I don’t read blogs with comprehensive regularity…but as a student of urban education policy it’s difficult NOT to notice that there are notable education thinkers who are leading conversations about what to do about public schools via their own blogs. In preparation for this post, I spent some time looking through blogs by authors with whom I am well familiar. I’m using this post to ponder what opportunities the blog format offers powerful thinkers with powerful ideas.
In February 2007, the Bridging Differences blog was launched featuring exchanges between education historian and policy analyst Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier, social justice educator and one of the founders of the small schools movement in New York City. I had read Ravitch’s seminal text on NYC schools, “The Great School Wars” (1974) as well as Meier’s book about Central Park East in East Harlem “The Power of Their Ideas” (2002).
The format of Bridging Differences was (and remains) letter writing. The letter exchange reminded me of what Rilke wrote Franz Kappus. It was universal and personal at the same time. Bridging Differences did not just provide an important space to discuss differences in thinking about urban education. It modeled how leaders in education could work collaboratively to get at differences that arise, not necessarily to erase them, but to understand them. The success of Bridging Differences was also its ability to bridge audiences. Professors Ravitch and Meier come from different experiences in public schools and their joint blog allowed for connections across their seemingly disparate worlds.
Bridging Differences is now continuing with Pedro Noguera, author and director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University. The Noguera-Meier Bridging Differences, like its predecessor, allows for different perspectives on the same topics to be expressed. It also demonstrates how these thinkers are knitting their travels and experiences into their responses to each other. I have been a student of Professor Noguera and am excited to learn more about what is speaking to him when he writes “Dear Deborah”.
Diane Ravitch has now started her own blog and you feel like you’re in her home or in a circle of friends she has gathered when you read along. Ravitch offers her own reflections but also scans the field for the top stories, reposting newspaper articles, reports, calls for support, and other critical concerns that have come her way. In this way she serves as a “connector” to the rest of the blogosphere. Sometimes she takes readers’ comments and turns those into blog posts, giving voice to those who are not as well heard as she is. She travels between many genres: storytelling, letter writing, bullet points (you name it) which makes her writing, not just the content, interesting to read.
Ravtich’s new form of expression offers an important “work-in-process” counterpoint to her publications. Her blog serves as an instructive tool to see a powerful thinker writing to learn! In Writing Across the Curriculum (I was a former WAC fellow at City Tech) we promote writing as an exploration of one’s own ideas versus as an already-thought out composition. I am now getting to see the pieces of Ravitch’s work out of which greater histories, grander narratives are written.
The promise of education blogging, to me, will be in the affordances for bridging and writing to learn.