The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

Synopsis

Teaching the lessons of New York's most famous public school, Deborah Meier provides a widely acclaimed vision for the future of public education. With a new preface reflecting on the school's continuing success.

Excerpt

After thirty years of almost daily immersion in my own particular school's life, I now wake up each morning worrying about "other people's" schools, not my own. It's a big shift. It's also a good moment for looking back as well as looking forward.

Having started teaching accidentally, to pass the time until my children were old enough for me to get on with "more serious" work, I never had a grand plan. I wrote a lot about what I was seeing and learning, because it both bothered and fascinated me and writing helped me cope with it. and also, as those who know me well would tell you, because I wanted to persuade. I was being "political" -- a democrat, socialist, advocate -- but "in my way." My way turned out rather differently than I expected, closer to the life of the classroom and farther from the politics of education as it is usually thought of. in the end my work changed how I saw politics in its larger sense as well.

I wrote for the publications I knew best. Mostly I wrote for Dissent magazine, whose editor, the late Irving Howe, I so much admired. (I always waited amid much nervousness to hear his response to a manuscript, and his voice is much missed as this book goes to press.) in later years I wrote for other publications as well, particularly The Nation, whose remarkable editor, Victor Navasky, encouraged me to write many of the articles that subsequently formed the basis of this book. But mostly I began to speak to a wider range of audiences, trying out new ideas that sometimes made their way into print. Through it all I wrote for the parents of the children I taught and for my colleagues and the school community as a whole. I wrote memos, letters, journals, and for twenty years a weekly column for our school newsletter. My first intention was to use the offer of a contract to write a book as an opportunity to collect in one place some of these writings (with a little editing here and there) as a way to summarize before I left the immediacy of the schoolhouse.

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