Deborah Meier's blog

Schooling for Ruling

This is Deborah Meier's speech at the Save Our Schools Rally, Saturday, July 30, 2011, on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.

One thing that is interesting is that only mad dogs, Englishmen and teachers could imagine having a rally at noon in Washington DC, in the middle of the summer. But I am willing to be a mad dog and a mad teacher.

There are some advantages to being old, and that is that you have been there before. As Diane Ravitch reminded us yesterday, even in my one limited life this is about the fifth major crisis caused by teachers. But I do think there is something special about this crisis.

We are in a crisis, but not the one they are talking about. We are in a crisis about human relationships, and a crisis about the survival of democracy. That is what we are fighting for. The word public is even in the word republic. There can’t be a republic if there is not a public, and there can’t be a democracy if there is not a republic.

Don't Mourn, Organize

(This was written before the events in Madison, Wisconsin, and my opportunity to join the rally for an afternoon--I will be posting my reaction to those events soon.)

Dear Readers,

I'm riveted to my TV screen watching the action on the streets of Cairo. I'm filled with painful memories of past hopes: Hungary in 1956 and Tiananmen Square in 1989. What gives them such courage? As I cheer them on from the safety of my home I feel renewed hope but also shame.

Using Bad Arguments for a Good Bill

Once again our best and brightest feel required to introduce legislation that is so obviously worthy by calling upon arguments I detest! 

I’m referring to the “Foundations for Success Act” introduced in Congress recently by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The bill proposes to provide universal childcare and early childhood education.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good bill. My concern is that we got into the habit of viewing education as a tool for defeating Communism, and gradually as a weapon in economic duels with Japan, Germany and now China!

And in such a war we call upon our least accurate and most distasteful data—test scores--as though our rank order in the world of education was based on some larger more grand definition. 

We furthermore feel obliged to treat their parents as defective child-rearers.

Post-Election Imagining

With another election come and gone, I find myself imagining a movie about five wonderful public schools with unionized teachers serving mostly low-income African-American and Hispanic students in America's biggest cities.

But I imagine in vain.

Got Evidence?

Deborah Meier's Education Advice to President Obama

As the Obama administration explores new ways to support a national culture of learning – as opposed to our current national culture of testing – it faces a central dilemma: How to satisfy all of our country’s education stakeholders at once.

Slow the Preschool bandwagon? Not so fast . . .

What I appreciate about Chester Finn is that he always has some good points to make. But Finn makes one good point and several questionable and fallacious ones in his Washington Post Op-Ed, “Slow the Preschool Bandwagon” (May 15, 2009). The good point is that it would help at-risk children and their families to have intensive support from birth to age five. When this was done in North Carolina’s Abecedarian Project, I.Q. scores rose, special education placement rates fell from 48 percent to 25 percent, and grade retention declined from 55 percent to 31 percent.

New Report Chronicles a "Crisis in the Kindergarten"

The Alliance for Childhood’s  new report, Crisis in the Kindergarten, offers a careful account of what's actually happening in early childhood classrooms across the country.

The news  is frightening.  

Who Shall Govern Our Schools?

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

Thomas Jefferson, 1820

Great Ideas

Some people wake up with great ideas. But I'm a night person. Right before I fall asleep I think I've finally found just the right way to say what it is I'm thinking. Often when I wake up I've either forgotten it or it seems banal.

But here are two ideas that keep reoccurring, and it is morning now so I'm going to try to capture them.

Great Idea 1:

Protecting Public Schools

When my friends and colleagues get together to talk about our best work, I note that sometimes we compare it, with pride, to "public schools." At other times I hear adults in charter schools let the public forget that they too are public schools. It is as though our work is not part of that public sector, because we're different than "them" — being charters, pilots, or alternative schools. We've entered a period of history when the connotation of "public" has been allowed to be synonymous with bureaucratic and mediocre, only of use to those with no other choices. But, when we lose a sense that "we" not "they" are the public, we have undermined our society in dangerous ways.

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