Don't Let Big Money and Sold-Out Media Ruin Pittsburgh's Progress
by Jon Parker
I’ve grappled for a few weeks with Pittsburgh’s superintendent dilemma on a number of fronts. I’ll assume that my readers are basically familiar with the situation, but here are the Sparknotes.
Chapter 1: Pittsburgh has a democratically elected school board.
Chapter 2: Pittsburgh’s citizens vote for pro-public education candidates.
Chapter 3: A+ Schools’ (a.k.a. Bill Gates’ employee) candidates lose.
Chapter 4: A+ Schools doesn’t know what it feels like to lose and becomes upset.
Chapter 5: Pittsburgh’s democratically elected school board selects a pro-public schools superintendent without allowing A+ Schools to railroad the process.
Chapter 6: A+ Schools becomes more upset and elicits the support of local media in a witch hunt against the new superintendent.
So that’s where we are. I’ll admit I don’t envy the school board in making its decision, not because the decision is unclear, but because the board is going to have to answer to media outlets and rich, powerful foundations that have already revealed their intentions.
“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”
Henry David Thoreau (one -time public school teacher)
“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.”
William Bruce Cameron (sociologist)
"If you insist on measuring everything you value, you will end up valuing only what can be measured."
“You go to school at the age of twelve or thirteen; and for the next four or five years you are not engaged so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism. A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average faculties acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours that you spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from lost illusions. But you go to a great school, not for knowledge so much as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual posture, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the habit of working out what is possible, in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage and mental soberness. Above all, you go to a great school for self-knowledge.”
Words of an Eton master, William Johnson Cory, 1861
Commentary: Why One First Grade Teacher Is Saying Goodbye
If you're lucky, then at least once you have a teacher who makes all the difference. My firstborn — who's now on his way to grad school — lucked out when he was 6, with Mr. Weinstein.
David Weinstein has taught first grade at the Pierce School in Brookline for 29 years. He's gifted, dedicated and beloved — so I was stunned to find out that he is retiring, early.
In his early 50s, he's leaving as the Brookline schools are immersed in contentious contract negotiations, largely about the data and documentation workload for teachers. This isn’t just a Brookline issue -- it’s part of the national story of education reform.
Weinstein says it’s the main reason he’s stepping down. Even in a progressive town with an acclaimed public school system, he says, the paperwork is overwhelming.
And this is not a guy with an aversion to detail. For instance: Every year, since 1987, he has mailed a birthday card with a personal note to every student he's ever taught.
Continue reading or listen to the interview...