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Remembering JFK

On the bulletin board above my desk at home I have a faded photograph taken in 1960.  It’s me on my dad’s shoulders, welcoming John F. Kennedy to a campaign stop in Queens, holding a sign that says “Kennedy is the remedy.”  My dad’s lovely wit, an abridged version of the rush of emotion so many people were feeling about the young Kennedy.  Sure, he made mistakes, and in retrospect did things that today would likely have gotten him in big trouble.  But there’s no doubt he was an amazing, maybe unique, figure:  an optimist’s optimist, a patriot’s patriot, an American hero, the stuff of myth and dreams and desires.  That he listened to “Camelot” in the Oval Office says a lot about what was going on in this town in those early days of a decade whose massive social changes are now remembered simply as “the 60’s.”   What changes?  Oh, little things like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Elementary And Secondary Education Act, the beginning of desegregation (in the north as well as the south), not to mention the Beatles and Joan Baez and Simon and Garfunkel and…I could go on.

Our colleague who directs the GW Graduate School of Political Management, Mark Kennedy (no relation as far as I know), an accomplished politician in his own right and a distinguished teacher and statesman, wrote an extremely moving reminiscence of JFK and the assassination. It brought back all kinds of memories (I was in 6th grade). 

And I couldn’t agree more with Mark’s assessment:  if I may paraphrase, we need to hit the pause button in these frenzied times and figure out how to restore some respect for government and some civility of discourse even (especially) among people who disagree about the details but who share a basic love of what our country was and can still be.  Maybe that’s the best way to remember JFK.


MJF
November 21, 2013

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Reflecting on a New Challenge

I was honored by my colleagues to be inducted as the President of the National Academy of Education at a ceremony last Friday.  My wonderful family was at my side as I accepted this honor – and though I don’t get to tell them often enough, they deserve great thanks for their abiding support.

It will be a great pleasure to work with my GW colleagues, NAEd members and leaders, and other friends in the broad education research and policy community as we continue to advance the cause of improved education and increased opportunity. A challenge, no doubt, but one that I feel privileged to take on.

President Knapp (and Diane Knapp), as well as Provost Lerman (and Lori Lerman), were kind enough to attend the ceremony, as were a number of our senior leadership faculty and staff.  I’m grateful for President Knapp’s most generous introduction and welcome.  GW Trustee Titulola Williams-Davies and former trustee Bob Perry also joined us, and it was again a joy to see their enthusiasm for what’s happening in GSEHD.   And it was a special treat to have Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter in our company.  Let me add my very special thanks to members of the GSEHD National Council who were present:  Laura Taddeucci Downs, Ericka Miller, Elizabeth Lodal, Kathy Manatt, Dorothy Moore, and Ed Vest continue to grace us with their wisdom and support.  My heartfelt thanks to all.

Following a memorable and moving introduction by my dear friend and mentor, Carl Kaestle (whom many of you will remember of course from his masterful “master class” earlier this year), I offered some reflections about the Academy, the world of education research and policy, and my hopes for the future.  As I contemplate this new role, I am glad to share a slightly edited version of my remarks from Friday’s induction ceremony.


MJF
October 29, 2013

[Abridged remarks from NAEd ceremony on October 25, 2013]
I have been thinking about the name of our organization.  Although I was an English major I am not really a big fan of deconstruction; but it is interesting to think about the words in our name, especially in the current policy environment.

The word “national” evokes, for some people, and maybe for more people today than in previous times, an anxiety about the excesses of federal involvement in those sacred rights of states and localities and individuals to keep doing their own thing.  It’s gotten to the point where one wonders, listening to the shrill rhetoric, if anyone was in class on the day when the principles of individual choice and social well-being were taught.  What can we do to remind ourselves that education is essentially a “public good?”

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