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February 23, 2006

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John Powers

My answer to the question begins with hesitancy about market-based notions of education, especially when we're talking about K-2 grades.

Also it's important to to note Higher Ground Academy is a charter school and the arts program meets state standards.

The second option, a "capitulation of a common school ideal" seems very important.

My teacher education is dated, but when I went to studied education in college common school ideal was a persistant theme running through the coursework.

It's somewhat related to universal compulsory education which became law in South Carolina when I was a kid. Having lived through that transition I feel in my gut that's a good thing.

Also in teacher education some units in multi-cultural education is generally required. But like so much other coursework doesn't quite prepare us for the real world of the clasroom.

Louis Menand's wonderful book "The Metphysical Club" tells the story of pragmatism. Education majors are probably some of the few students in college today to hear anything at all about John Dewey. A relatively minor player in Menand's story is Alain Locke. I wish I'd studied his ideas about cultural pluralisms in my multi-cultural education classes.

Pragmatism isn't in vogue, but it's hardly a foreign way of thinking.

Menand notes that part of Du Bois "The Soul's of Black Folk" was about the stake white folks had in racial division. "To the degree that black identity becomes more like white identity, in other words, it is not only blackness that changes" Menand writes.

He then goes on to talk about a series of lectures Locke made early in his career to try to answer whether this means that black folks were stuck with an identity defined for them by another group.

Menand again about Locke: "[I]f it is a mistake to cling to ethnic identity, it is also a mistake to abandon it. The trick is to use it in order to overcome it. 'The group needs...to get a right conception of itself," Locke said."

Locke saw neither human sameness nor difference as essential. "[B]oth are effects of social practice...[T]hey are outcomes of what people do."

One of the things that impressed me in the article about the Higher Ground Academy was asking the parent-teacher liason about the acceptablity of tracing hands. The important thing is the parent-teacher liason relationship! They say: "the conversation is still open." The parents know that the school is listening and together they can work things out.

Deep at the core of American values is finding common cause. Pragmatism as Menand relates was a way of allowing new ideas to develop in ways which prevented violence. The openness to difference is integral to our ideals and also to the "common school ideal."

Sorry for going on so long, but one last thing. A local school board voted to eliminate an International Baccalaureate program early this week by a vote of 5-4 It's a local matter so I offer the link just in case someone is interested http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06052/
658673.stm (copy and paste) working back from that in the newspaper will lead to plenty of discussion about what are American values in school education.

My own thoughts are how said I am about ideological conformity winning the day. LOL I think it un-American. Of course that's what the opposing side would say about me. What I celebrate is the open discussion and that so far nobody is killing anyone over ideological differences yet.

In finding a way to navigate these difficult issues we'll compose the best ideals for all to share.

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