current crop of leaders, my hope is that they convene a summer book club to read Carver’s stories – and heed his central message.

I’m thinking specifically of his collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As with all of Carver’s work, it’s a collection filled with a cast of characters best suited for the island of misfit toys – or the town in which you live. These are people who are down on their luck, who have fallen out of love, and who are struggling to find the right words to communicate their feelings, their thoughts, and their sense of how (and where) it all went wrong. Reflected in Carver’s spartan prose are the surface realities of life – the quotidian desperation of the things we sometimes say, see and do. But his genius comes from his ability to surface the submerged emotions of living – the weight of grief, the insufficiency of the words we live by, the slow acknowledgement of seeing what we don’t want to see. Carver’s stories are always about what we know, what we are perpetually struggling to know, and what we talk about while we linger in the chasm in between.

Which leads us to the present moment.

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Categories: Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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Time for Obama to Become Our Teacher-in-Chief

On March 4, during an appearance in Miami with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, President Obama announced he will spend the month of March conducting a listening tour across the country, and “talking to parents and students and educators about what we need to do to achieve reform, promote responsibility, and deliver results when it comes to education.”

I think it’s a great idea – and the clock is ticking. So without further delay, I’d like to recommend three core questions Mr. Obama should ask at every stop:

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A Sinking Ship?

During a week in which both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama will publicly defend their education reform priorities – in response to severe criticism from the country’s leading civil rights organizations – I’m trying to figure out how a set of ideas that was so close to mobilizing a quiet revolution in public education has instead led the soldiers of that revolution to passionately (and loudly) take up arms against each other.

All I can come up with is they’ve gotten some lousy advice. And I think I see where they’ve gone wrong.

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Categories: Assessment, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change, Teacher Quality

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Arne Duncan’s Learning Story

Check out the first in our ongoing series with the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, who will post a different person’s learning story every week between now and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act. Have a story of your own to share? Visit rethinklearningnow.com and tell us who helped you use your mind well.

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Washington Post to Feature a Story a Week for 2010 (and beyond?)

Great news! Beginning tomorrow morning, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss will feature a new learning story each week between now and the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (whenever that is). Fittingly, the series will begin with the learning story of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But there’s still time to share your own […]

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Draft Intro for Book of Learning Stories

For anyone interested in learning a bit more about what the book will look like . . . ——– This is a book of different people’s stories. Some are about teachers who changed their students’ lives. Some describe the moment when a person first discovered how to ask the right questions, or found what they […]

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Final 50 Selected for Book of Learning Stories

Nine months ago, the Rethink Learning Now campaign launched a national storytelling initiative by asking people to reflect on their most powerful learning experiences, and/or their most effective teachers. Since then, the campaign has received hundreds of insightful and illustrative submissions from people across the country –from students to social workers to the Secretary of […]

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Book of Learning Stories — Deadline Nears

I’m spending every minute this week finalizing the manuscript that will stitch together 50 people’s stories about powerful teaching and learning (Jossey-Bass, Spring 2011 release). Already, there are powerful voices and insights in the mix — from everyday citizens to U.S. Senators to the Secretary of Education himself. And although we already have several hundred […]

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Privatization or Public-ization?

There’s a lot of talk these days about the growing support for a privatization of America’s public school system, and what it augurs over the long haul. Typically, that’s as far as the conversation gets before breaking down into myopic talking points that force people to pledge allegiance to one of two camps: these days […]

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