Monday, December 01, 2008

Stop waiting for tomorrow

Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured their CEO Council, where 100 top CEOs and influential policy makers were brought together to discuss what the new administration’s priorities should be. The list included some of the biggest names in corporate America, and their discussion covered a variety of topics including healthcare, energy policy, the U.S. in the global economy, and the environment.

Paralleling that discussion was an article titled, “Failing Our Children,” which included a discussion about what needs to be done in our schools and why we haven’t done it. John Bussey, WSJ’s bureau chief sat down with three “experts” in the education field: James Comer, a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center; Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education; and Louis Gerstner Jr., former chairman and CEO of IBM Corp.

It’s definitely worth checking out, as Comer, Klein, and Gerstner all had pertinent thoughts on the subject.

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As someone who is usually late to the game when it comes to “hot” television shows, my wife and I have discovered The Wire (based on a tip and recommendation from noted reviewer, Mr. EDY), and we’re trudging through the series, one disc at a time, most Friday nights.

In some ways, the series, which ran on HBO from 2002, until this spring, reminds me of another police drama that explored sociopolitical themes, and was also based in Baltimore, the award-winning Homicide: Life on the Street. The characters have a depth that other shows often lack, it takes awhile to warm to the script, and once you’re hooked, you’re hooked for good. You also recognize that The Wire (and Homicide, before it) are television anomalies.

[McNulty and Bunk, from The Wire/HBO]


David Simon, who created, produced, and wrote most of The Wire (as well as being the author of the nonfiction work, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which formed the basis of the NBC crime drama that ran from 1993 to 1999), shared some of his thoughts with fans and the series ending, in a letter on the show’s website. Some of his observations came to mind when I read the WSJ’s CEO Council.

Simon, speaking to various problems like education, that keep getting talked about, but nothing ever seems to change, had this to say:

This year, our drama asked its last thematic question: Why, if there is any truth to anything presented in The Wire over the last four seasons, does that truth go unaddressed by our political culture, by most of our mass media, and by our society in general? We're given our answer: We are a culture without the will to seriously examine our own problems. We eschew that which is complex, contradictory or confusing. As a culture, we seek simple solutions. We enjoy being provoked and titillated, but resist the rigorous, painstaking examination of issues that might, in the end, bring us to the point of recognizing our problems, which is the essential first step to solving any of them. The Wire is fiction. Many of the events depicted over the last five seasons did not, to our knowledge, happen. Fewer happened in the exact manner described. Fiction is fiction, and it should in no way be confused with journalism. But it is also fair to note that the problems themselves — politicians cooking crime stats for higher office, school administrators teaching test questions to vindicate No Child Left Behind, sensitive prosecutions and investigations being undercut for political motives, brutal drug wars fought amid a police department's ignorance of and indifference to the forces involved -- were indeed problems in the recent history of the actual Baltimore, Maryland.

While the problems addressed in The Wire, are problems more prevalent in an urban environment befitting a major U.S. city, I personally believe they’re still germane to a more rural state, like Maine.

All of us pay for the inaction of those entrusted to be something more, whether we’re talking politicians, law enforcement, educators, or Wall Street bankers.

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Speaking of something more, Alan Shusterman is someone who eschews the “one size fits all” model of education that is far too prevalent in our country. Recognizing that much of what passes as public education is outdated, and not preparing students for the 21st century (or the 20th, for that matter), Shusterman proposes what he calls, the School for Tomorrow. You can read about him and his school via this Washingtonton Post article written last July.

Shusterman isn’t some wild-eyed reformer, and in fact, much of what he proposes—project-based learning—has been hailed by progressive educators like John Dewey, and others, for over 100 years.

There’s a good summary of project-based learning, at the Buck Institute for Learning site.

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Here's another article (also from the WashPo), this one written by David Simon himself, about news, newspapers, and our current state of the media.

1 comment:

Officer Hauk said...

"We tune 'em up, beat 'em down, lock 'em up. The Western District way."