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Discussing the Future of Education
Deconstruction 2.0: Fake News vs. Propaganda
Date: September 9, 2018
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Is propaganda the same as fake news? Are both forms of manipulation equally corrosive to democratic norms?

Recently, a close friend and an ardent supporter of President Trump, called a controversial Time Magazine cover a “classic example of fake news.”

Many will recall the cover, from June, 2018, at the height of the parent-child separation crisis.  A crying immigrant toddler looks up pathetically at Uncle Donald, who towers over her, blocking her path, with a caption off to the side that reads “Welcome to America.” Except that the child has not been separated from her mother, as the cover wants us to assume; this mother was trying to enter the U.S. to find better work. Time’s choice of that child’s context was misleading. Admittedly, trying to photo shop out of context may be at worst an example of irresponsible journalism, but is it fake news?

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Restoring the Lost Power of Observation
Date: June 24, 2018
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Should we worry that the magical seductions of the pulsating, digital screen are weakening fatally our powers of observation? We all have this power, but we may have to re-cultivate it.  Children playing on the beach have this power in its purest form;  scientists; and the great poets. We live amidst a crisis of inattentiveness. If we truly want a sustainable world, we will have to be still and re-develop a Sherlock Holmes of the senses.

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Mindset, Model and Practice: Learning from Community College Struggling Writers What They Need
Date: May 21, 2018
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Mindset, Model, Practice:

Learning from Community College Student Writers What They need

I have always felt that the most engaging work I do in the classroom is when I am teaching students to write well. Good teachers of writing know that writing is hard. Even great writers opine about the challenges of re-drafting, the psychic energy and anxiety of finding the right words. We would do well to imagine how the act of written expression feels for students with limited fluency.

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How Many ‘Likes’ does Data Deserve?
Date: January 7, 2018
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We know that our habits and affinities are now shaped by finely parsed algorithms; yet we collude in the act of becoming data points because we, too, gain something from the transaction. The data we collect and use in schools is likewise subject to parsing that sometimes lacks a clear relationship between means and ends. The pressure to collect it can steal time from other vital aspects of our work. But if a metric is truly well-designed, we can get a greater wealth of insight about how students learn than ever before. In my own work, then, I am trying to find a middle ground between fully embracing the value of specific kinds of data and a healthy skepticism about our obsession with developing ever more complex layers of metrics. (more…)

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Can Teaching Books Pave the Way for Empathic Citizens in a time of Mean Spirits? Part III
Date: November 6, 2017
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This is part 3 of the series  |  Read Part 1  |  Read Part 2

What should we, as educators, consider when we want texts to predispose students to empathy? The old tropes are no longer so self-evident. Teachers and schools should go well beyond choosing and studying (the hip jargon is “curate”) texts that introduce and expose students to people and cultures who are alien to them. We have been doing that for quite a while under the general rubric of “diversity.” it should be obvious by now that, like community service, this is not enough. We are still at risk of choosing texts in a binary way: texts about the “other” without preparation may be asking students to embrace lives too remote to make an impact on them; texts that always stay close to home with the intent of being culturally relevant can also also narrow impact by merely reinforcing the known world. (more…)

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Can Teaching Books Pave the Way for Empathic Citizens in a time of Mean Spirits? Part II
Date: November 3, 2017
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This is part 2 of the series  |  Read Part 1 Read Part 3

It is a difficult argument to make to a diminishing audience of readers in a world wedded to data that literature can lay the groundwork for more empathic children and young adults—and therefore a stronger citizenry. That more than ever the value of reading about the lives of others may serve as an antidote to the virus of narcissism and segregated systems of belief and class. In primary and secondary schools we have the last captive audience we may ever have for this task. (more…)

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Can Teaching Books Pave the Way for Empathic Citizens in a time of Mean Spirits? Part I
Date: November 2, 2017
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This is part 1 of the series  |  Read Part 2  |  Read Part 3

At the age of twelve, my grandmother, who knew I was already an avid reader, gave me the novel Another Country by James Baldwin, which was quickly followed by “Sonny’s Blues” and The Fire Next Time. I realized later that she had gifted me these books because I had already expressed an interest in justice and civil rights, and Baldwin’s searing prose was relevant to the time and interest. I remember these texts because I hold them responsible for nurturing in me a nascent empathy for the struggles of Americans who were not like me. Baldwin’s whole premise is that Black and White Americans are tied together in a blood knot, and that the fate of the country is bound to this recognition and the white race’s understanding of its own destructive innocence. It is somewhat counter-intuitive that words in a book can prepare readers for the experience of empathy. Words are abstract, after all, while we think of direct experience as concrete. How can we walk in “another man’s shoes” when we aren’t actually walking? (more…)

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Two Cheers for No Excuses
Date: September 20, 2017
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The no excuses approach to teaching and learning in Charter Schools is getting a second look. New trends in character education may have served to reveal some of the contradictions in this ideology (which some insist on calling non-cognitive skills in a certain fidelity to Cartesian logic). Does this mean that Charter networks are rediscovering the benefits of kinder and gentler child development for children being unschooled from poverty? Like all the complex changes undergirding the educational reform movement, the context warrants a deeper look. (more…)

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Among School Children: (Charter Schools and its paradoxical culture of attrition)
Date: September 5, 2017
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Urban Charter School networks have now focused in some cases for twenty years on educating underserved children for whom a good education might compensate for huge gaps in early childhood. Many have accomplished this task with considerable success—though that success is sometimes narrowly defined by testing data until college (or high school) matriculation takes over as a more compelling piece of correlative evidence.  But at the core of these efforts are cohorts of young teachers driven by idealism about closing these gaps and by a desire to forge their skills in the cauldron of school reform. The staff is often the inverse demographically of the established private schools and in contrast to the unionized, mixed-age staff of the traditional district schools. The strength of this rookie charter culture is its surfeit of positive psychology and tremendous energy. Idealism and ideology make a point of not excusing a student’s poor performance because of economic class or family dysfunction.  (more…)

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Deck for a New School Design: from the XQ semi-finalist plan
Date: February 17, 2017
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For those of you interested in school design, this is a deck summary of our Emerson Collective’s XQ project high school design contest. My team of 6 and I were not among the 10 finalists who got the $10M jackpot, alas, but semi-finalists–a 7 person team of educators and social entrepreneurs with whom it was an incredible journey, planning our dream high school of the future. The goal is to have elements of this plan morph one day into the light of day! While this design is not proprietary in any legal sense, I ask anyone interested in any of the details to be in touch. Scroll through the slides. The full written version is available for anyone interested.

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