Thursday, April 21, 2011

More About Talking or Not Talking

Writing as a guest on the Answer Sheet, Diana Senechal echoes a Plainsman point shared by the Madville Times and  asserts that "public education needs public discussion."
Public education needs public discussion. We need forums where the information is laid bare and where arguments rest on their merits. For instance, any learning software should be available for public scrutiny. Anyone should be allowed to test it thoroughly and even examine its code. The same should hold for value-added models and anything else affecting instruction and school policy. We should be as faithful as elephants, meaning what we say, saying what we mean, remembering what we said before, and knowing what we’re talking about to begin with.
“That’s naive,” someone might object. “If you made these matters public, people would just clam up or bust. The issues are too volatile, too delicate. As for the products you mention, nothing would be gained from public discussion of them. They’re too complicated—who’s going to sit down and make sense of that code? And why are you lumping these things together—social networking and private products and elephants?”
The imaginary person has a point—well, three. Yes, education policy requires skilled negotiation. Yes, software and other education products may take a while to figure out. And yes, these are somewhat separate matters. But we still need words whose meaning does not elude us. We need ideas that can be questioned by anyone willing to take the trouble. And we need to insist on knowing what goes on in the schools—so that information does not cede to rumor and brochures, nor open dialogue to glib pitches, nor grounded ideas to costly and nebulous plans.

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