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Guest Thinkers

DABA: Clay Burell

Some of you know Clay Burell from his first blog, Beyond School. But what most folks don’t know is that Clay was selected by the folks at Change.orgto be their education blogger and has been writing there since December 31. This week I’d like to award the crimson megaphone to Clay’s efforts at For a blog that’s only 3 months old, there is an unbelievable amount of good stuff there.

Clay’s cranking out several posts a day and his dopamine:yawn ratio is awfully high. Here are a few quotes to show you the diversity of what’s on the blog…

From The Rut of Learning Too Much, Too Soon, Too Long:

We’re stuck in a rut of too much, too soon, and for too long.  Learning should continue for a lifetime, but force feeding a student with tons of facts isn’t even remotely the same thing as educating a student.  True education, true learning, can occur in as little as a few minutes of stimulating conversation.  The “subject” is not what is most important to the student’s future, it’s the process of learning that will benefit him the greatest. 

From Another Foray into Tech and Literacy: Contra The New Yorker:

Having a Ph.D. doesn’t necessarily make you out of date – but in my experience, it seems to increase the odds. [hey, wait a minute…!]

Case in point: my tongue-in-ballistic-cheek rebuttal to the Science Daily summary of the “tech versus critical thinking and literacy” study triggered a challenge from an education professor specializing in literacy. She challenged my lack of  “balance” in the post – a rebuttal isn’t supposed to be balanced, in my book, but anyway – and recommended I read a New Yorker essay that, presumably, would set me straight.

The good Doctor’s challenge was all well and good. But it was sent in an email, instead of as a comment to the post. An email. How 1990s.

I don’t belittle email in any “I’m hip because I’m with it: I blog” sense. I belittle it because, in terms of literacy and critical thinking, email is impotent in comparison with comment threads and forums. Only I could read the email challenge; you couldn’t.

That cheats everybody.

From Laboratories of Educational Democracy (guest blogger Bruce Smith):

I’ll admit that when I read Atlas Shrugged years ago, I found its central premise intriguing: that the way to reform society is by removing the talented people from the corrupt institutions they sustain, letting those institutions collapse, then starting all over again.

I first encountered this argument near the end of my time in public education, as I struggled over whether to stay, fighting the good fight; or to get out, saving myself but leaving behind a host of students. I ended up leaving because, despite the good I might have done there, the stress of supporting a system I couldn’t justify was driving me into the ground.

By aligning myself with Sudbury schools, I chose the power of example—that is, showing what’s possible and desirable in education—over the prospect of staying behind and pushing or resisting my way toward reform within the system. Plenty of my counterparts, however, took that other fork in the road, and continue doing what they can for the millions of children still in conventional schools.

Meanwhile the overall pace of education reform remains snail-like, with the majority of students stuck in schools an even larger majority considers unsatisfactory. How did we get stuck with such an outrageous reality? More importantly, why in the name of all that’s good do we allow it to persist? is most definitely a blog that deserves a bigger audience (DABA). Here are a few other highlights from Clay and his guest bloggers:


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