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BFTP: The radical center of education

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post December 15, 2007. A article bases on this post was published in Teacher-Librarian magazine June 2008. The article can be found here.


Last 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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