tv Frederick Hess Pedro Noguera A Search for Common Ground CSPAN April 12, 2021 4:01am-5:03am EDT
whatever, dealing with green berets and navy seals and sometimes the information would come would come to an abrupt stop. sometimes they would just pour out. you would feel tapped emotionally. having someone like tom to work with was a lifesaver. even though i did not like doing that to him i had to just step away. >> to watch the rest of this interview visit our website booktv.org. click on the "after words" tap to find this along with all previous episodes. >> welcome everyone to the aei official book launch. a search for common ground. super excited when rick and peter asked me to it host this conversation pray for those who do not know me i am stephanie i'm the chief of global policy and external
board the college board is a hot 100-year-old education nonprofit that's working on a bunch of the same issues they tackle any search for common ground. not one of the reasons i like this book so much is that it dovetails so well with a lot of things i have been worried about in my life. in fact i wrote a book called >> life and the information agent look at the intersection of technology generational change and social capitol. i worried about the effects of technology and democracy. things are much more polarized today than in those early texas days. i do not need to tell anyone we are in a point of bitter polarization. a search for common ground is positively countercultural and deeply engaging. if i could tell the that everyone should and could read. supersmart leaders in the education field too often found themselves on different sides of issues decided 2ingage for a year on topics
they news they agreed on. they decided to do that countercultural thing and utterly retrograde formats. they wrote letters. while they disagree on some educational issues the epistolary panelists also have a lot in common. both have been public school teachers, professors, authors, commentators and consultants both are widely published, lead journals as well as media. both have offered many books and edited volumes that are frequent contributors and other collections as well. now a resident scholar and education policies he tackled both k-12 and higher education issues. is the author and co-author of ten books including breakthrough leadership in the digital age using learning side to reboot schooling. in the same thing over and over how school reformers get sucked in yesterday's ideas. rick started his career as a
social studies teacher taught six college campuses. dean of the ocs of education and sociologists whose research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions. he has published over 250 articles and the author, co-authored editor of 13 books including excellence through equity and unfinished business closing the achievement gap in our nation's schools began his curse a public school teacher honestly gentleman i am in all of the productivity of your work. written one book i cannot imagine writing 23. you see the three of us now have something in common. we are letterwriters. so for this book you to wrote 72 letters back and forth. roughly 36 apiece.
now early on this project was inspired by the correspondence of jefferson and adams. yours in one year. you produce a ten and about a 5h of the time. that's not bad. you are both writers you both exchanged a ton of correspondence and you're on your way from being before we dive into my questions, i was given all the time you've all spent corresponding over this year i would like you to give one sentence to describe your penpal. pager how would you describe rick? >> provocative. [laughter] that's actually what i like about him. his willingness to kind of say what he thanks.
i think not simply for the sake of engaging in but to really look at issues closely and to think about them. that's when he invited me to it join him in the joining of exchange idea. speak that's awesome. so rick how to describe your penpal? >> unapologetic progressive who i have none the left always found extraordinarily interested in practical things and hearing ideas that he might disagree with. i think that's fascinating and awesome. it really comes from the book. so were going to spend the next 45 minutes or so really
exploring this book. i focused on a conversation on four primary topics. one, how the book came about especially formats. what did you learn from each other, what impacted the pandemic and the racial unrest have on this project? and then what do you hope readers, educators and the larger world will learn from this book? so, one of my greatest challenges of this is our or so scheming to have this eloquent and thoughtful people i know oaks on quick responses. it got less than an hour we have an entire world of problems to solve so let's get to it. i may facilitate just a little bit. i will leave some time for some audience questions for it let's dive in. how did this collaboration come about and especially how did you decide you want to write letters to each other?
>> sgt-2019 i've been doing something like this for a while. part of the trip was to figure out who would it be constructive and interesting i thought of pedro who i'd never known well known for 20 years a little bit. and who i have always admired. i thought hey, here's a guy who seems sensible who seems like i with our most things seems sensible in but i disagree about. i guy i really liked what i interacted with him. so i reached out were not really clear how we were going to do this or what the format was going to be. really i just reached out to say hey you want to try to have a conversation where we
actually try to understand each other rather than yell at each other. >> so pedro you get this call from this guy you sort of know and he says hey let's do a book about stuff we disagree on. what'd you think? >> it did not take me long to say yes. the reason why i found the exchange. i valued debate, i valued probing complex issues with people you don't necessarily agree with. think what he problems in this country in a prominent academia is talk to people you disagree with. and to affirm each other's position i not acknowledge that others don't see it that way and they may have a legitimate perspective. i was actually quite busy when rick invited ms. in the middle of writing another book. i said yes thinking will work
this out of the next few years. but instead what happened is each time i get a letter from rick it would provoke me. that's why cities provocative. it would provoke me to it want to respond. so i put down other things to write my letter the letter writing process is also very interesting. have more time to think about what you are saying. if we have it as a verbal exchange you do not get that to be a thoughtful and reflective. so the letter writing process i think made it really different too. >> how did you come to that? you say hey this form we really interesting i am a letter writer married to my husband because of the letters we exchange but have my first letter in a shadowbox we wrote to my great-grandmother when i was five. had you been letterwriters? or did you come to this in
some way that it would be interesting productive format? >> i don't think it was conscious. while we were in it i think we were pressed a bit. we said to ourselves look, just as pedro put it. to find yourselves in conversation we feel smarter at the end of the conversation than you are the beginning of it. see the you to reaffirm each other. easy to yell back and forth but it's hard to actually find time to just talk. at that we were really interested in. not trying to find agreement, but trying to find understanding on a given topic. that what occurred to us the
first terrible pancake. falls away during the editing process hundred six or 800 words, pager would read it 11 times pedro the same day would be back with these beautifully written 800 word thoughts. and i would need to sleep on it, reflect and write back a day or two later. we would go back and forth. like pedro said all this set on so many panels we are on tv, the quick response whole different kind of conversation that are not used to having.
the typical education events i reacted to that too. we have this tendency to use slogans as a talking point rather than really delving in. we did events 60th anniversary versus the board of education. i invited several people to stage a debate. whether or not we should continue to pursue racial integration schools. and i had kids in the audience to be judges. it was such a disappointment. even though i got people from different points of view to be on the ground because everybody said the same thing. we all like it.
[laughter] i think speaks to the people are more concerned about saying the right thing than they are worth really addressing what's going on about should do about it. we could've extended private correspondence my kids or something. we talked up very early on the blue-ribbon commission have it. the trick is to get republicans and democrats to agree and up with a whole bunch of meaningless throat clearing that everybody can put their name on because you do not know what the hell it means that everybody can get
behind it. we wanted to do was see if there are places we could find common ground but it was more important to talk honestly and clearly and to find ways to agree. i think that is what made it such an energizing heartening kind of experience because the conversation was rooted and honesty rather than rooted and what words could we come up with that would fudge her differences. >> the chemistry is obvious in the book is really engaging because of the format. so, i would love to know what did you learn from each other? what is the one thing would you have a thing that particularly surprise you that you learned about one another in the exchange. i'll say, especially of course the pandemic.
we wrote the letters between january and june then we did a couple months editing later in the summer. and especially during the pandemic when we are not interacting with people and you're not actually talking to them so much dialogue is two-dimensional. it's what you hear on a webinar when you're talking to somebody part is what you see written. it was easy for me to it get frustrated with a lot of what i heard coming out of schools of education. a lot of the way people talk about inequity and issues of race. and at a got level i am as frustrated by where they are going as i'm sure they are going by the things they are objecting to. for me the thing that was so grounding about talking to pedro was pager on a particle he said things need to change rate that's fine. we agreed a little bit more
about some of them expected. pager was not interested in trying to cancel shakespeare. or try to cancel to kill a mockingbird. when i would talk about the smithsonian last summer saying that working hard is right pager would say i'm not going to defend that. when work hard be nice and this was bathed in white supremacy. pager center not going to defend that. so one of the things are so heartening for me is that pedro again i do not want to put words in your mouth is certainly pushback if i mischaracterize. it felt to me that pager was making an important distinction between things or the real inequalities we have to be honest and confront them if it's easier not to and not to let people with troubling
or foolish hobby horses hijack important conversation. felt like that's a distinction that pedro made day in and day out so often gets lost in the public debate. >> so pedro, what about you, what surprised you about your exchanges with rick and do you want to sort of respond to rick's characterization of what was surprising and really compelling about the arguments that you made? >> i think what was surprising to some of the areas where rick conceded or acknowledged and agreed. you're right that is an issue that is a problem. we talk about inequality in society. pretty sure we agree that's a big problem. that to me is the big problem facing american education. the fact we do not to fight
about those things a lot of the left, right battles that when you start to peel away they are kind of silly. i am against censorship of any kind. i don't think we should try to keep books away from kids. they can interrogate those folks. i think we both approach this differently. the other thing, and this became clear during our exchanges at a certain level we are fragmented. and by that i mean we are more interested in solving problems than simply fighting. and that makes a real difference. when you are working with the superintendent trying to figure out how to address a public issue they don't need ideology. they did practical advice. how do i address this issue in my district.
both of us have had that kind of experience. the other thing is i travel country, when i could travel i traveled to a lot of red states and small towns that are in liberalism. what i actually find that as many communities we have far more in common. at the level of values americans agree with each other a lot more in our politics have been created in a way that heightens our differences. i am actually less discouraged i don't watch the news as much. must be more hope for this country. [laughter] mimic let's talk about that i'm intrigued by that notion. i studied up a bit. the commonalities in
background education and this notion of pragmatism. what were some of the things you found that you really agreed on? you sort of touched on them. i'm intrigued in the age of polarization and a book that people correspond he might be from different ideological you liked each of you found common ground you have this pragmatism. what are those things you really found they really ci to ion? >> i will throw two or three. one is testing its huge in these conversations. it tends to be right left not even right left there seems to be for testing versus against testing debate. there is a degree of pragmatism. but we both agree that is an
utterly stupid debate. this one thing you see teachers due from the first save any competent teacher does for the first is school there testing kids in ways what is your take from that story? hey that would suit you drew there. there's a million ways they are assessing. an assessment should serve a purpose. it should help educators get a job nature of their being well served issue hopes of folks spending schools be confident those dollars are being sent responsibly. we agreed fundamentally on that. so me problems ideological hobby horses rather than is this useful to a parent? is it useful to an educator? a second one is choice. i am an apology pro-choice for vouchers and charters, highly
skeptical of pagers and long-term europe being open to charters. what's afford to those who are trapped in bureaucracies not serving their kids need to give educators and communities a chance to start better schools? also choice is not a magic solution. that choice is very much for the choice systems design? so again till we agree on testing and choice? no. does a lot of good faith agreement. third thing that's interesting is privatization the role of prophet. we think this is one where there's absolutely no common ground for it i'm a guy who believes in for-profit have an important role to play in education.
many folks on the left would love to see for-profit outlawed. but as pedro and i talked about it than yorks subway system, a pager characterized as a nobility of everybody rich and poor but usually common system to rely upon there's a lot to be said for new york that does not necessarily work wellin topeka or tacoma or other cities and as we talked about it, i think we found a lot of mutual understanding and insight in place of the accusation that usually hurl back-and-forth in that debate. >> how about you pedro? what did you find we found more common ground than you expected? >> what is important to keep
in mind is although the title is the search for roundness of the objective, the objective was to actually out the issues to exchange and listen and react to each other. it became to point we agreed. so we didn't so be it, right? i think it's important for the listeners to understand that. we did not come predetermined that we're going to reach agreement, right? now just recently we hope will come out soon. the objective of that can we come to some agreement related to schools reopening? that we need to get on the phone, talk through this not only from it all. turns out it was what a day or
two? what does that say? i think it says that two things, one when you are not that is here not just trying to protect a position you really look at the issue and try to understand it, then you can see all of the different sides of an issue. you could reach ground. when you are open there different from your own and actually taking them seriously but also opens up dialogue. some these issues just mention charter school. some are good some are not good but i'm not going to defend bad schools. and so testing i'm not pro or con, i'm reframing the issues
i think we were willing to do that as well. i think there's a different way of approaching issues we see typically play out. >> one thing we talked about, i have tried to make this argument for years with reformers and much more success with pedro. i member during the opt out with the common core assessment. people say have these parents opt out they don't opt out of taking the kids to the pediatrician what's wrong with them? as a look at take your kid to the pediatrician is that the officer 20 minutes the physician seizure kit for 20 the end of that they tell you how your kid is and they give you specific things you need your kid needs any help. thirty minutes of your life your kids better offer there's no assessment they want kid to sit in the classroom for six
to eight hours six months later bill send you something they can understand the gazette to put a grade. what in god's name? pedro and i would talk about this there is a practical understanding which often is missing with people are supposed to be on my side. the other thing that came up with this op ed one of the reasons were writing it i didn't think we need to get on the phone because it was interesting pager would write in these phrases and try to the same to him. he would write in phrases in my first impulse to be man i gotta go to work. having spent all this time going back and forth right degree of comfort with where he was coming from and such i would write a comment level. it turns out he put trust in the bank. because it's there going forward for these kinds of
efforts. i think that stuff is sorely missing in so much of what we do today pitcher that's interesting or really do here trust, pragmatism concreteness less obstruction, less ideology less sloganeering. i'm intrigued you weren't trying for common ground the search for common ground explicitly. is it more accurate to say you are searching for understanding each other and if you understood each other you might find, sent a ground that way she would agree on ways to solve particular problems in schools or in districts not in an abstract debate in washington or somewhere else. is that sort of a fair summary of the insights? >> i should also say that we had the luxury of not being
decision-makers. neither of us is running a state must less a federal government the pick ideas and put them into policies. we are not superintendents. we are critics we are observers we are partners with decision-makers. we do not hold that position. i've a lot of respect for people who do. i know how hard it is. i know a lot of times there's no easy answers here. it's very easy to throw darts on the sideline appoint out what is wrong. very different to be in the position of leadership and figure out what we have to do? and how do we make sure this start impacting in a positive way. if anything, anyone who's actually held a leadership role would be less quick to criticize because you would understand how hard it is to
lead big institutions let alone government. >> [laughter] is going to say people who ought to be a think perhaps taking a lesson from this model that don't have the luxury of time that you all had paired but it certainly strikes me the focus on problem-solving, not on jargon or slogan is a great lesson for those who are tasked with making these hard decisions. : : :
for organizational leaders, for young people trying to make a name. you have to worry about your patrons and how it plays on social media. what that did is suddenly when an entire nation moves the conversation online, when you look somebody in the face and you're picking your kids up from school, going to a ballgame there's a degree of what keeps you anchored and i think part
for me was watching the country while we were doing this and so. the social emotional tether. i think for me that is one big piece is watching the pandemic play out and people lose those moments of life where we fall into the conversation. we were fortunate to be having them. >> we were willing to, we were in the middle of something historic we need to acknowledge
this and it's also about the meaning and i said a lot about the ability to take what he knows and apply it to what happened because so many issues have been rehashed over and over again it's hard to add to something new to some of these debates. the pandemic and the way that it's impacted everything especially in education and the racial justice movement and the way that it disrupted our society. all these things require us to think about what's happening, how to make a sense of it. someone said to me recently and i agree every problem facing our society could be part of an educational problem.
that is how do we now prepare young people to respond to it and i think if we approach education that way it keeps our future orientation very alive and vibrant and fresh and that to me is important. there's nothing more than sterile ideas and hearing the same thing over and over again. i did do one example. i thought the op-ed in "the new york times" a week ago was titled something like can we stop fighting about drugs. i thought it was very good. i shared it on social media and had so many people attack me on the police because they thought i was defending it and i thought the whole point of the article was to acknowledge the complexity and there are many people not ready for that.
>> one of the things both the unrest following george floyd's killing and the pandemic is so many of these lines we get use to standing upon and throwing the rocks back and forth, they don't make a lot of sense. to argue about whether choice is good or bad and 50 million children were locked out of school seemed to kind of miss the point. the point should be how do we make sure kids get the learning environment they need it seemed they need to devolve but that isn't set up to do.
to actually do good work on behalf of kids and the nation. it doesn't seem like it should be that hard but it's not the way we are used to doing business. >> building on that what do you hope readers and the larger public take away from this book? you talk about your respect for decision-makers and the comparative luxury you all have in not being direct decision-makers do you have a piece of advice to give as you went along the way on this?
>> i will go first. be very skeptical of the silver bullet solutions, people who are selling the system. we are in a moment where the reformers and the camp would for the proponents of no child behind that hasn't panned out. at the same time, those who want to defend the status quo that is a mystery so then they raise the question now what should we go with. if we really think that education is the key to the future, and i believe that, what should we do? we have to stop believing there
is a script that if i just follow this script, it will all work out. there is no script. we have to figure it out and learn from our mistakes. we have to learn from the efforts of others. we've got to look at evidence. this moment has taught me avoid believing in the recipe for success, because i don't see it. what do you think it would take to spark that kind of conversation? >> the world is very different in 2021 then it was in 2019 how do we do that, how do we spark more of this kind of conversation and pragmatism
which we all agree it isn't the most important it is pretty clear to me that most americans want more of what pedro and i were able to do. that's not what you see on a social media or cable news. but i think the polling is pretty clear that all the stuff gets driven by 20 or 30% of americans and meanwhile, the other 70 to 80% are hunkered down saying when is this going to ease up. but a study after study shows the people that scream are the ones featured on cable news, these are the media stories that sell. so, one part of the problem is that we have got a larger culture that has declared war on
practicality and common sense it might be too big to talk about. it might be too big of a leap to talk about the utility for governors or members of congress. i don't think it is a leap to talk about footboards and principals and teacher educators and schools of education. i think these are places where that larger pool is gentle enough you could go in a different direction where we are not use to seeing. we don't have a lot of models of how you do this. so, for instance i would like to see in leadership programs making an effort.
they've got to marry them up with someone from the business school or executive or a different ideological position. i've had a pedro speak to a class of lion and universities -- he comes off to the right of every student in the seminar that is just a mind-boggling. we talk about the stakeholders. we talk about courageous conversations. it isn't a courageous conversation for the
progressives in the school to sit around and talk to each other. conversations only get courageous when you're talking across the comfort level so i think for me but we have modeled here is something that has the ability for educational leaders and people preparing teachers for folks in the business of leading systems across the country. >> so, pedro that is in your wheelhouse and this collaboration that you welded rather than what policymakers spread with what happens on campus and the preparation of education leaders. >> i think so. i think the university shortchange excluded that expose them to only one way of looking at issues. you know, i am a troubled by
that. i very intentionally assigned reading that was at odds with what i thought because i wanted my students to know. if you disagree, why did you disagree. and i think it's the schools of education even more so than other areas and i think conservatives say it's a liberal dominance to take seriously the
perspectives of those you disagree with. you have to know why you disagree. and this is a danger in our society because we are adding our news information from only sources that designate with our point of view why do you think -- we talked about what's going on in campus. you said you think the intellectual laziness was groupthink on campus but you thought especially so in the school of education to educate things like equality and justice
we are asking to solve problems i think that too often we don't in the interest of seeming like we are on the right side, we don't want to acknowledge the complexity as a difficulty. now let me be clear there are many that are still teaching kids that the earth is only 6000-years-old and there's no such thing as evolution and they want to impose a different kind of dogma on children which i think is dangerous. you can go in either direction
and find blind spots that work against our collective interest. it's in our interest as a nation to have educated students. it's not simply about the standards. it's about knowing how to think independently i always like to end a conversation like this particularly with smart people and education talking about a teacher that had an impact in your life. what made them so special to you. i will start with you.
>> there's an experience where i would go on to have the physical experience, but one phenomenal year i wrote about her at length was she a constructivist, she was everything. we started every day by addition, subtraction and she would track them for every student and if you got 45 out of 45, she had prizes and awards, ribbons.
this is before technology but she had these complex simulations where you would be doing social studies. we were doing a manner of literature she threw herself into trying to make the classroom collide every day but making the school a place that even like a disaffected student like me that was interested and excited when you show up in the morning to see what was going to happen that day. so to me that has always been the model of what i aspire to, someone that makes the act of
learning. >> that's amazing. >> one thing we didn't mention, we are former teachers. in eighth grade i had this teacher and he made the study of american history funny and interesting. one day i brought a copy of the autobiography of malcolm x to class. he reacted right away and said i don't want that book in my class. he's a racist. i said have you ever read it and he said no. how do you know he is a racist? i said you should read the book
before you make a judgment. what i admired about him i thought he was a very good teacher, it was his willingness to at least admit that he had taken and action and taught us don't judge a book by its cover and here he was doing that very thing. so that kind of teaching i think we should encourage. don't judge a book by its cover. don't be so quick to react. try to understand another person's perspective.
i didn't realize you are both social studies teachers the role of education and democracy, because what we have all sort of known in this line of work particularly we are starting to see an interest in civic education and civic engagement particularly since the events of january 6th. what do you all make of that and do you see any particular effort or organization that you're most excited about to try to adjust
help them beyond. they will be following up with them still. >> civics has been a passion of mine forever and it's funny when they decide that it matters. it's a huge issue but it seemed to be for many of the people i know in this work. the purpose in 2016 was making sure. after all, 45% of democrats said it hadn't been a free and fair
election. illegitimacy might have been the focus. now today we've obviously seem an election where 80% of republicans say that it wasn't free and fair. we just saw where rather than being regarded as a destructive, dishonest embarrassment people explained. certainly on the right we have our challenges so given it's hard to run a free nation,
responsible nation, democratic nation when the citizens don't believe in democratic elections, when they don't actually show any ability to distinguish between fact and fantasy when they are to engage then civic education is huge and crucial but we wrote this book to get away from and how hard it can be to talk about civics education in a way that is kind of respectful to the core challenges of teaching students to love and appreciate all that's been done to make it what it is finding a civics education that makes students care and gets them engaged and teaches them principles and skills but
it's a lot more interesting to have the same old fight. but they are actually willing to stand up to the fighters and are creating a space to tackle it differently. >> as much as i enjoyed the book and i think about the lessons to take away from this book it's as much as you wrote as what you just modeled here, the notion of respect the different point of view is okay but part of it is
to respect different points of view and listen to them and understand them. i thank you that you have lessons for the local leaders and to remember the audience, the people watching this or reading your book are not like people that are most active on twitter or that get the most clicks. this is the essence of our democracy and the essence of our education and its work overtime. i'm struck that you said one of your top recommendations to the policymakers and advocates there
are no silver bullets willing to call up and respectfully disagree but how people are screaming at people they disagree with and yet what i hear from both of you all is sometimes the most reductive thing may be to call out folks on your own side, productive and may be the most difficult and as a fellow letter writer, what i see is that the ancient art of letter writing seems to have been contemporary process and i think people that read this and watch this will draw that lesson that clearly has been extremely productive for the two of you
and a very enjoyable conversation for me. thank you all very much for the time and the terrific book. welcome to the library of philadelphia online. my name is marjorie and i'm the daughter of the late alex whom this has been named. this evening's program is made possible only with the support of caring individuals like you. we hope you will consider making a gift whenever you are able and helping the free library advance literacy learning and inspire curiosity for all