Swift, strong, split reactions to recent columns

Originally published at www.hometownsource.com

By Joe Nathan on January 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm


There were swift, strong and split reactions to two of my recent columns. They are online at http://bit.ly/1iU1Ptq and http://bit.ly/1cZxKVc.

More than 20 people responded, via comments online and other ways, from around Minnesota and from Utah to Washington, D.C. Here are several of those comments, with brief reactions from me.

Darren Beck, an educator who has worked with district and charter educators wrote: “Nationwide, these are the questions that need to be asked and, as you pointed out, answered with a well-defined plan for the changes needed. Right, Left, Center, Ed Reformers or Traditionalists or Cutting Edge types, no one is exempt from seriously considering these issues as they impact our Republic.”

He continued: “I fail to see how the next decade or so of effort to improve public education can possibly do so without leaving ‘sides’ or ‘camps’ behind. The camp we need to be in is to improve what our young people have as choices from Pre-K to post graduate studies because that investment of money and effort will shore up how we keep the promise of America, in my humble opinion.”

Think about our successful landing on the moon, or our effort to expand civil rights, or the invention of vaccines that dramatically reduced, if not eliminated diseases like polio or smallpox. These were not Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative efforts. They were efforts that brought people together with a clear focus on solving problems. That is part of what Beck urges. I agree.

Nevertheless, we won’t always agree with each other. Some ideas are better than others. Some approaches work better with some young people. Research and experience convince me that there’s no single best approach for all young people.

Some people didn’t like what they read. Two readers disagreed with the idea that charters are public schools. I’d simply point out that the 42 state legislatures that have adopted a charter law made them part of the state’s program of public education.

Minnesota’s system of public education now includes the opportunity for students to enroll in:

– Their local district or charter schools within a district.

– Districts or charters outside a district of residence.

– The statewide Perpich arts school.

– A statewide school for students who are deaf.

– Schools created by collaborations of districts.

– At the 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade levels, courses taught on higher education campuses.

– Collaborations designed to bring together students of different races and economic backgrounds.

So free public education is no longer just what’s available at the local neighborhood public (district) school.

One reader also made a few comments about my character.  Editors and I agree that I won’t respond to personal attacks online through columns.

Many years ago, when I was a Minnesota public school assistant principal, students gave me a poster reading “Behold the turtle … who makes progress only when sticking its neck out.” Schools, communities, states and countries sometimes need to do that.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, please comment below.