March 2, 2009

Take a breath (if you don't have asthma) and go on

I don't have asthma, but as my head cold morphs into the ordinary misery of seasonal allergies, I realize it's a darned nuisance not to be able to breathe comfortably. With luck I'll shortly be back to normal (or at least for what passes as normal for me), and in times like these, it pays to take a deep breath on receipt of almost any news and criticism. Evidently, my perspective lies somewhere between former Hill staffer and new DFER policy guru Charles Barone and NYC union activist Norm Scott, because I'm getting dished on by both. I'm not going to use the lazy journalist's excuse, "Because both sides are criticizing me, I must be right," in part because I'm not a journalist, in part because it's easily possible to be wrong about multiple things at once, and in part because while I disagree with Barone's and Scott's posts, they (generally) have the guts to say where they disagree with me. Oh, yeah, and they spell my name right. That counts for a lot with me.

Barone criticizes me (and others) for writing too much from an adult's perspective. I've written about that topic before (at length in Accountability Frankenstein and in more digestible chunks in One-Blog Schoolhouse), so let me provide a somewhat different gloss here: I could easily turn my blog over to several guest writers, my children and their friends. I suspect Barone's response to their criticisms of high-stakes testing would be, "Well, I know a little more about the world and your own best interest than you do." That statement would be absolutely right (at least in the first half) and an absolutely adult perspective.

(Incidentally, I agree with his substantive point in his entry that teacher happiness is not the point of either education policy or teacher education. I don't think that you can usually have effective teaching with completely miserable teachers, but I suspect or at least hope Barone would agree with me, and there's plenty of ground between avoiding total misery for teachers and seeing their euphoria as the primary goal of policy.)

Scott criticizes me (and others) for ignoring the fact that Arne Duncan was flawed as head of the Chicago Public Schools. Er, no. I'm fairly sure I'd have disagreed with him on a number of his decisions in the same way that I am fairly confident on where I'll disagree with him on federal education policy. But that open expectation of some disagreement does not mean the Obama administration is evil. Scott asks, "Exactly how much 'context' do these people need?" I'd say 20 years of Republican presidencies divided by 8 years of Bill Clinton. In comparison with Bill Clinton on the whole, Obama is good. And in contrast to the others, he's very, very good. That doesn't mean that I'm going to stay quiet when I think the administration is doing something wrong. It means I do have some perspective. Breathe, folks, breathe. For those who are worried about Arne Duncan, I think you'd do much better to putting your energies into worrying about Timothy Geithner instead.

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Tags: Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Charles Barone, Chicago Public Schools, Norm Scott
Posted in Education policy on March 2, 2009 11:16 PM |