HotSeat Interview: New Blogger Hopes To Connect Strands
There are already a LOT of education blogs out there but so many of them are so slow on the draw, unoriginal, or predictable that there's always room for a new fresh voice. Though it's way too soon to tell it's possible that Erik Kain's American Times might be one of them. On the HotSeat, Kain confesses to being a progressive libertarian, answers my ridiculous questions (Flunk, fund, flee: Arne Duncan, Diane Ravitch, Michelle Rhee?), and tells all about his own education experiences (Montessori, substitute special ed teacher). Take a look and see what you think.
What should we call you – E.D., or Erik – and how did you come up with the name for the blog?
Call me Erik. I used to blog at True/Slant before Forbes bought-out that site. My blog there was called American Times so I decided to keep it at my new digs. I came up with it because it encompassed what I was writing about - America in our time, the stories and politics and personalities that effect us today.
What event or brainstorm led you to want to start blogging about education?
I come from a family of educators and was a substitute teacher for a while. I seriously considered going into teaching but it wasn't in the cards. Education is important to me and I think about it a lot - more so now that I have kids. I'm an education-hobbyist you could say.
A substitute teacher – where and when and what was it like for you?
It was a brief stint between other jobs. I did mostly special ed at all levels - elementary, middle school, and high school - and it was really hard but also gratifying work. I don't think I could be a full-time special ed teacher though.
What will your blog do or have that's not already out there?
I want to make the education discussion more accessible to non-edu-wonks. I hope to write not just about education policy and the day-to-day fights surrounding education reform in America, but also the philosophy of education and what a broader vision for American education should be. So a lot of my material will be, to some degree, outside of the debate - and a lot of it will be an attempt to weave the education debate into the larger cultural/political narrative.
How have your Balloon Juice and League readers been responding to your new outlet so far?
Everyone's a critic - but so far it seems mostly positive. I've only been at the new blog for a few days now, so time will tell.
Do you self identify as a conservative, a liberal, a centrist, a libertarian?
Actually lately I've been self-identifying as a Leftwing Civil Societarian. I'd say my politics are a mix of progressivism and libertarianism. I have an abiding love for fusionist politics.
Flunk, fund, flee: Arne Duncan, Diane Ravitch, Michelle Rhee?
Arne Duncan: the jury is still out. He certainly means well, but I'm not a fan of Race to the Top (or really any carrot/stick approach the federal government takes with education). Diane Ravitch: I'm a fan. I think she's an honest broker, and I admire her willingness to change her mind. I am probably more positive about the charter school movement than she is - not the way it's been handled in many cases, but in its theoretical application. She's right about the dangers of the accountability movement, however. Michelle Rhee: Rhee represents everything that is wrong with top-down reforms. Flee, for sure.
You said your parents are both educators -- tell us more about that (and your own schooling)?
Actually a lot of my family are educators. My dad taught middle and high school before going on to teach education at the university level. We moved around a lot, so my education was pretty diverse. I went to Montessori school, Catholic school, was home-schooled, and attended public school in both the US and Canada.
How did the deal with Forbes come to be, and what's the editorial control or autonomy you have with them?
I came from True/Slant and they kindly kept me on after the merger. As far as I know, so long as I keep my facts straight and stick within their conduct guidelines and various formatting guidelines, I have tons of editorial autonomy. They've been really great about that which is nice, and a reflection of the quality of the True/Slant team that came over to Forbes. They understand blogging and new media very well, I think, and I'm really excited to be working with them again.