Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back to Blogging

I had grand plans of posting on my blog every day. Sigh. Perhaps, though, it's better if I'm not so prolific; then everyone won't have to think that all I do is read the New York Times and write a blog. That's what I would think if I were reading what's been posted so far.

Tomorrow, I am heading east to attend my 20th college reunion. I went to the fifth and the fifteenth. This time I am traveling with my dear friend Laura Higgins, so that will be incredible, and then I will have at least one friend there! Imagine having a weekend and about six hours in the car to catch up, without anyone of about four feet tall asking for something. I am really looking forward to this. My mom is the heroic grandmother who is coming out for the weekend. She and Alex can spend six hours or more at the Museum of Science and Industry, as they like to do. I'm good there for about twenty minutes.

I am in the final stages of finishing up a second issue of a Lab publication titled LAB Directions. Here's a link to the first one I did:
(Click on March 2007.)

I imagine that the reunion will provide good blog material. In the meantime, I want to call attention to my friend Steve Bergen who is just about to make a job change, one that reflects something I think about all the time. Having taught and headed up huge technology inititives in several independent schools over many years, Steve is moving to the Children's Storefront School in Harlem. Although Storefront is an independent school, too, the students don't pay tuition. It's supported by fundraising. Steve's story reveals the nature of Storefront and his decision to make this change. (

When I was teaching in independent schools, I often found myself thinking about how successful many of these schools were and yet how cut off from the larger world of education many of them seemed to be. I don't think it's atypical for people at private schools not to have any relationships with the public schools in the same neighborhood. I know Steve is starting to think about how he might work with charter schools, as we pursues his job at Storefront, and I wonder whether there's even more that can happen. I believe that he's raising big questions about the role of technology in education, especially when thinking about inner city public schools. E.g. what resources should go to technology in such settings -- where there are many competing needs, some of which may be more fundamental (e.g. resources for the teaching of reading, although are there connections between these needs and technology?).

I imagine there are private schools that have relationships with public schools and would love to know about them, if anyone out there has this info... I interviewed Arne Duncan recently (the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools) for Lab Directions. He's an alum of the Lab Schools and very much wants kids in the Chicago public schools to get what he got at Lab, a place that's as much a community center as a school. That's his phrase (community center) for what schools need to be. That reminds me of something I often thought about what kids get in independent schools: I don't have issues with what kids get in those settings; the problem is that all children don't have the same resources and opportunities. It would be great if every child in America had a school like Lab.

Hope someone reads this! Respond!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I'm sure some of you have already read Wednesday's education section in the New York Times. The trouble with my getting into this here is that it might set off a rant. Well... maybe that's okay. Sometimes I might have to do that. That will save Matt from getting his ear chewed off too severely. I have an idea for an article, which I want to call something such as "To AP or Not To AP -- Is that the question?" Yesterday's Times had an article titled "Study Finds College-Prep Courses in High School Leave Many Students Lagging." (Here's the link: The part that will get the rant going is towards the end of the article, where the author describes how in 2000 Education Secretary Richard W. Riley "announced a goal of having every school in the nation add an Advanced Placement course each year for the next decade." Then, of course, the article goes on to disclose how "most of Philadelphia's nonselective high schools did not have a single student who achieved a passing grade on any Advanced Placement exam."

Originally, I had thought my article would be about schools like Lab where there's some interest in thinking about what Fieldston says they do (although my question for them is how many kids still take AP tests... I am suspicious of what "giving up AP courses" really means), but now I am wondering whether there's something much larger here... something that could use the whole AP question as a metaphor for educational inequalities. Of course, as is obvious, these ideas need much more time in the oven -- and, of course, the larger idea in the article, as the title makes clear, is that students aren't prepared for college. Would love to know what others think of this article. There was also another good article about George Jackson Academy in Manhattan titled "A School Frees Low-Income Boys From the Pressures of the Streets." Here's the link:

Do write some comments!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sutherland Awards

First, I want to say that I am thrilled that people are making comments, and I am eager to see how this ideas and insights exchange evolves. I sense great potential here...

On to the Sutherland Awards. As many of you already know, we moved to Chicago last summer. Matt started his job as the high school principal at the University of Chicago Lab Schools in July, and Alex became a kindergartner at Lab in the fall.

There are many, many things to say about Lab, but I will limit my comments to the Sutherland Awards, an annual event in which Lab students become judges of children's literature. The whole Sutherland process is one that goes on for months, and it's extraordinary how students in grades 3rd-6th read, discuss, and evaluate picture books. I think it's fair to say that this is basically an Academy Awards for picture books, and you would very much think that too if you had been at the ceremony when the winning books were announced. The kids went crazy, and it was inspiring, almost overwhelming, to be in a room with a large group of kids so excited about books.

What I want to share with you here are the titles of the finalists and the winners, as you will then have a short list of some of this year's best picture books (worth buying in hard cover, as I just did). I imagine that many of you may have already encountered these terrific books.

The Lab librarians initially create a list of 15-16 books, and then the sixth grade committee narrows that list down to five titles, over many weeks. Students in grades 3-6, after studying the books themselves, vote.

Here are the five finalists and the winners:

Flotsam by David Wiesner (won Best Illustrations)
John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith (won Best Text and Best Overall)
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson
Probuditi! by Chris Van Allsburg
Wolves by Emily Gravett

One of the winning authors from the previous year is invited to Lab to make a presentation at the awards ceremony and to announce the new winners. Last year's winner for Best Text and Best Overall was Captain Arsenio: Inventions and (Mis)adventures in Flight, so
Pablo Bernasconi came to Lab (all the way from Argentina).

I highly recommend this book as well. It is brilliant. I would also recommend another book by Lane Smith (done with Jon Scieszka) called Seen Art? -- just fabulous (about MOMA). All of these books are Alex-approved. He especially loves John, Paul, George, and Ben, which is a hilarious romp through early American history -- quite creatively re-imagined. Let's just say that there's a good underwear joke that six-year-old Alex is still laughing about two weeks after first meeting the book.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Becoming a Parent and Parenting

This weekend the "Modern Love" essay in the New York Times was particularly moving.
Of course, right after I read it, I wanted to send it to friends and talk about it with them. I read the piece twice on Sunday, the second time right before I went to sleep. Both times I was crying by the end of the essay. On Monday morning, a little while after everyone had woken up, I found myself staring at my two beautiful sons and feeling so grateful for them and so content just to sit there with them. The essay left me with more patience and gratitude than I've had in a while.

There's so much fear that surrounds being a parent, and we have no idea what the future will bring, what unexpected joys or tragedies we will face, who we and our children will become as we all age, but I hope that I will find, as Elizabeth Fitzsimons did, that I, too, am stronger than I thought.

The Beginning

I have been thinking about creating a blog for some time, and in two minutes, I did it. The title of the blog, Details Detailed, attempts to get at what this blog will mostly be about... all of the information in my head that I am sure someone somewhere might benefit from having. What I am also hoping will happen is that something I post will generate a discussion among readers (if there are any), and what will ensue is a great exchange of information and ideas.

At the heart of the blog's mission is the following: I often come across some fabulous article, wonderful book, new recipe, great gift, inspiring story, etc., and I think to myself... I really need to share this with so-and-so and then proceed to put the article or story or whatever it is in this big stack on my desk and let it sit there for weeks if not months. Now that's over. Now I will put whatever it is on my blog and then anyone who reads Details Detailed can enjoy the article, book, etc. or NOT. That's the beauty. You want it, it's yours; you don't want it, move on to someone else's blog or perhaps even an old fashioned newspaper, where you can get newsprint all over your hands. This blog will, of course, never replace that.

Now I just have to come up with the first thing to share... the details to detail...

More soon.