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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Appreciating Teachers, and Teacher Leadership

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week; a related organization promotes ways to recognize teachers year-round.  

The New York Times recently ran op-eds on teachers by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari and by Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and featured a debate on the status of teachers, with commentary by teachers and others.  Sam Dillon of the Times had written about a report and conference to elevate the teaching profession to where it belongs, as in countries including Canada (notably Ontario), Finland, Japan, and South Korea.  Earlier, Nicholas Kristof discussed teacher pay, after a debate about blame often misplaced on underrespected, undifferentiated teachers.

The report Sam Dillon mentioned– "What the U.S. Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Education Reform Efforts"– is informed by Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results.  The related March 16-17 International Summit on the Teaching Profession drew also on PISA, for what the U.S. Department of Education called a “discussion about promising practices for recruiting, preparing, developing, supporting, retaining, evaluating, and compensating world-class teachers.  The summit assembled education ministers, national union leaders and accomplished teachers from countries with high performing and rapidly improving educational systems.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s TEACH campaign is allied with the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award program mentioned in a March 27, 2011 post below.

At Education Week – which also hosts various teachers' blogs – Stephen Sawchuk’s “Teacher Beat” has news on Teacher Leader Model Standards, from a consortium developing this site.  Related sites include those of Teach Plus, the Center for Teaching Quality’s teacher leaders network, and the leadership institute of the former Teachers Network.

Teacher leadership has always been fundamental to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute and the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools.

That Initiative’s 2011 national seminars began May 6 and 7; teachers participating as National Fellows will work together and as colleagues with Yale faculty members in the sciences and the humanities for four months.

12:16 am edt 

Philanthropic Examples, in the U.S. and Beyond

An April New York Times article addressed Give Smart, a book by Thomas Tierney and Joel Fleishman on “strategic philanthropy.”

In Joel Fleishman’s 2007 book The Foundation (PublicAffairs), he wrote in the concluding sentences of his Epilogue, p. 280, in September 2006 (months after Warren Buffett’s June 2006 announcement of his intention to donate his fortune to the Gates Foundation): “I am convinced that Warren Buffett has inspired a whole new explosion in the world of philanthropy. As this Epilogue makes clear, he didn’t start the change; it was under way for at least two decades before he announced his gift. ... What he has done, however, is to expand the horizons of wealthy individuals in both America and elsewhere by proving that one can, if one wills, give away mountains of hard-earned money to benefit others. By planting that seed in the minds of millions, Warren Buffett may succeed over the long run in benefiting many more human beings than those whose lives will be improved by his own billions…”

Bill Keller’s April 2011 Times Magazine piece on "America's missionary impulse" referred to the recent trip to India by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  A March 2011 New York Times article cited Azim Premji, among other Indian entrepreneurs and philanthropists, in discussing efforts by Buffett and Gates to encourage the giving away of great wealth.  This is a cause they have also promoted in China, as well as in the U.S.

A February 20, 2011 post below mentioned Azim Premji, education, and philanthropy in India.

8:49 pm edt 

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