Diane Ravitch’s Blog: David C. Berliner: What I Learned at the NPE Conference

Diane Ravitch’s Blog: David C. Berliner: What I Learned at the NPE Conference

When the Network for Public Education met in Philadelphia April 30-May 1, I was surprised and delighted to encounter David Berliner. He had never attended one of our conferences, and he flew from the West Coast to do so. David Berliner is the most eminent education researcher in the United States, a giant in his field. He is now retired but continues to write and contribute to education studies and debates. His most recent book, which he edited with Carl Hermanns, is Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy. It contains 29 essays about the importance of public education, written by well-known scholars and educators.

I recently received this note from Dr. Berliner about his reaction to the NPE conference.

Dear Diane,

It was so nice to see you and Carol Burris at the annual meeting of our Network for Public Education. I know how hard you and others worked to make it a success. I write to tell you and Carol that it was exactly that for me.

As I think you know, I live pretty much by myself since my wife’s illness necessitated a move from Tempe to Oakland. Thus, I no longer have the same support group that I had in Arizona. Reading your posts, and NPE articles, is certainly edifying. Both sources of information do inform me, but they do more than that. They also signal me that there are many others who share our beliefs in the necessity for, and importance of, a successful system of public education.

My attendance at the recent annual meeting of NPE, in Philadelphia, was so very affirming of our common values. It reminded me that others with similar beliefs exist and are doing important work. I got to meet some of the published heroes of mine, whose work I often read, and with whom I share common purpose. But I also got to meet heroes I had not known about before. These folks often work at the local level, doing the hard work of keeping public schools public, decently funded, and building programs that improve the outcomes for America’s most impoverished youth. They do the hardest work, I think, and I was so happy to listen to them and know that we have so many like-minded folks on the ground, at the local level.

Everyone I met at the meetings I thought of as heroes trying their best to stop the onslaught of the privateers and our slide into plutocracy. I thought everyone I met believed, as I do, in words written by the late Paul Wellstone. I keep Wellstone’s words nearby to me when I work, as a reminder of what should be reflected in my own work. He said: “That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children, including poor children, is a national disgrace. It is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination, that we do not see that meeting the most basic needs of so many of our children condemns them to lives and futures of frustration, chronic underachievement, poverty, crime and violence. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose, allied with one another in a common enterprise, tied to one another by a common bond.”

At the recent NPE meetings I witnessed participants called to common purpose, allied to each other in a common enterprise: To support and enhance America’s systems of public education. We shared our common bond. It was so satisfying to be there. I already look forward to attending again next year.

David C. Berliner
Regents’ Professor Emeritus,
Arizona State University

June 13, 2022

Original source: https://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/what-i-learned

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