Dear Philip

Philip wrote to me on his blog:

I also thought of my writing, and yours. Do you ever get the impression that you’re speaking, writing primarily to and for yourself? For that’s the impression I have when I write, and also I’m pretty much convinced that what I write has zero influence on anything out there. (That, of course, may not be your impression.)

1. I have a gadget called Feedburner. For example, it tells me who subscribes to my blog. And how many people read any particular item.

2. I'm writing for myself, yes. To clarify my own views. But also to an audience mostly of colleagues and friends. I'm not trying to influence them particularly. I just like their feedback/pushback. For sheer survival. Just last week the Massachusetts State Senate passed a poison pill anti-charter funding amendment.

Down the road, "influencing" may be a direction I'd like to go. To influence the "reform movement." Appropriately, most reformer energy is fighting status quo. But as a result, our self-critique isn't very well developed.

Philip writes:

Many of the participants are still with us, still saying pretty much the the same things they said at the 1995 Convocation (Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, Merseth, Elmore, Darling-Hammond, Linda Nathan et al. And many others have passed on (Shanker, Sizer, Howe et al.), although perhaps still repeating the same things from up there somewhere.

I'll raise you a few years. I found a 102-year-old edition of American Educator. On page 19, you'll find "Methods of Teaching Geometry." Two ideas there remind me of my 2 favorite recent books about teaching. The author describes

In our recitations we have an average of twenty students. It is not possible to hear this number recite during an ordinary recitation period so we call on enough from shuffled cards to cover the theorems for the day. Their corollaries and the originals assigned for home work with as many more of a similar character.

So, cold calling, per Doug Lemov's Teach Like A Champion.

In pursuing this method great care must be taken that the originals assigned are not too difficult for the advancement of the class. They should be very easy at first and progressively more difficult as the work goes on.

Reminds me of Dan Willingham's Why Students Don't Like School.

So sure: in some ways, we're having the same discussions of 100 years ago.

I do think, however, we're in a period of once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to change. Two versions of it.

One is a mix of top down (Obama, Gates Foundation --> changing state laws) and bottom-up (charters, new approaches to teacher and leader development). That's what this blog is about.

The other is Clay Christensen disruption: online learning replacing bricks and mortar education. He says change never happens top down.