Saturday, June 23, 2012

Make AED Scholars an Organizing Center

Can the AED Scholars Become an Organizing Center ?
The Institute works to advance the Agenda for Education in a Democracy. This Agenda consists of a four-part mission, a set of strategies to achieve that mission, and conditions that are necessary to carry out the strategies.
The agenda is mission driven and research based. It seeks to:
  • Foster in the nation's young the skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary for effective participation in a social and political democracy.
  • Ensure that all youths have access to those understandings and skills required for satisfying and responsible lives regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or birth language.
  • Develop and provide continuing support to educators who nurture the learning and well being of every student.
  • Ensure that educators are competent and committed to serving as stewards of their schools.
To accomplish this mission, schools and universities seek simultaneous renewal of schools and the education of educators. They do so by putting in place the conditions necessary to renewing the nation's schools and its democracy.
There is little doubt about the commitment to the Agenda for Education in a Democracy among the AED scholars.  I suspect we live out that commitment everyday and in every aspect of our work. The question before us, as I understand it, is not about commitment to the work of furthering the Agenda, but about whether or not we, as a group of scholars, want to be an organizing center for its promotion.  Surely we are all enmeshed in a web of groups and institutions that occupy all of our waking hours (and some of our sleeping hours as well).  We endeavor to exercise responsible influence on the groups and institutions within our spheres.
For me thus far, belonging to AED Scholars has been an honor. I feel privileged to be in the company of so many gifted, ethical and like-minded educators. It gives me some measure of comfort to know that others are doing the work to which we have a collective commitment.  However, I do not feel as though I have been a very good steward of the agenda beyond my own personal actions day to day. That is to say, I feel that I have promoted democratic ideals whenever and wherever possible, but have not deliberately or publically connected them to AED.  Very few people who have read my scholarship or with whom I interact day to day understand that my behavior is motivated by AED. Perhaps one of the best things we can do as AED scholars is make our commitment more public. It would not be a small thing to agree to use a common symbol of our work that acknowledges our group, one that links us to the agenda and to one another.
How are linked? What kind of relationships exist among the AED scholars? Thus far we have been primarily a community of ideals, not so much a community of place or even a discourse community (in the sense that we share scholarship on a regular basis). The AED scholars may not feel that it’s necessary to draw together as yet another freestanding entity. Do we wish to add to the current constellation of groups and institutions to which we belong?  I would argue that we do need to draw together, that we do need to be an organizing center and that we do need to become a strong community of mind. We need to be so simply because our mission is to further the agenda.  I once asked John what he meant when he used this phrase, for he uses it quite often.  What does it mean to further the Agenda?  Does it mean further develop the agenda or does it mean to better disseminate the Agenda?  John was pretty clear that he meant the latter.  If that is so, it implies enlisting others to share our values and see the world, and what is important in it, as we do.  If you follow that reasoning, then the AED Scholars’ role would be to formulate an identity and expand our influence.  We would go as many other organizations have gone – increase our membership, accumulate resources, undertake “missionary” work, mentor new scholars into this group, become better known. Surely we know how to do this.  The question is, do we have the will?
I can think of six strategies for pulling a group such as ours together: 1. Write a text in which we each take responsibility for a section or chapter.  2. Convene together to present papers and discuss ways to support one another.  3. Make presentations about aspects of the agenda at state and national meetings.  4. Create a virtual community using all of the tools available to us on the World Wide Web. 5.  Band together with other groups and organizations that share our values. 6. Construct a common syllabus and see that it gets institutionalized in our college or university.
I am sorry that I do not have more imaginative suggestions.  The key in making this group more viable is for those of us involved to make a conscious pledge to devote a portion of every week/month/year to furthering the agenda through collaborating together. I look forward to seeing other ideas and suggestions.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Poetter Thoughts on AED

The following comments are shared by Tom Poetter as he reflects on the AED:

First of all, I want to thank Dick Clark personally, through this short introductory note, for the tremendous impact he has had on me as a person and on the field of education as a professional educator.  He has facilitated so much growth in me, by giving so many opportunities and by opening so many doors.  His ways welcomed me and pushed me.  I am deeply indebted to him for all that he has done, as we are all.  I intend on continuing to work with the AED Scholars for as long as the work continues.  I was and still am so very honored to have been selected to participate with the group and have very much enjoyed the experiences along the way. 

To the question, then:  Well, I think back to several things that have happened to me at least tangentially through my involvement with IEI, the AED, and the NNER over the past decade or more.  I remember a poignant moment at an AERA meeting in the late 1990s in which Dr. Goodlad, Eliot Eisner, Maxine Greene, and Madeline Grumet were struggling out loud in a large, well-attended session with the question, “What would John Dewey have to say about the rise of high stakes testing and the standardization of the curriculum?”  Among many other things, Dr. Goodlad said (I am paraphrasing) that Dewey “would be so disappointed that so many of us have done so little to stem the tide.”  That phrasing stuck with me, and inspired me to take steps that were more directly related to this monstrous problem that challenges us now, among so many others.

I began to write a futuristic novel about the impact of high stakes testing in late 2000.  I published it with Hamilton Books (Rowman & Littlefield) under the title The Education of Sam Sanders in 2006.  It was my first attempt at fiction writing.  I never thought the book would catch on, but I wanted at least to be able to say that along with my teaching and local education work that I was using whatever talents I had to “stem the tide.”  In a nutshell, the novel, set in the future, chronicles the acts of Sam Sanders, a 14 year old boy who opts out of the test, and leads a progressive revolution that transforms future schooling to become more interactive, more humane, more driven by students’ interests and concerns, and more relevant.  He starts the revolution with a simple act, by walking away from the test, refusing to take it, that is, by “opting out.”

It wasn’t until this past winter of 2012 that the book began to buzz a bit.  The book had already been out six years, so it surprised me that renewed interest in it had been kindled by a group of “opt out” activists who had discovered it and were sharing it with friends on the internet.  This led ultimately to an invitation to do a “teach-in” on LBJ Plaza at a protest organized by Opt Out National’s Occupy the Department of Education event in late March 2012.  I joined other activists, teachers, professors, citizens, parents, and students fed up by the corporatization of the curriculum and schools, and the nearly complete annihilation of schooling as we know it or as it could be by the test, by privatization, and by anti-democratic interests (billionaire boys’ club, ALEC, etc.) as a protestor on the plaza.  The National Opt Out Organization’s strategy is to help people opt out of the test, and to push/lobby the powerful to create laws protecting people who do opt out, so that their civil acts of disobedience are non-punitive.

I support their work completely, and have learned a great deal by supporting their activism and by being active myself.  The main thing I have learned is that professors and educationists of all sorts are passionate about these issues that threaten American schooling and democracy so acutely, but that the real energy and power lies in the hands and lives of students and parents, citizens themselves.  It’s true, the revolution will be led by a “Sam Sanders.”  The questions are, How can we support him/her?  Nurture him/her?  Prepare the way?

From early on I pushed the AED Scholars Group to think of itself as politically active.  One of our study groups attempted to take steps in this direction through the creation of a blog several years ago.  But, in general, I think the group has been mostly focused on professional development of the members as opposed to focused on how to use our talents/abilities/experiences to “stem the tide.”  I understand that this is a fundamental philosophical issue, who will we be, what will we do?  And believe me, I understand that the issues are vast, that they go far beyond high stakes testing, privatization, corporatization, standardization, etc.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of wondering, “What can I do?” while we try to teach our classes and navigate the politics of our own institutions and communities.  But I think this is precisely the reason why we remain on the sidelines while so many others steer the tide away from us.  And instead of suggesting that we fight back, all I’m suggesting is that we use our time and talents more actively, at least exploring how it is that we could develop alternative perspectives, share them more widely, impact the public.  I think this is a function that the AED Scholars could explore together, instead of acting only on our own.  This is something I would like to explore more deeply with the group.

Several years ago, Dr. Goodlad asked me why I gave up on this “politically active” tack so easily with the AED Scholars after pushing it early on, he wondered why I didn’t fight for it harder.  He said that the culture of the organizations that he and Dick founded and nurtured and worked in had an enormous amount of “give and take” and “sound argument” built into the thriving vitality of the work, the groups, and the group’s members.  I suppose I just figured that if no one wanted to play, that I’d find another place to play.  As I get older and treasure home more, I feel like the AED Scholars Group is home.  I’d like to push this a bit further, now that I have the footing and the confidence to move.  But I certainly can’t do it alone.  I’m trying my best, but am having little impact.  What could we do together?   

Thomas S. Poetter, AED Scholar, Ph.D., Professor, Miami Unversity, Oxford, Ohio

Monday, June 4, 2012

Corrected Version of Nadine Ball's Views on AED

Nadine Ball reflects on future of AED Scholar work with the following observations:
Several aspects of the AED Scholars’ work are essential: the distributed nature of the work, punctuated with occasional gatherings; the involvement over time of educators from diverse personal, practice, and geographic backgrounds; and the openness to innovation in how we express and educate for democracy in our settings. These strengths also make our work on behalf of the AED challenging: it is difficult to communicate “what” it is and to identify long-term directions. 
Philosophically what is essential to the AED is the deep and shared belief that education must be FOR something beyond our society’s default settings of hyper-individualism, gluttonous consumption, and power-over others. For me, this includes education that is for democracy, for sustainable development, for wise and healthy beings who live in strong communities.
How might we influence the direction of education in the US? Potential answers to this question relate to scale. At an individual scale, it involves developing understanding and voice and helping others do the same. This seems a question of praxis: continually voicing the Agenda, educating others over time to the how and why of this work, voicing its importance and insisting on its presence to colleagues at the university, in schools, and in our communities.
Joining-with also seems essential: for renewal of our hearts, minds, and souls and therefore our programs and work. As Leslie noted, many of us know and trust each other, and so continuing the work will happen. Communication among the settings has always been a challenge—often only occurring at AED meetings. Additionally, our web presences do not capture the exciting and powerful work going on in ways that grab attention. Audrey’s idea of some sort of regular submission seems important to me, and I would like to suggest that we welcome both academic work and student submissions. The case studies are powerful. I also would like to see videos of practice; digital storytelling; and other dynamic approaches to sharing. Many could benefit from a place for making sense of the work-as-it-happens—a question forum or a How the heck do you do/deal with…. Sometimes the details of practice are what help us make sense of the AED.
I believe it is time to explore ways to join-with like-minded allies and create a louder local, state-level, and national voice. I just returned from a UNESCO meeting for Reorienting Teacher Education for Sustainable Development. ESD shares our commitments to equity, quality education, democratic principles, and economic and environmental justices. Like democracy, sustainable development is an ideal, something we can only approximate. Still, it was breathtaking to meet educators from around the world who are committed to engaging, student- and community- centered education for sustainable development. We heard stories from around the world in which problem solving for local communities was the heart of the educational work underway. I hope to shift my teaching toward this vision of 21stcentury skills with heart.
At the meeting, the US Delegates met to discuss forming a network of network already involved in some aspect of this work. The US Network for Education for Sustainable Development seems one way we might generate a louder voice for our work. As a network of networks, the US network for Between the number of organizations and networks participating and the UNESCO‘name’, this might be a way of leveraging visibility.
Regular meetings seem essential, too—scheduled as a regular part of the conferences. Our work is too important to be squeezed in as an afterthought.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


After twenty some years of living in micrsoft's outlook world I am trying to shift more to google to get my cell phone etc all lined up -- I guess I need to some references as to good "dummy" -- help --any suggestions?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Persistance of Ideas Soder

Looks good, but will it last?  Some observations about perpetuation  --Roger Soder

(Posted May 2012)

How are ideas sustained over time?  How is attention to ideas sustained over time?  Specifically, how can the central ideas of the Agenda for Education in a Democracy be sustained and acted long into the future?  What will it take? 

I’ll start with a fundamental assumption, one that drives the rest of what I have to say.

We have ideas, good ideas, and we want people to act on them now and long into the future. We know that if we want to get past nonthinking and pro forma behavior, people have to make our ideas their own.  But if they are to have the freedom to make ideas their own, we are going to have to expect that they will do so in their own particular way.  As James Boyd White points out in an essay touching on the inability to compel community, “There is no sure-fire way of attaining your ends when those ends require the cooperation of others and that to recognize the freedom and autonomy of another, which is the only real possibility if one is to succeed at all, is necessarily to leave room for the exercise of that freedom and autonomy in ways you do not wish.”

If the assumption holds, then we cannot try to have our ideas frozen in amber, passed along over the generations untouched, unchanged, static.  We often try to do exactly this, mummifying our ideas, because we are afraid of tampering, of people not getting it right, people adopting our forms and then adapting them in ways quite far from the mark.  To try to keep ideas unchanged has lots of negative consequences.  It means that our efforts over the years will focus on ideological purity, trying to keep everybody in consonance with what we think the ideas are.  It means hunting heretics.  It means that we and those after us will be sidetracked into arguments about who is doing exactly what the Founder said, rather than focusing on how to reflect on the ideas in new and useful ways in adapting them to changing circumstances.

What, then,  will contribute to the survival of our central ideas?  Are the ideas themselves sufficient to ensure survival, or is something more needed?   Pope Nicholas V thought something more was needed, as suggested by his deathbed observation in 1455 that “To create solid and stable conviction there must be something that appeals to the eye.  A faith sustained only by doctrine will never be anything but feeble and vacillating.”  And thus he envisioned rebuilding and expansion of St. Peter’s basilica, long term projects including, under the direction of his successor, the Sistine Chapel, certainly something that appeals to the eye.

Assuming Pope Nicholas’s observation was near the mark, we need to consider something that can exist over time, something that doesn’t get us too far way from the bedrock ideas, but at the same time be something that people can make their own.  Not buildings, of course, and perhaps not even organizations, but something more than the central ideas themselves.  
Carl Jung’s description of archetypes provides a sense of how we might consider what we need. Archetypes, primordial images of the collective unconscious, he says, “are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time.  An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself . . . sooner or later the water will return to its old bed.”

We cannot ourselves supply the water.  Other people coming after us have to do that.  But we can provide guiding channels, dry riverbeds? 

How?  First, by paring away the inessentials and focusing on the essential bedrock ideas.  There is always danger in simplification, but perhaps more danger in making our ideas too complex, too elaborate, even, if you will, too fussy.  For the our collective work subsumed under the Agenda for Education in a Democracy, I believe there are three bedrock ideas:

1.  Moral grounding of education and schooling.

2.  Education and schooling in a free democratic regime.

3.  Simultaneous renewal of schools and programs for the preparation of educators.

We need to create and leave a written and visual record of the these three bedrock ideas so that years later someone can, if you will, fill the riverbed with their own water, their own energy, and make those ideas their own in ways of their own.  But for people to be able to do this, they must be alerted to something of value, something they can look at in terms of their own experience, something they can react to by saying, “that’s curious, that’s funny, that’s really compelling.”  Something that will make them linger, be puzzled by, and, finally, make their own.

We must place that written and visual record of the three bedrock ideas on the internet.   We can no longer rely on our traditional (for us older folk) methods of books and journal articles.  Even if we were to move beyond books and articles and say “let’s produce some videocassette tapes of John being interviewed on the Agenda,” we would know that that strategy wouldn’t work.  No, for us right now and for the next few years, the internet must be the focus.  An example of what for me is a compelling internet site supported by the Fordham people:  I don’t always agree with the Fordham politics, but the website is interesting, compelling, engaging.  There are many links to publications, to videos, to podcasts.  I watched a national town forum just last week – lots of people talking about important issues. Lots of interaction, contributing to my ability to make of the site’s ideas what I will.

So, the internet.  But, someone will say, technology is going to change.  Your notion of a good web site now might be out-of-date in ten years just like you’re saying videocassette will no longer do the job.  Well, yes.  But what I’m saying is that ten years from now, someone will have seen our artifacts, filled that dry riverbed, seen for themselves something of value for themselves.  And for what to them is of value, to be passed on, they will themselves create artifacts and place them in a new set of riverbeds, involving technology that they anticipate will be around for a while. 

As to how the website and other artifacts are constructed to alert those who might be seeking insight into education and schooling dilemmas, and who might not even know what they are seeking–or, for that matter, not even know that they are seeking, that’s the challenge. As I said earlier here, people must somehow be alerted to something of value.  It’s the same challenge every good teacher faces: how to put things out there, not really knowing who is going to respond or when they’re going to respond.  This is the challenge Andrew Delbanco talks about in his excellent book, College.  I’ll quote this book at some length in the next three paragraphs. 

Delbanco asks us to imagine two young men, college roommates,  who see a production of King Lear.  “When it is done, one of them comes out of the theater saying, ‘You know, I’ve seen it done better; let’s get a beer’ or ‘I don’t know what all the fuss is about; this guy had it coming he’s a real whiner.’

“Meanwhile, the other young man has had a devastating experience.  He doesn’t know why or how, but he finds himself thinking about his own father–about the obligations of children to parents, and, for that matter, parents to children; about the savage sadness that comes upon many people in their broken old age; in fact, he finds himself thinking about every aspect of his life in a new way. Does he want to have children of his own?  If so, how will he bring them up?  Maybe he thinks about becoming a physician; or maybe he’s decided to call home to see how his father is doing, with whom he’s had a difficult relationship, or, more likely, he doesn’t know what to do but feels a sudden conviction that his plans and priorities need to be revisited or revised.  One thing he knows for sure is that he doesn’t want to end up like Lear wandering alone on the heath.  In short, the world has been transformed for him while it remains utterly unchanged for his friend.  And yet they have heard the same voices and words, seen the same bodies and props moving about on the same stage, or, to put it in mechanistic terms, experienced the same aural and visual stimuli.

“It is impossible to say why something so important has happened to one of these young men and not to the other.  Their SAT scores may be identical. In fact, the one whom the play leaves unmoved may have higher scores and better grades and better prospects to make the dean’s list.  The difference between them has nothing to do with which one has studies harder for tomorrow’s exam on Elizabethan drama.  While most of us who work in education today have no language to account for this mystery, that does not mean the mystery does not exist.”

That is the mystery, the challenge.  We never really know what’s going to be seen as something of value, something that is going to move us, We never know when, as Thomas Hardy would have it, the iron is going to enter our soul. 

What, then, are we left with?  There is no organized structure for the persistence of ideas and how they go from person to person.  I know of no organizational structure in place by which John Dewey handed along his ideas to his student, Ralph Tyler who in turn handed those same ideas along to his student, John Goodlad.  Through various means, mostly unpredictable I would bet, Goodlad found some of Dewey’s ideas, thought about them, applied them, experimented with them, reflected some more,  and made them his own--all without membership in any sort of The Society for the Preservation of John Dewey’s Ideas.  (nb:  dick clark -- not sure about this as there is such a society)

We put some ideas out there.  People will do what they will.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Video of Current Issues

People have asked to be able to view a video of a recent presentation about current educational issues made by Bill Mester of the Snohomish WA schools district and me

Here is link that can be used to access from You tube 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Essential AED considerations

From Steven Baugh of the BYU partneship come the following thoughts about the AED and what should be done to keep it vibrant in the future.

In Dick’s note to the AED Scholars he states, “… the fundamental principles of the Agenda for Education in a Democracy (AED) are too important to ignore.” As I understand the Agenda, it comprises a number of strategies, the most important being that of “simultaneous renewal” of schools and educator preparation. The AED has a mission which I have come to embrace as Stewardship, Access, Nurture, and Enculturation—the acronym SANE has been useful to many of us. And finally the Agenda has a set of underlying conditions or postulates that need to be in operation for the Agenda to be its most complete. The call for renewal based on the Agenda through meaningful university-school partnerships encompasses principles which are indeed “too important to ignore.”

Dick asked us to remark on two things: first, what is essential about the AED, and second, what should be done to ensure that it continues to influence the direction of education in the country.

As to the essential nature of the AED, I want to comment on the issue of private versus public as I have come to understand it through my association with AED principles. Public schools exist, or should exist, for two primary purposes. One is a private purpose. That is, I want the very best education for my children and grandchildren possible so that they are prepared to pursue higher education and/or a career in order to enjoy a “good life.” The good life might mean providing for a family of their own and owning a house, car, and a flat-screen TV, for example. Nothing wrong with this—that is, if it is balanced with the second purpose of public schools.

The second purpose as I understand it is that in a public school setting where all of America’s young are invited, there exists the best chance for all (regardless of race, ethnicity, color of skin, language spoken, socio-economic  condition, disability, sexual preference, or other differences) to learn to be together, to work together, to appreciate one another’s differences, and to learn that these differences are strengths, not weaknesses. Or as Roger Soder has often said, in public schools we have our best chance of learning to live together “without killing one another.” 

Within the first purpose of public schools, our young learn to “make a living.” Within the second purpose, our young learn “to live.” Both purposes—the private and the public—must be balanced for the continuation of our American form of government and our American way of life. What I have said about public versus private is but one example among dozens and dozens that could be cited illustrating what is essential about the AED.
Now, I will address some comments to Dick’s second charge to AED Scholars: what should be done to ensure that the AED continues to influence the direction of education in the country. I will mention two things: one is local, the other national.

On a local level, I believe that every setting in the NNER and in NNER affiliates there should exist an ongoing associates-type program, similar to the Leadership Associates model in place during the 1990s in Seattle. In such a program the principles of the AED are experienced by participants through readings, presentations, inquiry and action research, conversations, and more. Participants come from each entity in the tripartite—schools, schools of education, and colleges of arts and sciences—and often the community. Given changes in those most involved in a university-school partnership and given the diversity and complexity of the challenges to schools and university educator preparation programs, a deep understanding of the underlying philosophical foundations of the AED is vital. When changes in leaders occur, and they will, when financial challenges emerge, and they do, and when attacks from our critics come, and many certainly have evidence of this, a deep understanding and adherence to the underlying principles of the AED can/will sustain us. I know many of the settings have similar associates programs—all settings should.

On a national level, I believe we need a fifty-state strategy to grow the number of NNER settings. I know this is not a new idea. I know it has been discussed at length by the NNER Executive Board on numerous occasions. And I know I am ill-informed as to all of the reasons why we haven’t proceeded. Acknowledging all of this, I suggest there is no better time than now to pursue this aggressively. We need to continue to build quality—that is to drive the AED principles into our settings as deeply as we can. But we need to build quantity—that is to drive the AED principles into the country as broadly as we can. It doesn’t have to be one or the other—it can be both depth and breadth. Delaying only makes it more difficult. I invite a conversation about what AED Scholars could do to make this a reality.

The principles of the AED are, as Dick has said, too important to ignore. And without question we need to continue to advance ways to ensre that it continues to influence the direction of education in the country.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More thoughts on AED and role of Scholars

Leslie Wilson, history professor at Montclair State University adds some additional thoughts about how the AED Scholars can contribute to the continuation of the Agenda for Education in a Democracy:

The Agenda for Education in a Democracy rests on a strong foundation that was initially crafted decades ago, but has constantly been refined. It is the renewal process that continues to make this work important and rewarding. Without question it must be continued.

However, the greatest challenge that confronts the AED Scholars is to create a mechanism to sustain this work.  Leadership, sustaining leadership and setting a direction are just as important as charting a plan of attack.  The “White Papers” were an experiment that provided targets in the war to renew education.  Armed with that experience, we know what we need to do and what we have to do.

A good organization continues to create leaders. Its movement continues regardless of time and change.  And, the AED Scholars should be the leaders of the NNER!  Yes, we have encountered tremendous degrees of change since our formation, but we have weathered the storm.  The fact that the movement continues and the majority of us are still involved is a good sign.  The core of this group has been active before the formation of the AED, for more than fifteen years dating back to meetings in the University Inn.  We know each other relatively well, so it should not be difficult for us to continue this work and allow each AED Scholar to play a key role in achieving our goals.

As I have read responses from two of my colleagues, I am reminded that this work is now based in multiple settings and serves as the heart of several national organizations.  It was first developed at the NNER gatherings in Seattle, but it is now part of the summer symposium and most of the NNER settings as part of Leadership Associates programs. Our work has also moved outside of the confines of the NNER into bodies like the League of Democratic Schools and Teachers for a New Era.  Recently, some of the AED Scholars have become involved in the UNESCO International Network.

In response to the notion of being under the radar, I think that the time has come to promote the NNER and AED Scholars in certain settings. We have seen some groups, both friend and foe, emerge on a national scale by being extremely visible.  The Agenda has reached a good number of educators and communities.  It has to evolve to another level to become more effective. 

So, I think that we have to double efforts in our own settings to make sure that every educator in our networks understands this work and our roles in educational renewal.  We have to bring the communities into the tripartite. Additionally, we have to spend more time cross-pollenating ideas across settings. Too many settings operate in isolation.

Finally, I second the idea of meeting in Denver to discuss next steps. The concept of regional groupings (West, Midwest, Northeast and South) is a good idea to maintain a critical mass between annual NNER meetings.  It also makes sense if we can send a representative from each of the regional groupings to speak to other groups.  I also think that we need to continue to publicize our successes in print and in other mediums.

            While I would not propose another “White Paper, “ I do think that we need another group project.  We tend to work best as individuals in our own settings, but the immediateness of this situation fosters a collaborative effort.  I think that we can offer ideas between now and October so that when we have the Denver meeting there will be a set agenda for future plans. 

            My initial idea would be to see how we can revolutionize a partnership at one setting to serve as a model for other settings to follow. This setting needs to illustrate how a community can play a key role in educational renewal.  The work needs to be documented in print and in video so that it can be shared with a large audience.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

AED Scholar Suggestions

I have asked the college and K-12 educators who are AED Scholars to offer suggestions as to how to sustain the Agenda for Education in a Democracy.  Audrey Kleinsasser of the University of Wyoming has offered the following ideas about how the AED Scholars could contribute to the future of the agenda.  Her ideas follow:


AED    response from Audrey Kleinsasser


My Thoughts about the AED Scholars Group and Next Steps:

1.    First, yes, the group needs to keep going and I want to participate.

2.    Second, what should we be up to and how to go about it?

Of course we want to keep going! 

I would see the upcoming NNER conference in Denver as the ideal place and time for a substantial AED scholars meeting. Perhaps a planning group of 2-3 folks could offer a not-too-complicated agenda that includes socializing, some discussion (and not just chest-beating over the sad state of U.S. public education), and some next steps.

Further, I think the AED scholars group needs to be tied more closely to NNER activities.  Why isn’t this group more directly involved in the Summer Symposium?  That’s one possibility. Why not look for a way to create two or three regional symposia, with AED scholars taking the lead? I suspect the new NNER executive director will have plenty to do, but none the less, I would include working with the AED scholars to the job description.  Maybe it’s a kind of revolve in/revolve out commitment for two-year terms, something the NNER director helps orchestrate.

Last, I would offer the observation that just about everyone in this group has a full time job and is likely busier than the average K-12 or higher education person. While the intent of the 2009 white paper development was a sincere one, it was one of the most contrived experiences I’ve participated in as an academic and perhaps the least engaging. It took me straight back to graduate school, though even in graduate school, I was not so devoid of ideas that I needed someone to assign me a topic to develop. I’d like to aim a little higher than that. I submit the following modest suggestion as a starting point that might engage AED scholars and others throughout the NNER.

We have the NNER website and regular newsletters. Both always need high quality submissions. Why not ask AED scholars to submit some kind of writing (not terribly long and not written for an exclusive audience) that reflects current work/current issues, at least one item over the course of a year, October – September.  Then, those items could be collected and discussed during the annual NNER meeting in early fall. We could create two sharing opportunities:  first, a closed AED scholars' session, and then, an open session for any conference participant who is interested in participating. 

I am confident that even a modest commitment such as the one suggested above could grow into one or more valuable and vibrant initiatives. However, if we don’t meet and if we don’t communicate, there’s not much chance of anything happening.

Finally, know that I will participate and contribute to whatever the group decides is a worthy contribution to the Agenda for Education in a Democracy. Thank you for the opportunity to opt in and to offer a few suggestions!

The Scholars group certainly offers one means by which the values represented by the Agenda for Education in a Democracy can continue to help guide and grow the quality of the nation's educational initiatives.  Additional thoughts will be shared as time passes -- what are your ideas?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Preserving the Agenda for Education in a Democracy

AED Justification Paper

This is first in what willbe a series of postings regarding sustaining the Agenda for Education in a Democracy.

Dr. David Lee Keiser, Montclair State University

26 April 2012

Making the Case for the Agenda for Education in a Democracy

Since my arrival at Montclair State University in Fall 2000, The Agenda for Education in a Democracy (AED) has been a touchstone for me. Not knowing the politics of my new academic home, nor having much interest in reading dense philosophical frameworks, I welcomed the directness of the four pillars, or the Moral Dimensions of Teaching, or, as we’ve come to call them here, SAND (stewardship, access, nurturing pedagogy, and democratic practice). This thematic quartet has infused our college materials, assessment system, conceptual framework, and, we hope, our facility at teaching with a moral compass open and inclusive for all.

The AED continues to work as an organizing principle by which we hold ourselves accountable: Does this lesson or unit provide opportunities for students to demonstrate and observe nurturing pedagogy? Or: how does this course or fieldwork experience make use of best practices in stewardship or in providing access to knowledge for all students? Or: how can professors and mentors preach the gospel of democratic practice in school when we don’t model it ourselves? In fact, the four pillars of the AED serve as perfections to which we strive, albeit imperfectly and incrementally, for all our teaching and learning lives.

I have been struck during work-related travel at how exceptional our AED is; despite imperfections, it truly is an explicit Agenda. It is due to this exceptionality that our work remains as needed as ever; it is due to our resolute commitment to all learners that a Scantron score alone cannot measure our progress. To be sure, challenges remain. The late author Audre Lorde famously wrote, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” After eight years of Bush/Chaney and No Child Left Behind, and four more of Obama/Biden and Reach for the Top, our Master’s House is being refinanced and refurbished in front of our eyes.

How to Ensure the AED Remains Influential for US Education

Several years ago, at an Annual NNER Meeting, John Goodlad offered us a caution to stay low, so as not to be targeted, ostracized, or attacked by the forces of marketization and high-stakes testing in education. While some in the audience might have been chagrined at this seemingly disempowered suggestion, others took it to heart. Through a combination of resolve, stealth advocacy, and, yes, the moral dimensions to our work, AED Scholars and others have continued to work within the parameters of the four-themed mission of the organization. We continue to work with the hearts and minds of all we meet—students, colleagues, administrators, and various community constituencies—in order to create a more just society.

We ensure the solvency of the AED not only through our semi-regular meetings and synergistic academic exchanges, but also through resilience, confidence, and stalwart adherence to the social, emotional, and moral dimensions of what it means to teach, and to teach others to teach. Here’s one local example: in a required diversity course that I currently teach, I created an assignment to underscore the irreducible need for access to all students. I call it the uncomfortable field trip; students visit a place they wouldn’t normally, with people that neither look nor sound like them, and where they are in the minority. Some Christian students attend a temple or mosque service, some Jewish students attend a Christian church service, and some students brave the half-hour drive to New York City. In all cases, students experience a loss of entitlement, as they become minorities reliant on others to figure out cultural norms. This semester a young man wrote movingly about attending a Deaf Culture event and feeling lost, unable to decipher the swirling, fluid signs moving around him. He took to writing down comments and questions, and was grateful that the hearing impaired hosts welcomed him.

John Goodlad has said repeatedly that despite his earlier work, A Place Called School, spawning over two dozen doctoral dissertations it had little appeal for policymakers. So we know that data, compelling as it may be, may not be enough to sway those with a simplistic understanding of the field of education. Our groundwork, however, is both invaluable and irreplaceable; this includes the undergraduate and graduate students who we teach and mentor, the P-12 students affected by our teaching candidates, and the various constituent communities with whom with work and entrust our pedagogical experience and values.

Relatively new groups such as the Forum, A Bigger Bolder Approach, and many others steel our work with intellectual resolve, academic and philosophical fodder, and moral support as well. But our Agenda remains well positioned to help fulfill the public purposes of education in an emerging democracy.


David Lee Keiser

Montclair State University