Horace’s Mailbox

To the Editor:

I just read the June and September copies of HORACE, and I congratulate you for such honest, believable portraits of Essential schools, and for your emphasis on personalization. I have read a few of the essays Pat Wasley has written on the struggles teachers go through as they and their schools change; like those essays, your reports also reflect approval and doubt, success and failure, enthusiasm and resistance. How refreshing this is; how enormously helpful, too, I have to think, in reaching teachers and administrators (and those who are considering grants to Re:Learning efforts) who are looking into the nature of Re:Learning schools. By not overselling the product you make a powerful case that something good if imperfect (and shouldn’t it be? will any teacher believe it if nine principles suddenly transform schools into the Garden of Eden?) is happening in these Essential schools. The lack of defensiveness, the willingness to play the objective reporter –as much as possible –without judging or “correcting the criticisms –is a pleasure.

The attention on how schools can be personal, how a faculty can set up new ways of knowing all students on an individual basis, speaks so well to the human dilemma of teaching in a large public school. I have taught in two boarding schools and in a fairly large public school. Your issue on advisory groups offers some terrific examples of how those large public schools can take what is often most critical in making private schools different and better places for many students to learn. Some people may wonder why the Coalition would focus on it –aren’t there more IMPORTANT educational issues that matter? But of course, as the Coalition understands, this kind of personalization is at the heart of better schools. Bravo.

Peter G. Huidekoper
Program Officer, Gates Foundation
Denver, Colorado