Education Reformers and the Company They Keep

This holiday season we’re taking a break from our regular programming to offer a series of reflective blog entries in the holiday spirit. Instead of political commentary, we’re planning to wrap up 2016 by bringing you good news and promising innovations in K-12 education.

Back in 2013, Andy Smarick conducted a series of interviews with people he admired and found interesting in the world of education policy.

ednext-dec2016-blog-by-the-company-it-keeps-school-of-athensHe asked them how they got involved in school reform and what they’ve learned through their work. He introduces the line-up by sharing the following proverb:

“It’s said that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. If that’s true for lines of work, education reform is in a very good place since it associates with this table of distinguished presenters.”

Though we get wrapped up in data sets and theories, mission statements and strategic plans, behind all of these and giving them all life are people. And in education reform’s case, lots and lots of very good people. Smart, knowledgeable, experienced, committed, caring, thoughtful people.

In my decade-plus doing this work, I’ve had the chance to work with and for some and get to know even more. I’d like to introduce you to some of them.

And there’s one last element of that proverb that’s important to me: the part about keeping company.

It suggests that there’s been an affirmative choice to rub shoulders, shake hands, pat backs, or at least row alongside some group of others. It doesn’t mean you’ll always agree or become besties. But it does imply, in my mind anyway, some degree of good manners, collegiality, assuming good intentions, and giving the benefit of the doubt.

Our work is polluted by lots of meanness, and blogs and their comment sections seem to manufacture venom. I’d like to provide a weekly reprieve from that stuff.

I’ll ask tough questions when needed, and I might even nag now and then. But my hope is that you’ll finish reading each interview having a better understanding of a piece of our work; knowing more about the background, ideas, and hopes of one of our colleagues; and generally feeling better about what we do.

So, welcome to “By the Company It Keeps.”

Check out Andy’s (only slightly out-of-date) interviews with prominent education reformers here:

Howard Fuller

Joanne Weiss

Kaya Henderson

Nelson Smith

Derrell Bradford

Emily Barton

Mashea Ashton

Ethan Gray

Robin Lake

Tim Daly

Jean-Claude Brizard

Scott Morgan

Preston Smith

J.B. Schramm

Neerav Kingsland

—Education Next

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