Education Letter to the Editor

Jay McTighe Responds to ‘Understanding By Accident’

April 10, 2007 2 min read

To the Editor:

The recent Commentary by Kim Chase (“Understanding by Accident,” March 14, 2007) deserves a response. One might assume that, as one of the authors cited in her opening paragraphs, I would take this opportunity to respond to her critique of my and Grant Wiggins’ work. I will not do so. I believe that her know-it-all attitude, combined with her sarcastic and mean-spirited personal attack on Mr. Wiggins, reveals all one needs to know about Ms. Chase’s character and professionalism (or lack thereof). No, my response is directed to the editorial decisionmakers at Education Week.

As a long-standing, admiring reader of Education Week, I cannot fathom why this piece was selected for publication in the Commentary section, which I consider the prime real estate of the paper, a forum where leading thinkers voice significant educational ideas and issues. What are the educational merits of Ms. Chase’s venomous rant?

I could understand the essay’s inclusion if it were framed around larger issues, such as: What constitutes high-quality professional development? What makes an effective presenter for adult audiences? What are the responsibilities of a sponsoring organization to establish conditions conducive to adult learning? What are the responsibilities of professional educators for professional growth?

Is her piece meant to be representative of teachers’ reactions to professional development? Is there no place in education for sports analogies? Regretfully, no such questions or related issues were presented.

This personal attack was allowed to stand alone. Should Education Week readers conclude that the inclusion of Ms. Chase’s Commentary now opens the door for any disgruntled teachers to personally castigate their principals on a very open stage? How about principals publicly berating irritating parents?

If you choose to air such an acerbic and one-sided opinion piece, then basic journalistic responsibility demands, at the very least, an invited opportunity for a printed response by Mr. Wiggins, by other teachers in attendance at the in-service, or by representatives of the sponsoring district. Other prominent educational publications regularly invite responses to critiques. Such is the norm in the popular media as well: USA Today provides “point” and “counterpoint” editorials on the same page, Fox News claims to be “fair and balanced,” and even Paul Harvey tells “the rest of the story.”

Is it too much to expect that a prestigious news source like Education Week should do the same?

Jay McTighe

Columbia, Md.

The writer is the co-author with Grant Wiggins of the Understanding by Design series, and currently works as a writer and educational consultant after a career of service in public education in Maryland.

A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week as Jay McTighe Responds to ‘Understanding by Accident’