December 12, 2008

Wayang kulit, apparently the transition game of choice

In the past few weeks, while I have been out of touch (relatively speaking and at times mentally), the education news on the transition has been an odd political version of Indonesian shadow puppetry (or wayang kulit) where writers such as David Brooks or Seyward Darby portray Obama's decision on Secretary of Education as some sort of signal about his policy preferences. As I've stated before, that's partially true at best, and since the target of much of this is Linda Darling-Hammond, about whom I've written before, I'll keep this brief:

Friends, how stupid do you think Obama is, that he'll respond to character assassination by proxy? And do you think the attacks say more about Darling-Hammond or more about how you view the president-elect?

Darling-Hammond is on my journal's editorial board, but that doesn't mean I've worked closely with her. (I wish she had accepted more manuscripts for review; that's a common desire of editors with regard to plenty of reviewers.) I've met her a handful of times at most, and I've published one of her manuscripts. On a lot of the policy issues that her critics like to target her for, I see her as a lot more ambiguous than they do (or at least she's been prolific enough that I've caught her spouting the Vague Conventional Wisdom more than once). On some things, I agree with her, and on some things I don't. Specifically, I think Kane and Steiger's research is important and has to be responded to, whether it's right or wrong in the long term. But that is how one addresses disagreements with scholarship: with more scholarship.

In terms of running a department, I think Alexander Russo's criticism of ed journalists is correct: someone needs to go out and do the legwork on the issues that matter to department heads, apart from what is already published. Find out what Darling-Hammond's been like as an administrator, both for those under her and her peers. I have no idea what she might be like as Secretary of Education. But I have a visceral reaction against ad hominem attacks, and that's what's happening here.

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Posted in Education policy on December 12, 2008 12:59 AM |