Ideas Wither without Civil Discourse.
John E. Deasy, Editor-in-Chief
I was recently thinking about the “motto” of the Washington Post: “Democracy Dies in Darkness” and mulling over what would be our motto at The Line, if we had one. And I kept returning to: “Ideas Wither without Civil Discourse.” This has been a bit of a haunting refrain while I was reading all of our articles in this issue.
I believe it is crystal clear that in order to model courageous leadership, discuss ideas and concepts, present and digest research, and argue the merits of a position, the very essence of new learning from alternative perspectives will wither unless we can approach these with respect and humility and engage each other with the skill and practice of civil discourse. We all have a choice on this matter. And I invite us to engage with ideas that we both agree with and disagree with rooted in the very practice of civil discourse.
This issue has the opportunity to examine one of the most volatile and frequent sources of vehement argument, oftentimes in the most non-civil way, that educations is challenged to face: school choice. I am hard pressed to think of a single issue that has resulted in more polarizing positions and intense emotion in public education over the past quarter century than school choice. The center of gravity for politics, finance, opportunity, youth and family rights and public policy in education seem to have converged on this very issue like no other issue of our time. This issue of the publication places this topic squarely in front of us with an invitation to sit close to difference, rather than prepare a position of defense. That is the heart of our belief at The Line.
I personally have found the history of this topic intense, confusing, and at times unnerving. We honor to almost a point of reverence the issue of choice as a touchstone in our democracy. Choice is at the very center of cherished and endlessly defended constructs like the pursuit of happiness, and free speech and freedom of religion. The entirety of the market economy of capitalism is anchored in the ability to exercise choice. The very power of anti-trust is a bulwark to ensure that choice remains for the many, and not a diminished resultant from the few. Our country’s political swings from high regulation to deregulation center on choice. Yet, for the one institution called public education, this very topic of providing a parent or guardian, family and student with a choice of school evokes endless debate at best, and hateful demonization at worse.
Within the pages of this publication are powerful examples of leaders who have made choices to advance the opportunities of the dispossessed, marginalized and forgotten. While at times these have caused intense reaction, no one would truncate a leader’s obligation to exercise the leadership choices in providing opportunity and access for all youth. Why so with the triangle of traditional public school … public charter school … private/parochial/and independent and for-profit schools? If we are a union of the people, for the people, and by the people within the free exercise of democracy would we not want to engage in the act of civil discourse on this important topic?
I believe that there is not time or opportunity like this moment in our history where this act of civil discourse on this very topic looms more important than now. And rightly so, we at The Line invite and model the same. Please explore these pages with contributions from Governor Jeb Bush; Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee; Brevard County, Florida Superintendent Desmond Blackburn; NEA President Lily Eskelsen García; and many other voices. With this issue we’ve added Civil Engagement Opportunity prompts at the bottom of the page of key stories.
As noted before, the goal is not agreement. The goal is learning and respect and civility while growing and seeing all students and their families succeed. We welcome you to join the conversation through the act of civil discourse. We must and can lead.
John E. Deasy, PH.D.
Editor-in-Chief, The Line