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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Recalling the Spirit of September 2001

By Rick Hess — May 02, 2011 1 min read
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Hidy, all. I’m back. I’m sure you’d prefer to be left in the capable hands of Justin, Heather, or Greg a little longer--and I got some emphatic un-fan mail strongly encouraging me to make my blog vacay permanent--but life is full of these little disappointments...

Anyway, we were channel-surfing last night when we stumbled across the CNN scroll announcing that Osama bin Laden was dead. While watching the coverage, the President’s remarks, and the celebrations, two thoughts struck me that touch directly upon the edu-world. One, I recalled how goodwill and generosity of spirit back in 2001 helped speed through a flawed, troubled statute called No Child Left Behind. Cheerful “let’s-get-it-done” collaboration tapped not into shared horse sense, but instead greased the skids for a pleasant-sounding, poorly assembled pastiche of good intentions and confused mandates.

Second, I was reminded how nasty, personal, and petty our edu-debates have gotten. Wisconsin’s Governor Walker is called a Nazi and worse for wanting to alter collective bargaining rules for employee benefits. (Talk about defining Nazism down...). Proponents of merit pay and value-added testing are called fascist teacher-haters, while skeptics of those proposals are denounced as villainous child-haters. In a perilous world, where our nation’s very future stands in question and in which we must find a way to shoulder the burden of a decade’s ruinous profligacy, I’d like to think we can reach back to September 2001 and find strength in our shared bonds.

That doesn’t mean we’ll agree on much, and I sure wouldn’t want it to put our critical faculties on pause, but it’d be nice if those of us working to improve American education could try a little harder to recognize the validity of other perspectives. Out of respect for the young men and women who took down Osama and risk their lives to keep us safe, those of us engaged in educating tomorrow’s citizens might try harder to recall the decency that prevailed when a shared crisis reminded us of all that binds us together.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.