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If Only Liberals & Democrats Changed Their Minds, Too

Voucher advocate Sol Stern has had some changes of mind about competition, as reported in the NY Sun last week (A Libertarian Is Searching For an Education 'Plan B').

Which makes me wonder:  When was the last time a Democrat has had anything close to a similar moment of reflection?  A78820b0672fe6d4f352445f8c32489d313I can't think of one. Flip-flops, sure -- being for and against NCLB is a pretty much everyday occurrence.  Ditto on national testing for a few folks.  Opportunistic scene-grabbing?  Sure.  But real live changing of the minds -- that I haven't seen. 

How about me?   Hmm.  No full-on conversion experiences that I can think of.  I'm more open to charters now than I used to be back when everyone pretended to love them (ie, the 90s).  I'm more skeptical than ever of well-funded and media-loved foundation efforts (except when they're funding me, of course).  I'm less sure that the AFT is all that much different than the NEA, when it comes down to it, and a lot less sure that Al Shanker did all that much good as we thought.  I'm a lot more critical of education coverage in the papers, knowing better now what that's all about.  I still don't know which is worse -- local control or top-down cetralization -- though the case against the middle men (school districts) seems pretty clear. 

How about you?

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Here's today's version of my daily adjustment. Back in the day when I was a leftist academic, my expertise was frontier socialism in Oklahoma mostly around WWI and before. So when I heard about The Great Debaters, I printed off some reseach (mostly boring) about Melvin Tolson for when the kids asked. (I don't know enough to judge the accuracy of the movie though) We are supposed to teach Melvin Tolson as an Oklahoma hero, poet, and mayor, which usually means memorizing some facts about him.

Last week a student said, "D.T. its time for another contract. My mom and I saw The Great Debaters and we cried." So a student followed the drill and drafted a contract for me to sign and she posted it on the board. Watching the movie today, I kept asking myself how I could be so oblivious to the story. My mentor had been a hero of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Her earliest memories were of her father, a Socialist lawyer, and his Winchester rifle defending against the Klan trying to lynych his Black clients. Though I was an expert on the events that occured just north of the Red River 20 years before ,written from a White perspective, I knew nothing of the story that took place just outside my frame of reference.

So, I had committed the "round peg in a round hole;" "square peg in a square hole" thinking that pervades schooling.

My complaint against curriculum alignment, enforced by hard accountability, is that it often seeks to forbid me from honoring such requests from students. Often, that approach seeks to prohibit my students and I from engaging in this type of respectful learning.

But at the same time, I have to admit, I just discovered a dramatic story that was just outside of my peripheral vision. I have had dozens of opportunities while skimming materials that mention Tolson to discover his story, but I missed it for thirty years.

DT

Liberals and Demos don't change their mind? What about every time the wind blows? Haven't you been watching the debates?

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