Favorites from Four Years in the Rearview

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jay P. Greene’s Blog turns four years old on April 19. To mark the occasion, Jay, Matt and I are each going to pick our favorites from one another’s posts. I’m glad Jay decided that where there are three major contributors to an accomplishment, all three should be honored – unlike some people I could mention.

It has been a real joy and a huge privilege to be part of all we’ve accomplished in the past four years. And it has been as fun as just about anything I’ve ever been part of.

Picking only these posts out of the dozens I wanted to include was tough. I’m still so, so close to reopening this and adding a couple more. But no – here are my picks.

Greg’s Favorite Jay Posts

Gates Foundation Follies, Part 1 and Part 2, July 25-26, 2011

The fight over national standards has consistently brought out the very best of Jay, both on the intellectual side and the humor side. To me, though, this two-parter is the keystone. More or less all the important issues are touched on here, and in a form that shows the broader applications of these insights for education reform generally. My favorite of my own “bigthink” posts (see below), which ended up bringing together the intellectual strands I had been strugling to integrate over numerous previous posts, was basically just my philosophical ruminations in response to Gates Foundation Follies.

The Dead End of Scientific Progressivism, January 18, 2011

Though occasioned by the fight over national standards (see above re “brought out the very best of Jay”) this post has much wider relevance. The nature of science and how it relates to policy is an issue of perennial importance for those in our line of work.

Al Copeland: Humanitarian of the Year, December 15, 2008

The post that started it all! One of the best things about JPGB has to be the annual Al Copeland award, and all of that got rolling because Jay did such a great job with this initial post. I can’t wait for the fall – I’m already working on my nominees for this year!

We Won!, September 29, 2010

When you get way down into the weeds, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. (Hey, that’s not even a mixed metaphor!) At a moment when many in the movement were starting to lose confidence, Jay saw the big picture. Subsequent events have only vindicated his predictions.

Build New Don’t Reform Old, August 2, 2011

A great statement of an important point. Smart policies and quality personnel are not all that matters – institutions themselves have their own importance. And they’re really, really, really hard to change. I predict this point is only going to become more relevant to the ed reform discussion in the years ahead.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, February 17, 2011

“It’s over for the little guy.”

Greg’s Favorite Matt Posts

The Way of the Future in American Schooling, May 12, 2008

Matt has given this blog almost all of its most powerful images: Meg Ryan and “I’ll have what Florida is having”; Jack Black and “Rock star pay for rock star teachers”; Kenneth Branagh and “The Democratic Party of story, myth, and song.” But no image has been more powerful than Leo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes pointing us toward “the way of the future in American schooling.” The thing that has always come back to my mind, even four years later, is Matt’s edu-appropriation of Alan Alda’s sneering senator: “It’s not me, Howard. It’s the United States government. We just beat Germany and Japan. Who the hell are you?” He’s an entrepreneur. He makes this country. People like you just live in it.

AFT Suggests LBO for Public Schools, December 11, 2008

Matt has also given us some of our most powerful well-deserved mockeries. He dubbed Diane Ravitch “Little Ramona” and kicked off the notorious “Questions for Leo” and “Famous Steakholders” series. But no mockery has ever shamed its target more delightfully than Matt’s appointing of this blog’s first and only Sith apprentice, Darth Leo.

Checker Says RELAX!, July 29, 2010 and The Gates Foundation and the Rise of the Cool Kids, October 28, 2011

As great as Jay’s skewerings of Fordham have been, and as much as I’ve enjoyed my own forrays into that genre, Matt’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” themed post still sticks out in my mind as the leading entry. But Matt also brought some much-needed balance and perspective to the discussion of national standards in his wise reflections on the good work Gates has done and the deeper sources of our anxieties about their role. The final sentence of “Gates and the Rise” took guts and was very well said.

Al Copeland Humanitarian Nominee: Herbert Dow, October 8, 2010

Inspiring tale of a man who stuck his neck out to destroy an exploitative system and make the world a better place for everyone – except the leeches. Goosebumps!

Clousseau vs. Cato (Institute) and Cateaux!, April 22, 2011

Sometimes a pop culture reference fits so perfectly in every way that it’s hard to view it as anything but divinely ordained. “I rescind zee ordeur! CATEAUX?!?!?”

Greg’s Favorite Greg Posts

Command v. Choice, Part 1 and Part 2, July 26-27, 2011

When you get past all the details to look at the big picture, this is the best summary of what I want to say about education reform, nicely wrapped up in a two-part post. It feels good to finally get it off my chest! In my earlier four-part series on “Academics v. the Practical” I was struggling to integrate a lot of intellectual strands that had been developing over four years of writing for JPGB. Then I read Gates Foundation Follies (see above) and pieces began falling into place.

“No, I’m Not Going to Stand Somewhere Else,” October 14, 2010.

What Wim Nottroth did just blows me away. I’m honored to think that I’ve helped introduce more people to his story. And I still hold out hope that somewhere, Molly Norris (who left a comment on my “Nobody Draw Mohommad” post) read it and felt challenged by it. I’m also honored to have submitted a winning entry in the legendary Al Copeland competition! My most important contribution to “The Al” before that was another post I’m really proud of, but one that couldn’t have won because I was explaining why the inventor of the video game, William Higginbotham, was unworthy of the award.

City of the Dark Knight, Issue 0, Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4 and Issue 5, July 25-September 5, 2008

Of all the stuff I’ve done on JPGB, my favorites are heavily clustered in my pop culture coverage. Going all the way back to Speed Racer Is Better than Iron Man and including the James Bond posts, Ponyo, All Time Great Summer Movies, and Favorites of the Aughts. Good times! But the Dark Knight series remains my top pick of the lot.

The UFT’s “Cue Card Check,” April 15, 2009

The post that launched a thousand richly deserved mockeries. We’re still getting mileage out of it.

Vouchers: Evidence and Ideology, May 8, 2008

My first “bigthink” post, and emblematic of what would become a major theme here at JPGB – getting into protracted fights with purveyors of nonsense.

Here’s to the next four years of data, logic, deep thoughts, Al Copeland awards, pop culture apocalypses and general hilarity!

“Four more years! Four more years!”

One Response to Favorites from Four Years in the Rearview

  1. Just a mom says:

    Thank you for being happy warriors in the two-steps-forward three-steps-back struggle for education reform. Your blog is the best antidote to discouragement (in an arena that often feels like a David and Goliath match-up).

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