Back to School Leaders


I am struck today by contrasts and contradictions.  In Michigan, today is back-to-school day!!!!  Of course, college football began and the pros roll out this week.  Tigers are roaring.  And go, ahem, Lions.  So, here’s the contrast, then the leadership lessons.


Last week a story ran in the News and Free Press.  It seems the state’s schools had some pretty incredible progress last year:  5% more met statewide standards; 10% more were graded “A” schools; and the achievement of minority-heavy schools also improved significantly.  It’s not all perfect.  Some of the gains were fueled by changes in success measurements (e.g., a five-year high school graduation is now considered a success), and there was an increase in schools on the verge of total failure.  But, all-in-all good news – no, really, great news for a state that absolutely MUST improve educational attainment in this new economy.  Good news, which . . . doesn’t .  . exactly . . . travel . . . fast, or for long.  In fact, the News version of the story had exactly ZERO comments on it; not even one of the habitual cynics rose up to doubt the numbers.  The Free Press had a whopping four comments.  Does that stun you as much as it did me (comment below)?


Yesterday, Labor Day, the day before school was to begin . . . not a single story in the Freep about schools.  (The New York Times had one front-page story about homeless kids in schools; I couldn’t find any others there.)   Meanwhile, online with the Freep: 9 of the top 10 “most read” stories were – you guessed it – sports (Only Walter Reuther as the # 9 story spoiled the shutout!).  My amazement is not with the papers.  They are trying to stay alive and following the interest of their readers.  My question is with us: Are we not interested in this great sign of hope?  Not just for the rah-rah, but for the learning: Why are scores up?  What are we doing better?   How do we stay at it and get even better?  This is amazing stuff, and unlike being a passionate fan, we can actually have an impact on this!


There are some lessons from the data. Here’s a few.  You’re sick of me saying it, but vision, goals and challenge matter.  It’s clear that Michigan’s higher, and clearer, standards have helped.  Goals and markers then drive change, so new curriculum – strategy-aligned-to-goals – has helped.  Data has also helped, as teachers have identified curriculum that works.  Parental involvement continues to drive achievement, and in successful schools it’s up.


I think it’s unpatriotic (if not downright ludicrous) that school boards (in Oxford, Rochester and Warren Van Dyke) would prevent the elected leader of the world’s greatest democracy to speak to their students about effort and achievement.  The President is himself an incredible model of can-do.  But in the end it will be everyday leaders – focusing less on sports (Coach Rodriguez) and more on learning that will make Michigan great.  To our parents, older siblings, grandparents, teachers, principals, secretaries, janitors, bus drivers, superintendents, coaches, social workers, and cafeteria workers I say: Happy Labor Day, congratulations and let’s do it again.  On the field that matters most,


Lead with your best self,



  • Why do children only spend nine months of their year in school? Why don’t we start talking about expanding the school year

  • So, believe it or not, a few of us were discussing the State budget at a Labor Day picnic yesterday. When it came to the major areas in which cuts might make a significant difference in the bottom line, the sad list came up, education, education, education, and (here it comes) corrections.
    Seems to me we have to put corrections at the top of the list for cuts. This doesn’t mean just cutting jobs, but also revamping diversion programs, sentencing and re-entry programs, including educational remediation.
    Cut the least (if any) from pre-school. If we don’t address readiness from the pre-school level, we will find it harder and harder to increase attainment in K-12, even more unlikely that students will qualify for or succeed in higher education. The public school system should not be the opportunity of last resort, but the most important and effective investment we can make for our own common good.

  • Good column, Dan! I am dumbstruck at how little attention education is paid here. I recently read that the legislature is thinking of mandating 170 days of education, 10 fewer than we used to have! Unfortunately proposal A is hamstringing education. Once we took funding away from property taxes and put in on sales taxes, we lost a lot. We taxpayers won and education lost. As a former school board member, I keep an eye on what is going on. I thank heavens I am not there now with all the problems that have occurred. I am pleased that my three children, all graduates of Lansing schools and Michigan universities, are now well educated and doing extremely well. And this is before the new graduation requirements, which I fear will cause more dropouts if there are not options for the non college bound. The college bound kids were taking that curriculum all along. Well, enough of that. Keep on keeping on Dan, and hold their feet to the fire. You’re doing a good job and I look forward to reading your column each week.

  • Dan,

    Why should you be surprised. Your comments about school districts declining to let the President address students is an indicator about values and vision of a large segment of the electorate. The excesssive emphasis on sports(which I thouroughly enjoy) takes precedence over a message on the value of education by our highest elected official in the country. The fact that parents and school districts fear President Obama’s message is a testament of the intellectual retardation that is characteristic of the primitive insecurity many in our culture still cling to.

  • I too was shocked that SOME of our elected officials and school boards reacted negatively to the announcement that President Obama would speak to our children on education. They ALL should feel shame.

  • So true, Dan. Leadership accountability in schools matters.

    The most serious studies on education reform have concluded that the critical variable when it comes to kids succeeding in school isn’t money spent on buildings or books but, rather, the quality of their teachers.

    A study of the Los Angeles public schools published in 2006 by the Brookings Institution concluded that “having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap.” But, holding teachers accountable for how well they teach has proved to be a frontier that cannot be crossed.

    Hopefully, President Obama and Secretary Duncan will begin to make positive changes as they award a large amount of federal education aid from the Administration’s stimulus package to school systems on the basis of how they address the issue of accountability.

  • Dan,

    Another good Monday morning starter. This may be a good time to be reminded of the valuable role that volunteers make in the life of a child, both in school and outside of the classroom. I know that my work as a volunteer in an after school art therapy program is vital to the well being and growth of the child or children that I work with on any particular day. And there is nothing better than the smile that comes with an “ah ha” moment.

    There are many roles volunteers play in our educational system, both in and out of the classroom. An hour to two a week as a volunteer can make a difference in the life of a child and is an opportunity to be a support to a teacher or parent in their role as primary educator.

  • The lack of attention that printed newspapers give to schools may be a cross section about how people receive news.

    I would like to stereotype for a few moments:

    Mature paper readers-
    look @ news, sports, local news, obituaries, comics, and maybe the ads (coupons)

    Middle maturity folks (those that have kids)-
    don’t view the paper for news, local news, obits, comics, or ads (except on black fri.) Occasionally this group will look @ a sports pic and read the caption. Sometimes this group will monitor the prep. Sports for local hero status/progress. Normally this group steals a glance at a paper @ work on break rather than in the home. (Dad no longer gets home from work @ 5 to Mom, 2.5 kids, and a hot dinner. Dad never sits in the lazy boy for a pipe and paper while mom does dishes and the 2.5 kids ride bikes in the neighborhood.) This group subscribes to journals, magazines, forums, online resources, cable TV, Sirius radio, and belong to groups that meet specialized needs directly.

    Less mature people-
    view a paper as something parents or grandparents have lying around. Sometimes the pics although low quality and small invite a quick boredom read. Papers are something to be recycled like milk jugs and phone books.

    I think people still care about education but papers aren’t where people look for info.

    Take a look at all the attention/ opposition President has received for wanting to speak directly to America’s youth during school hours. People do CARE. Parents do have a pulse (perhaps an alarming one) and are paying attention. Papers just aren’t the avenue of information they used to be.

    I think people get school information more regionally in paper form like township, village, county, or school publications.

  • What a great article! But it made me angry because every time I think about how out of control our schools seem I get angry! I am happy for greater success in our schools if it means we aren’t simply teaching to a MEAP score. We concentrate too much on science & math because some kids are simply not good at them. If we don’t concentrate on a well rounded education, who will paint our pictures, who will become the next Beatles or Bob Seger? And where are we teaching kids to think, to problem solve? Since some school districts are opting not to allow the President to speak to them, how can kids form an independent opinion? I agree with Dan, not sure about unpatriotic but ludicrous!

  • As a school board member, I appreciate your thoughts, and encourage you to keep supporting public education. The future of the state depends on well educated people and I love your support for children. thanks again,

  • An addendum to my earlier comment…Should public school districts who opt not to allow the President’s webcast in their classrooms get federal money?

  • It figure if you write some thing that is Good news others will reject it. I hear or read how bad is Michigan is. I found a lot great things about Michigan, I read about Schools going on in Michigan
    and it sound like is doing pretty good on Education here in Washington, State, some School are doing good some need Improvement. I am Happy my son School did pretty good this year. Keep working hard on the School,s in Michigan to make eveing better.

  • Education means more than just k-12 schools, colleges & universities. Michigan’s library community is one that acts as a support to those institutions above, but also provides information and educational resources to businesses, parents, health care providers, and just about everyone else.

    I was totally dismayed that the Governor used an executive order (EO 2009-36) to try to destroy the Library of Michigan. If we truly value education, and want to see our citizens be more educated, we should not allow our libraries, which Carnegie called “The People’s University” to be underfunded or dismantled.

    As a parent of three, I can tell you that public libraries play an amazingly important role in education. My kids don’t particularly like to read, but would never have made it without having great libraries at their fingertips. We must look long term and forget short term gains at the cost of the long picture. Thanks for providing me this opportunity to rant a little.

  • I offer just a few thoughts about the decision of school boards to decline the offer from our President to speak on effort and achievement.

    First, no one prevented the President from speaking, he can still say what he wants to and the school districts which choose to add his message to their curriculum can do so. Parents in any districts can also download the same comments for their children to hear and read at home.

    Second, the local school boards make these decisions; it is their elected purpose and they hear directly from local taxpayers on every side of every local education issue. Let’s step back and learn from what they have to say about their decision – without interpretation by media “experts” and commentators.

    Next, we all know the media sensationalizes every story to maximize their profit, so let’s not get excited or angry about some school districts having a different opinion and decision. Again, the media commentators have an axe to grind, let’s not be surprised when they do what is their purpose to do.

    Fourth, I think labeling these decisions as unpatriotic, ludicrous, etcetera doesn’t help solve the real problem – which is to raise the level of LEARNING in Michigan. One of the earlier commentators on today’s article said something about the level of fear or mistrust in our political / educational system, and I agree. We can make the system better if we can remove fear and instill trust in this system or others.

    Let’s continue the dialogue you have started and see if we can remove the labeling and name calling. Let’s build trust to improve our communications first. As leaders, we must learn to have difficult discussions with trust, first in the good will of the participants and next in the power of our combined knowledge. Then we can improve the system with common purpose.

    Thanks Dan for another thought provoking article.

  • Another comment: We have to find a way to get kids to understand that EDUCATION is the key to their future, not SPORTS or other things. As long as kids ditch school, pay no attention in class, ignore (or threaten) their teachers, and see school as the enemy, scores and education will not improve.

    How do we get kids to see the “Honor Society” kids, the nerds & geeks, as the right role models? How do we make education cool? How do we get kids to see that teachers are their best friends in creating a future worth having? I don’t know, but truly believe that doing so is the key to truly EDUCATING our youth.

    Find that and we would be the #1 state in the union in education!

  • I’m happy to see success in the numbers; that’s a start. Unfortunately, the numbers can be “manipulated” to read they way we want them to read. A ” . . . change in some of the success measurements” can mean a lot of things and often times means we’ve loosened or lowered the standards so that more people can qualify. In my neighborhood we call that “dumbing down” the educational system.

    Allowing students to re-take tests until they pass doesn’t mean they understand the information. Average scores will be higher, but overall success and motivation to achieve will be lower. A student that knows they don’t have to study because they can re-take the test might not put forth any effort to truly learn the material. Instead of lowering standards to guarantee improvements in the metrics, we need to set realistic goals and work towards achieving them. If that means the metrics show a hit, but our children are more successful, then so be it.

  • Great thoughts today, Dan. Thank you. I agree that it’s extremely unfortunate that some of our “leaders” in public school systems, and at least one of the cable news networks, have chosen to politicize the inspirational remarks that will be made by our president shortly. We would have benefitted if Bush, Clinton, Reagan, or any other president had tried to do the same as Obama. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since some of our elected “leaders” in Lansing would have us break our promise — the Michigan Promise — to our children. How can we ever expect to advance in education when so many of tomorrow’s potential leaders can’t even afford to get into college?

    And, in my humble opinion, Michigan (and our country) should not be trying to equal other education systems. We should try to be better, in fact, to be the best.

  • Dan,

    Great article…serious issue. I feel that many of the problems faced by schools reaches far beyond curriculum issues or lack of funding. When learning is desired, needed, and cherished, it can happen in the poorest setting and under the most extreme circumstances. When supported by fine teachers, comfortable and safe buildings, and by the latest technologies, it should flourish. Yet, in a computer lab, during a class in which 24 students were assigned to work on a paper due the next day, only 4 worked on the paper, while the rest surfed the Internet and tried to get past the school’s firewalls and find games to play.

    I believe the problems are systemic and run deeper than my be accounted for by political differences and economic shortfalls. Programs are great, but programs don’t teach. Teachers teach. Parents teach. Peers teach.

    I am only 59 years young. This spring, I was forced, by a sudden and unwelcomed retirement (i.e., laid off) to substitute teach as a supplement to our income. I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the changes in the classroom from what I remember of the 1960’s. My own children have been out of high school for more than five years, and things have changed since then, I believe. What astonished me most was the anti-learning, anti-working, anti-cooperating attitude of the students, beginning even in elementary school.

    Because I am a large, mean-looking, and crusty old curmudgeon, I was assigned ISS (In School Suspension) duties at all three levels…elementary, middle school, and high school. I spent more than a few days locked in a small, bare room with that day’s “problem children.” I expected resistance and even hostility from this group…and I was not disappointed. What I did not expect was the utter air of superiority and entitlement which washed over me from their first words to the last rude gesture at the end of the day.

    In the regular classrooms, a substitute most often proctors a quiz, introduces a video, or presides over a “free day” for the students to work on projects or study quietly. The assumption in all of this is that the students have any interest at all in these activities. Some do. There is a core group in each class that actually wants to learn, discuss, and understand. They are, however, sidetracked, overpowered, and drowned-out by the antics and disruption caused by the groups who have no desire to be there and see no value in learning. Out come the cellphones, iPods, and Blackberries, before the bell rings and the period begins. Up go the defensive shields and the personal firewalls — barriers beyond which no substitute teacher may venture.

    Civility, consideration, respect…these hallmarks of my days in school are virtually absent. Most students will toe the line, but with so very many, it is only sullenly, resentfully, and strictly to the letter of the rules. A substitute rarely has time to earn respect from a group of students, it is there or it is not. For that reason, we see the unvarnished attitudes and the resurgence of exploration of the far borders of authority.

    I applaud the efforts of fine teachers who, with limited resources, can break down those barriers and “make learning happen.” An improved curriculum helps, better books help, new techologies are great…but without the leadership of parents, role-models, peers, and siblings, I fear this attitude of entitlement and the death of civility will result in a generation that refuses to learn despite all the advantages society can provide. Without down-home, personal, and yes, everyday leadership, they will not find that open door that leads to personal success. Instead they will follow Disney’s Goofy, as he sings: “Oh, the world owes me a living…”


  • Totally disagree with your piece this morning. Absolutely totally disagree. Barak “Hussein” Obama was handed his life. Do not, by any means, try to tell me he achieved all of this on his own. If you do the research, not just from CNN and MSNBC, you will learn that he is a fake and a phony. Teachers, parents and students all have the right to NOT have to listen to anytning the man says. Not impressed by this bafoon in any way, shape or form…

  • Absolutely agree with your view on school boards blocking the President’s message on school attendance. What is this country coming to??

  • Yes, I do find it extremely sad that more attention is not paid to education in Michigan by our citizens. I come from a long line of educators, as does my husband, and to us education is and always will be the key to a better future. What saddens me even more, however, is that Michigan LEADERS in our house and senate would even consider removing funds for preschool education, probably the most important place that we spend dollars. A good start in preschool is crucial for our all of our Michigan children, but especially those in inner city Detroit. I don’t particularly find it disturbing that people don’t comment to newspaper articles, however. Newspapers are not the only place where people go for news these days. I live in Detroit. I get a lot of my information about Detroit Schools, for instance, from WRCJ (90.9 FM), the radio station produced by the Detroit Schools and Detroit Public Television. The radio productions frequently given on Wed. nights, by Detroit School of Arts students themselves, including interviews with Detroit teachers and principles, are delightful. I also get much of my news about Detroit Schools from my daughter who happens to teach pre-school in Detroit, traveling from Holt where she lives.

  • Franklin,
    Your post shames you as much as the president. His middle name is Hussein. It’s not Hussein. Personal attacks that are presumably implied by your quote marks make you look much less serious and thoughtful than I assume you would like to. Comments like “baboon” show you to be rather foolish yourself. Monkeys don’t become editor in chief of the Harvard Law School. In my experience in life, for what that’s worth, to even be ON the Harvard Law Review suggests extraordinary intellect. To be elected President or Editor in Chief is the supreme compliment.
    I challenge you, Franklin, to stop listening to people who reinforce what seem to be your least impressive instincts (if you want to get evolutionary about it) and instead challenge you to think. There is no argument in your argument. It’s pure and simple opinion.
    Lead with your BEST self, Franklin,

  • Touya,
    You raise a good issue of “dumbing down.” It seems to me that all the pressure these days seems to be in the opposite direction in Michigan, as legislators try to water down the high standards instead of continuing to aim for them. I think the math standards need to be flexible and realistic, but we should not water them down and declare success.

  • Dave,
    it’s a question we should all be asking. You’re a library guy. Are the libraries highlighting their community’s awesome leaders of learning? Are you guys connecting the seniors who are full of life and learning and are mastering the internet with kids who could use the same passion? Are you highlighting kids who are achieving in different ways?
    Southfield has an awesome library. In this internet, networked, connected age, how might you all share information and learning in more new and different ways?
    Everyday leaders rock!

  • Dennis,
    Thanks for a very thoughtful, trust-building comment.
    What DO we learn from these school boards who said they won’t broadcast a message about hard work and study to our children? They have spoken of parents calling in and not wanting to offend or be partisan. Huh? It’s not an election. It’s an elected President. I’m fascinated that you lay the blame at the feet of the media with an ax to grind. The whole matter was created by the highly inflammatory RIGHT wing media. Republican commentator Joe Scarborough this morning was aghast that no Republican leaders stepped up to say how wrong-headed this reaction is to the President. WHAT are you learning from this? I guess my major takeaway is that there is a very vocal and intensely partisan group of bullies who are hurting our country. Should I be learning something else?

    How do you create trust in this atmosphere? Maybe you are leading the way. I’m trying to be calm and think with you. But I’m very reticent about remaining silent when a scary minority intimidate people from engaging in dialogue.


  • Dan,
    Thank you for speaking out again on behalf the value of education for everyone in our society. I don’t see how anyone could have objection to the President’s message about the value of staying in school and working hard to obtain a quality education. I would think that the best teachers would give their students the opportunity to listen to their President, deliberate on the ideas he presents, and practice the kind of critique of ideas that is important in a democracy. I’ve heard Presidential speeches all my life and they afforded me a chance to hear what these individuals thought was important, and because of our freedoms I could and continue to decide if I agreed or disagreed. I listen to people all the time with whom I do not agree, and I consider the chance to do this one of the great benefits of living in a free society. Imagine that our President might be trying to “brainwash” students to think education is an important endeavor and that dropping out of school is unwise! Preposterous, isn’t it!
    I certainly cannot prove but I would imagine that many of these young people who were sheltered from the President’s message are looking at things on their computers that a majority of parents would find inappropriate material. It’s someone like the elderly beneficiaries of Medicare fearing government intervention in healthcare reform. Or those who don’t realize that the GI Bill was definitely a federal affirmative action program.

    I guess we will all sleep better tonight in those communities where kids were not permitted to hear President Obama encourage them to give their schooling high regard. If I still had school age children, I’d put out an announcement to other parents and their families to come to my home and watch the speech with me. Actually, because of all the “noise”, the speech may end up getting more attention than anyone would have projected. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

  • Dave,
    Rant on! Seriously. But know that the enemy is not the governor – at least I don’t believe that (surprised?). But seriously, the opponent is a society that has little interest in the “common good.” It’s dominated by a market mentality. It’s all about price, cost and quality. And they measure that in taxes – period.
    There’s some real good about this, as libraries and all others should demonstrate that they are “worth” it, that they are generating value. So, if your Southfield and Lathrup constituents (or more important the constituents of libraries in Republican districts) truly value the libraries, then they’ll be heard. They’ll tell the Senator Mike Bishops of the world that they believe that even in these tough times they want to pay an extra $50 or whatever it takes to keep open the State Library.

    That’s how the democracy works . . . and doesn’t work.
    So, stay at it!
    p.s. Though I’m not well versed in the issue, I believe the hope is that MSU will take over the library – a good institution to carry on that educational mission.

  • Dan,

    While I appreciate your emphasis on education and our need to have focus, set goals, and applaud our successes, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to remind you the value sports does have on the individual and our community as a whole:
    I work for Think Detroit PAL (in Detroit). A few months back two corporate partners, Warrior Lacrosse and Team Detroit, presented us with an opportunity to bring a lacrosse camp to our kids-our city. And while no one on staff is a lacrosse expert, we jumped at the chance-in part because this is what we are all about: providing sport opportunities to kids.

    Innately, we all understand the value of youth sports programming-it’s why we do what we do. Kids benefit from these sport opportunities, across the board, be it in increased self-esteem, improved social skills, or the development of character attributes like perseverance.
    And so, I was not surprised to see the kids at the lacrosse camp excited to show their new skills (and new equipment). Visiting with a group of about thirty 10 -12 year old boys, I could barely get a word in! Sitting with them at lunch reinforced what I already knew-this was a good opportunity for kids.

    What I didn’t know was how good.

    Donte, who is 11(his name has been changed), was one of many kids who told me this was the best week of summer. Of course it is, I thought, don’t all kids say that during camp? As I talked to him further, I came to realize that this was probably true.

    You see, Donte has moved three times this summer. As of the last week in August, the week of lacrosse camp, he wasn’t sure what school he would be attending as you read this. He and his mom just moved in with his aunt, her two kids and her newborn baby. He doesn’t have his own room, let alone his own bed, and he never mentions his dad. In his own words, lacrosse camp was the first thing he has done all summer.

    As Donte showed off his newly-learned skills, I was reminded of why we do youth sports here-in this City, with these kids.

    Yes, when delivered well, youth sports programs are a valuable experience. They provide immeasurable value and opportunities for all kids-but the value and opportunity for many of our kids is so immense. For some, lacrosse camp really is the best week of the summer, and playing on a team really is the best way to gain a mentor, and their coach really is one of their most treasured role models.

    Most importantly, without the support of the community, donors and volunteers alike, (and all the focus of the press), it wouldn’t happen. While I am not saying that these life-changing, character building moments do not occur in a classroom, what I am pointing out is that these moments DO occur everyday on the baseball diamond and football field.

  • KKasceta,
    Thanks for sharing the tale of Think Detroit PAL. TDP is sports at its best. It’s also “everyday leadership” at its best. Your organization’s work at recruiting and training coaches is worth a billion blog comments about what’s wrong with urban schools or urban dwellers. How much more long term gratification would sports addicts like me have if they got involved as coaches, refs, etc., instead of just watching our Detroit favorites and spending hours reading stats and blogging about it? And how much of a difference in our communities.
    You guys are making a difference every day.
    Keep it up!

  • Cash cows = federal gov’t and their current pending habits, followed closely by the public school systems of America. I see it where I live, top level administrators getting rich on huge salaries, teachers always up in arms about their pay, and students who have been “nurtured” by their parents to do nothing for the first 4 years of their infancy life (the very important FORMATIVE years), then complain about their kids having to do homework, poor grades, disciplinary matters, etc…..always blaming the teacher, never themselves……let alone holding their child responsible in at least part, themselves the remainer. ALWAYS the cry from budget makers and policy makers of these public school systems….WE NEED MORE MONEY.
    To get competitive, and yes, this is controversial, because it smacks in the face of the gov’t employee/public school system…..our country should look at a few Scandanavian countries,who use a merit/voucher system…..private schools provide based on RESULTS, or they go out of business. Those kids in Scandanavia (the exact country escapes me at this time) blow the children of USA public school learning out of the water with respect to mathematics, technology, science curriculum acumen. Schools there are successful from the simple basis of…..RESULTS. Somewhat capitalist in perspective….what a novel idea.

  • ” . . . the opponent is a society that has little interest in the “common good.” It’s dominated by a market mentality. It’s all about price, cost and quality. And they measure that in taxes – period.”

    Society ( the institution or great conversation), per se is hard to find. We are so divided up. There was a time when we had two and then three national television networks, which had to find the concensus of what viewers would accept, and provide news to everyone. Now we have niche networks, and niche news television networks, so if you do nto want good factual news, and instead want opinion reporting which finds things wrong with one political group, then you can go there and never get the full story. This analysis can be carried forward with many other means of communication, and with various social structures and organizations.

    What we chose to make us important is extremely important. If it is a market mentality, that is who ever makes the msot money is the winner, then we are losing from the start. If money and making money is your top prioroity then we will all lost, because this puts education, democracy, privacy, hope, freedom and many other valuable things somewhere down the list, or maybe not on the list, because these might interfere with a few very powerful persons making the maximum profit, or so they think.

    Educuation was widely covered in small town newspapers years ago. Take a look at old copies of your home town paper, probably on microfiche at the library. Read the fall editions when school was starting up, or the spring editions when graduations were being held. Those graduating from 8th grade were often listed by name, and sometimes on the front page of the newspaper!
    ( 1920’s and 1930’s).

    There was an excitement in the articles. “Girls who make their own dress for graduation will have honors added to their diploma states superintendant.” That was for 8th grade.

  • I am NEVER sick of what you have to say! Keep saying it and Keep Leading with Your BEST self! Only leading by our best examples will things get better…and by the way, I don’t even live in Michigan! The problem is nationwide!

    Annie Moore

  • Hi Again Dan,

    Thanks for sharing more of your thoughts. I think we can learn so many things, so I’ll try to hit just the ones which come to mind quickly;

    1- We learn that not everyone thinks the same way about the same things.

    2 – We learn that words such as liberal, conservative, left-wing, right-wing are just short cut labels, but are not all that definitive about people’s purpose and true intentions. These words should certainly not be viewed as derogatory, but can be to some.

    2 – We learn that despite what may be the best of intentions of the President, the US Department of Education, and the local school boards, people misunderstand and jump to their own conclusions; people infer their own meaning from their own values.

    3 – In this issue, fear, not knowledge seems to be the governing value.

    4 – There is more than enough responsibility to go around for how local school board decisions get politicized at a national level and that includes the usual liberal channels as well as the conservative channels, including the extreme right and left commentators. That also includes regular people like you and me, when we let these channels get us afraid of expressing our differences. Thanks for helping me clarify what I meant by an “axe to grind”.

    5 – I don’t think it is blame, but just a fact that every media seeks to sensationalize to win market share; I encourage everyone to chill out and remember not to believe everything they read in the newspaper, on the internet, or that they hear from “talking points” from a news reader or commentator. Let’s not just believe someone because they said it on a radio or TV channel or a blog, but think about what they said in the broader context of what we know to be true, ask questions, get more facts, then seek to find common purpose to guide our reactions.

    6- What I learn from it and what I’d encourage everyone to learn is that differences and debate are cherished parts of our American heritage, and these differences are to be embraced and understood through discussion and dialogue. Calling people names and labeling their behavior does not help the discussion, the dialogue or the understanding, whether it is someone with a national media channel, or you and me with our dialogue over a cup of coffee.

    7 – I think we create trust in this atmosphere by listening to the sources who are closest to the center of the differences (the school boards, NOT the media commentators). I think the President and his administration have already addressed some of the issues because they listened and were informed about how to address some of the concerns the local boards had.

    Thanks for being calm and thinking about this with me on your blog. I think you are wise to not be silent and encourage you to take the fear of these “other” people by engaging in dialogue with them. They aren’t right wingers any more than the President or his administration are left wingers. They are fellow heirs to the American heritage, people who are to be engaged, understood and where possible, united with, to protect our nation from our real enemies.

    Again Dan, thanks for keeping the dialogue going, I really appreciate your thoughts in this subject and others.

  • When competition is removed from the equation, as in our monocratic school system, the fat get fatter, the dumb are afforded to stay dumb, or get dumber – – – there are no repercussions in relationship to failure. It is akin to the union mentality, overly protected workers that are no longer held accountable.
    If we took the public school system and examined it thoroughly, giving rise to the notion that competition in schools breeds a more stringent level of acceptability, as well as viability for existense or extinction, then we will begin to see a reversal to the ‘dumbing down’ effect that has permeated the public school system.
    When president Obama recently stated that there are no second rate citizens……I beg to differ. Not all are equal….although they may have started out in life that way. I could write a book on the variety of citizenry, and their respective ‘ratings’.
    School, like health care, should be something that all are given the same opportunity to engage in. That is why I feel that all of the citizens should be receiving the EXACT same health care coverage our elected officials and beaurocrats in Washington D.C. receive. FAIR IS FAIR.

  • Dennis,
    Thanks for extending the lessons. And thanks for the civility and high-road approach. For some reason your message made me wonder what the Twitter-ing pace of life is doing to our civility. When we’re all in a hurry, then news must come in bytes. Words like “liberal” or “right winger” are our very quick shorthand to get a handle. Health care becomes a “yes/no” debate a public option or not discussion. We look for simplicity and immediacy. Who won? Who lost? Tell me the bottom line. Don’t confuse me with detail and facts.
    As you point out, though, people are more complex than can be captured in a label. I agree with your sense that the local level is where the hard questions have to get hammered out. There, hopefully, there is discusson before the gavel is struck. In this tense, partisan and often hostile environment, though, I have seen even these discussions degrade when the labels get applied.
    It’s fun to watch the President keep trying to lower the temperature and refocus the discussion.
    Thanks for making RFL interesting!

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