fall-colors “The more things change the more they stay the same” — Bon Jovi

Been thinkin’ a lot lately about education and schools and learning. That’s what happens when Bill calls, asking if I have a couple of minutes. He’s discovered some of the great quotes in whatever books he’s reading. And he wants to share their insight. Less frequently, thoughts ricochet in my head when I come across quotes. In both cases, the quotes connect thoughts, weaving a pattern. Quotes are so amazing—so much said in so few words is nothing short of stunning.

Perhaps I betray my age by admitting that the conversation called to mind Seymour Sarason’s The Inevitable Failure of School Reform, published in 1990. As I read notes from the book, I began to feel really sad and somewhat angry.

And you have to understand. I write and speak passionately about schools, education, and learning. Learning, reflection, intellectual growth are essential to a good life and a healthy democratic society. Sometimes the passion is angry and anger should be allowed because it is a valid response to laziness and the collective lack of courage and creativity in response to the attacks on public education. I’m not angry at you as an individual, but at a system that creates quiet, unresponsive sheep. (Thanks to John Metta in a blog “It’s Not About Race” at for the thought.)

Back to Bill’s quotes and Sarason. I’m flummoxed by our willful neglect of what we all know to be true: school is boring for a lot of kids. It also is and has been for a long time a time-waster of fact memorization stuffed into short-term memory, details forgotten as soon as the test is over. We deny what has been an incredibe wasteful of time and life. And it all happens in the name of thoughtless lies like, “You must take this course because it is ‘good’ for you”, or “it enables you to ‘think’ better, or “you’ll need it to make a success in life.” Whose life is it, anyway? How many of you have used the quadractic formula lately? Calculus anyone? Who won the Battle of Hastings?

I’m amazed that adults in our society, concerned with the responsibility of preparing our young people to succeed in our culture and in the world, aren’t more “with it”. They continue to run an authoritarian, undemocratic institution called school with “standards” developed by “others”. Schools have little or no relation to a youngster’s interests or passions. While the professionals who work in school have little to say about what happens 8 hours a day, students have even less to say about “schooliness”.

Some Wizard (s) of Oz, behind the curtains of law, determine what occurs daily in schools and they (lawmakers, policy wonks, business interests, and politicians) have lost touch with the reality. Perhaps they simply don’t care about school life as it relates to our life on the planet. While they pontificate and legislate about what ought to be, my bet is that they’ve not read a critical book or article on “schooliness”, talked with people in the field, or experienced first-hand the grinding, pointless reality of school days for many students and staff alike.

The testing culture and the profitable testing companies continue to hobble our ability to create delightful learning spaces. More distressingly, we permit the slow undoing of creative, interesting, and exciting learning spaces we desperately need for our collective survival.

At the end of our conversation, Bill and I chuckled when Bill realized that the expression “Same Stuff, Different Day” (SSDD in the title of this post) could also mean “Same Stuff, Different Decade” or even “Seymour Sarason, Different Decade”. It’s irritating as hell the waste we’ve perpetrated. I’m just sayin’ …  More next time!