Contemplating Schooling in Our Demcratic Society

I Used To Think . . . And Now I Think . . . edited by Richard F. Elmore (2011) is a book that is causing me to ponder and reflect.  Whenever we consider things we might have thought about before yet over time may need to rethink – contemplation occurs. 

The quotes that follow are from Chapter 2 “Metis and the Metrics of Success” by Ernesto J. Cortes, Jr.. All of the content that follows until the questions at the end are the thoughts of Ernesto J. Cotes Jr. 

Cortes goes on to write: Part of the difficulty is that our strategy (Cortes envisioned and launched the Alliance Schools) takes time, or what we refer to as a patient capital. It takes time to develop leaders, to develop relationships, to develop the social knowledge necessary to understand what we know and what we’re learning. It takes time to develop trust.


Another part of the difficulty lies in recognizing the value of work: in our strategy, school reform is never finished. Constant evaluation an annotation is required. Why?  Because conditions change. Populations shift. Technologies emerge. Facilities deteriorate. Resources come and go. Economics falter. Families come under different kinds of pressures all the time–and those are the same families were sending their children to the school. They are the same families whose adults are the parents, the teachers, and the classified workers at the school.


The circumstances alter, and unless the culture of the school is one of ongoing learning and adaptation, one that constantly supports the development of new leaders, then the ability to respond to new and different stimuli is lost.


I would go so far as to suggest that there is no democratic culture without public education–for both our present and our future. As far back as the 1830s, free public education had been promoted as a “crucible of democracy, a blending of all children to function from a common set of values.”1 If we don’t understand how to make our public schools more centers of democratic culture, our way of life as a self-governing people is at risk.


1Jean Anyon, Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement (New York: Rutledge, 2005)


What are your reactions?  Do you see schooling as complex or pretty straight forward?  Is having a public school system that attempts to teach everyone crucial to a democratic society?  Does it make sense that public schools and those working in and associoated with public schools would need to be committed to learning and adaptation?





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