I recently returned from an exhilarating faculty mission to Israel aimed at discovering and shaping potential exchange programs and collaborative research ventures with colleagues in various Israeli education and research organizations. We participated in an all-day joint workshop at the Western Galilee College, met with education leaders in various cities including Rahat (a Bedouin village near Beersheva) and Jerusalem, held intensive deliberations with senior staff of the Mandel Leadership Institute, and visited with the President emeritus and senior scholars of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. While in Jerusalem, I had the good fortune of being invited to speak at a major international education conference. The theme of this meeting, organized by the renowned Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, was “From Regulation to Trust: Education in the 21st Century,” and featured workshops, working groups, lectures, and sessions that probed the tensions – along with possible remedies — between trust, accountability, and regulation in education.
In my remarks I addressed some of the origins of accountability in democratic societies and some of the risks associated with relying too heavily on testing as the preferred metric by which the public acquires knowledge of the quality of schools, teachers, and learning. I encouraged a more moderate approach to developing a balance between blind trust of teachers and stifling controls that prevent professional excellence in the classroom.
June 21, 2012
Abridged version of the Van Leer Institute Speech – Jerusalem, June 2012:
The topic of this conference brings back fond memories of my undergraduate years at Queens College (CUNY), where lessons of accountability and trust were a central part of the informal curriculum. The president when I was there, 1969-1973, was a remarkable young man named Joseph Murphy. Joe had come to Queens after writing his PhD under Herbert Marcuse at Brandeis University, drafting speeches for the Kennedys, and directing the Peace Corps in Ethiopia – all by the time he was 38. The name Murphy sounds Irish, but there was more to it.