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The Radical Center of Education

RadicalCenter_800.gifLast Sunday I caught just a bit of the Speaking of Faith program on National Public Radio. Tippett was interviewing the author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, and his wife Kay. As a couple, they lead a large Evangelical church, but also are working on AIDS prevention. One particular comment by Kay stuck me. She sees her church as a moderate organization, neither fundamentalist nor liberal. And she believes this to be the most difficult position for it to take because it has two sets of critics - those from both the extreme left and the extreme right.

While the Radical Center political movement has been around for a while, I suggest that we in education and technology adopt a similar view on hot button topics. (And one thing that blog reading/writing has taught me is that there are PLENTY of emotion-laden topics in education!) While a polarized view of reading methodologies, filtering, DRM, Open Source, copyright/copyleft, constructivism, e-books, fixed schedules, Mac/PC/Linux, OLPC, fear-mongering, etc. makes for entertaining reading and good PR, I wonder if radical stances actually create educational change and so impact kids lives.

As a radical centerist in education, I try to subscribe to the following principles (This is just Saturday morning brainstorming and subject to revision, OK?) Sorry about many of these being clichés.

  1. Adopt an "and" not "or" mindset.
  2. Look for truth and value in all beliefs and practices.
  3. Respect the perspective of the individual. 
  4. One size does not fit all (kids or teachers).
  5. If you think it will work, it probably will.
  6. The elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time. Or is it that you can't leap the chasm in two bounds?
  7. To travel fast, travel alone. To travel far, travel with others. 
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."
  9. Measurement is good, but not everything can be measured.
  10. Know and keep your core values.

I'll try to flesh these ideas out and revise them over the next week or two. I'd be delighted to hear from others who consider themselves a part of the radical center. And to hear from the fringes as well on just why this is a bad idea. (Will I regret having just written that?)

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Reader Comments (8)

In regards to your first principle, my one technology boss always said, "We don't need to make it either/or, it can meet all needs."

December 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRob Darrow

"I wonder if radical stances actually create educational change and so impact kids lives"

Indeed, they are the only thing that ever has.

December 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMM

re#3 "Respect the perspective of the individual"

A problem with that is similar to the denier mode of the AGW debate. Generally acknowledged that the perspective is bought and paid for by energy corps and the press tries to acknowledge it as equal. We have programs (i.e. COW, NCLB) knowingly based on faulty research forced on us (ed funding). Not a valid perspective to have been brought to the table - should have been rejected out of hand.

December 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Hi Robert,

You are going to need to explain "to the denier mode of the AGW debate" to me.

In refuse to reject any perspective "out of hand," I'm afraid. It's one thing to prove research is faulty; quite another to refuse to even listen.

All the best and thanks for the comment,


December 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

In anthropogenic global warming (agw) there are several organizations
funded primarily by Exxon and Western Fuels, some conservative
thinktanks (Luntz) and other funders (Scaife Foundation ) to
systematically spread doubt about the IPCC reports and science behind
them. The science used by deniers is repeatedly found faulty, the
proponents consistently found to have predetermined POV. But, in the
interest of providing a balanced piece, journalists quote these
resources on an equal time with the consensus findings. The end
result for those not closely studying the topic is that there seems to
be a real debate when there really isn't.

So, look at how NCLB legislation was supported by 'research'
(examples: the Texas results, charter schools), when it was soon clear
that those results weren't repeatable and were 'cooked'. To put that
type of 'research' on equal basis with the quality research is really
not using good critical thinking skills.

Obviously, social sciences are not as 'hard' as weather and climate,
but the research and metaresearch is pretty clear on what really
works. It really isn't thowing it out ' "out of hand," but realizing
what is valid to keep.

December 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the clarification.

Interesting that there is plenty of criticism of Al Gore - that he is over-dramatizing the global warming problem with suspicious statistics as well. If you've read Michael Crichton's book State of Fear, he cites lots of "anti-global warming" studies as well.

Again, this is part of being in the Radical Center. You are bound to get criticism from people who are vested in both ends of an issue.

I appreciate your comments. Have a great new year!


December 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'll get this back to ed and Radical Center at the end, really.

Using Crichton as an example - While there are many sites that cite his book, there are also many sites showing how the science in it is faulty. It doesn't take much googling to find where the pro-Crichton stuff comes from, and realize it gets copy-pasted around a lot. It does take a bit more googling to find the criticism and probably a bit higher reading skill to follow the explanation. And when you find the orig pro-Crichton stuff, you'll tend to find it connected with sites that generally are not held in high regard in the AGW scientific community - funded by Exxon, etc. (The denier crit of Gore follows a similar pattern, He did leave himself open for some of it, but he's working on it.)

So, Radical Center, We are critical thinkers, We don't need to go pie-eyed at the alter of 'research'. If it quacks like a duck.... By accepting any idea as as valid as another, we aren't accounting for the quality of the idea, how it is supported, and the work in developing it.

December 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Hi Robert,

My sympathies regarding global warming certainly lie in your direction. (I have grandchildren to worry about, you know!)

Still, I would prefer we criticize the evidence/research rather than the source of it with a blanket condemnation. If we are actually going to accomplish some sort of change related to the environment I believe there will need to consensus formed between the deniers on both ends.

I do hope we are "critical thinkers" not simply listening to the doctrine we want to hear. I believe it is very easy for people hear only what they wish to hear, especially when they believe in the goodness of their cause.

Have a great new year and thanks for the conversation!


January 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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