The Heart in Education

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The Heart in Education

Steven Lagerfeld

The editor of the WQ introduces the Autumn 2011 issue.

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1m 28sec

After three decades of nearly continuous school reform, it is remarkable how much we have learned about what makes schools tick—and how little progress we have made toward improving them. It is hard to imagine a field that has been more thoroughly researched than elementary and secondary education. We have long known how important it is to have good teachers, for example, but we now appreciate the crucial role of energetic, intelligent leadership by principals. We know, as Peter W. Cookson Jr. writes in our “cluster” on the schools, that smaller classroom sizes is a false panacea, and that while we need to invest more in decent school buildings and other essentials, education is a field where throwing money at problems really does not work.

The things we’ve learned have at least led us to understand what we do not yet know. In this edition of the WQ, we focus on four of the big issues: testing and accountability, authority within the school system, the ultimate goals of public education, and how best to employ education dollars. Of course there are other major questions, and I expect that readers will eagerly remind us of them in next issue’s Letters section.

Knowing what works and how to implement it, however, will only get us so far. What has been striking to me in my reading about public education and my experience of it, both as a student and as the father of students, is the vital importance of heart. Whether it is through the impassioned work of a teacher or the stubborn, often-wearing commitment by parents to their children’s learning, heart is the essential ingredient without which even the best designed formulas will not work.