Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the letter-to-the-editor effect

Rick Posner alerted me to Thomas Friedman's article in the Nov 21 NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/opinion/21friedman.html It's a mixed bag. On the one hand he quotes Tony Wagner, the Harvard-based education expert and author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” saying "...the three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate." and he note that parents need to be part of the solution. But then he agrees with Arne Duncan that "...using student achievement data in calculating salaries, ...increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be." Hmm...critical thinking that is measured exactly HOW from the data garnered from standardized tests?

What is most interesting to me is that a week later the Nov 28 Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/l28friedman.html printed an assortment of letters all of which addressed concerns I had when reading his piece, and not a single letter expressing confidence that Duncan was on the right track. The letters were written by a former teacher (Connecticut parent of two teens), the principal and assistant principal of NYC's East Side Middle School, an associate professor of English at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and a professor emeritus from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education (Stephen Krashen, the only name I knew): a nice range of backgrounds and experiences.

Whether anyone in positions of power is listening or not, more voices are joining the Stephen Krashens, Alfie Kohns and Deb Meiers of the world. We need to keep our eye out each time there is an article about so called "reform" in a major news source, so that the names attached to the letters are varied, and the depth of the dissatisfaction with the current assembly-line solutions can be seen. Even if just the 340 folks who like AUGUST TO JUNE's Facebook page agreed to write one letter every 6 months we could have an effect. What do you think?

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