Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I Almost Named this Blog

Yesterday I wrote about the significance of "Founding Principles". Before I hit on this name, which I came up with a day or two before my first post, I was planning to name it "Changing Minds". This would have been an homage, indirectly, to Howard Gardner, whose book Changing Minds was deeply influential on me, and indirectly influential on Locke High School, when I was reading it in the summer of 2007. We had just circulated a petition to convert Locke into a charter school; a counter-movement had been organized and had convinced 17 teachers to rescind their signatures; the L.A. Times and I had written opinion pieces urging the incoming school board to hear and vote on our petition, and they had signalled that they would do so; so the future of the school was in limbo.

I bought and was reading Changing Minds at that time for three reasons: (1) I was a teacher, and every form of learning has some form of mind change involved in it; (2) I was specifically a teacher of AP English Language and Composition, which centers on rhetoric, the persuasive use of language, so mind-changing techniques might help me and my students do well in that subject; (3) I needed to change the minds of teachers whose support we had lost or never had, or my own future would be in limbo. Also, and this was particularly apparent during the reading of Gardner's book, I needed to keep my own mind open to change, since any given dialogue would involve genuine give and take.

We won that battle, and today Locke High School really is a different place. There are many similar schools in the United States, and they need to change, too. But not just schools in ghettos need to change: there are severely underperforming schools in middle class communities as well, like Canoga Park High School, from which I graduated; and I remember in my first teaching job, at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica, being amazed at the number of rich kids who could have been going to Beverly Hills High School but whose parents had opted out of that in favor of something more personal and idealistic. All kinds of schools in America need to change; and to effect these changes properly, educators need to be involved in the vanguard; and yet many of these educators themselves need their own minds to change; and I must be open to having my mind change, too.

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