One of my brothers rarely agrees with me on political, theological – or educational – issues.  And he’s not afraid to share his ‘takes’, which is good.  This makes it both worthwhile and fun.  We have learned (finally!) that our differences yield valuable discussions, as we each hear points of view to counter our own.

Recently we were visiting about a couple of my education blogs.  He said something like “you have some good points, and you’re balanced, but you never come down on one side of the issue.  You need to give us your own take.”  That’s not verbatim, but I don’t think he’d disagree with the gist of that.

I couldn’t help but grin.  He’s right about the ‘not coming down’ of course – I plead guilty.  But I’m not sure I agree with his conclusion that I should.  It later dawned on me – in a marvelously ironic way –  that when it comes to educational (and often other) issues, the only place I DO ‘come down hard’ is on the side of the firm opinion that you CAN’T come down hard on big educational issues!  And the bigger the issue, the harder it is to take an either/or position!

When it comes to tackling big issues, and solving big problems in society, isn’t it true that the best and most creative of solutions usually emerge NOT from one ‘side’ or the other, but rather from taking the best of both sides and seeking to move forward in a win/win fashion?  And the point is, those who are tasked with solving these problems cannot do this until/unless they understand the truth that is almost always on each side. When it comes to big issue problem solving, it becomes a time not for ‘having takes’, but for asking questions!  It is a time not for ‘coming down’, but for ‘coming along’.  And it is not a time for convincing, as much as it is a time for listening.

(And, while we’re at it, isn’t this part of the reason the current political scene is so dysfunctional?)

So, perhaps you’re asking (along with my brother?) what this has to do with education?  It has MUCH to do with education, and in two very big ways – one of them ‘obvious’ and the other much more subtle.

FIRST, it is almost always the case that profound educational issues are of exactly the type described above.  One can’t begin to make authentic progress on them until one honors and understands the two (or more) ‘sides’ that make something an issue in the first place!  For my own part, I prefer to openly spotlight both ‘sides’ of some issues I’ve encountered.  This has been and will be viewed (as with my brother), as ‘dodging the issue’, but I view it as contributing to a more meaningful grounds for discussion.  More irony:  Perhaps both those perspectives are ‘right’!

[One quick example of this is the current national debate about Common Core, ‘opting out’, and other related issues.  I hope to return to this in a future blog.]

FINALLY, we can’t avoid the more subtle question:  What are we teaching our young students – our future citizens – about solving big (and little!) problems; about seeking – and hearing – input; and about moving forward together to seek win/win solutions?  Some would say “How can – or even Should -we be  doing that?!” And (surprise!)  – I grant there’s no easy answer.   But I guess I would also notice that – whether we address it or not in the classrooms – they’re learning about a process from watching us.  And I fear for what they’re learning.  Shouldn’t we start giving them enlightened guidance now?  Do we want to just hope they’re lucky enough to have a brother that disagrees with them?