It’s Not You, It’s Me. I Think You’re an Idiot.

by Robert Pondiscio
October 2nd, 2012

Anyone who has grown overtired of dead-end education debates needs to read Dan Willingham’s latest blog post, which points out that when debate devolves into mere taunting and questioning the motives of your intellectual opponents, the audience you’re most trying to reach–the unpersuaded and undecided–tune out. “In education policy, some of us have gone too far,” Dan writes.  “People who disagree with us are depicted as not merely wrong, but evil.”

“People who advocate reforms such as merit pay, the use of value added models of teacher evaluation, charter schools, and vouchers are not merely labeled misguided because these reforms won’t work. They are depicted as bad people who are unsympathetic to the difficulty of teaching and who are in the pockets of the rich.

“Likewise, those who see value in teacher’s unions, who are leery of current methods of teacher evaluation, who think that vouchers threaten the neighborhood character of schools are not merely wrong: they are accused of looking out for the welfare of lousy teachers.

“And of course both sides are accused of ‘not caring about kids.’”

Willingham, as is his wont, cites studies bolstering what you might intuit by watching—or heavens forfend, participating in–these dispiriting wars of words:  partisans tend to believe they know what people in the other side of an issue are thinking and how they would behave.  The bottom line: “We think that people who agree with us are moral, and people who disagree with us, less so. Further, we think that we know how other people will interpret complicated situations–they will driven more by ideology than by facts,” Dan writes.

He concludes with a call for “fewer blog postings that, implicitly or explicitly,  denigrate the other person’s motives, or that offer a knowing nod with the claim ‘we all know what those people think.’” That call is all but certain to be more honored in the breach than the observance.

We can’t help ourselves.  And besides the other guys really ARE  evil.  Me? I just want what’s best for kids.







  1. …and that’s why I stick to the relatively safe terrain of education as craft. The vast, wine-dark sea of the education policy debate? No thanks. There be dragons.

    Comment by Jessica Lahey — October 3, 2012 @ 11:15 am

  2. Education as a craft? A craft??!? Why do you insist on de-legitimatizing teaching as a profession? Generations of educators before you have fought to elevate teaching to the same level as medicine, law, finance and management. And now you’re putting us on par with plumbers and electricians?

    How ungrateful! You’re not just wrong. You’re EVIL!!!

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 3, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  3. I know you are, but what am I?
    I know you are, but what am I?
    I know you are, but what am I?

    Comment by Jessica Lahey — October 3, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  4. “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it.” William T. Sherman.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 3, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  5. In my community apprentice electricians start out making $30K a year with a high school diploma. Master electricians can easily pull down $80-90K a year and don’t have to listen to whining parents.

    Comment by skillseditor — October 3, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  6. Before yesterday, I always had a high opinion of Robert. But this posting, which implicitly pleads for civil debate with kid-hating deformers, shows that he is a far Right stooge controlled by the Koch Brothers, ALEC, anti-democratic plutocrats, greedhead Romneyites, Dead White Male advocates, and the Billionaire Boys Club.

    I’ve exhausted the supply of at-my-fingertips invective, and need to visit the Diane Ravitch blog to reload.

    Comment by John Webster — October 3, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  7. <<< Master electricians can easily pull down $80-90K a year and don’t have to listen to whining parents.

    Or live in their basements.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 3, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  8. Speaking about starting wars, Robert… You’re lucky there are no rebels reading this blog: That wasn’t Sherman who said, “It is well that war is so terrible…” That was Robert E. Lee! The occasion was Fredericksburg. You’re lucky some re-enactors from the 15th Alabama don’t show up with loaded Enfields.

    Comment by bill eccleston — October 3, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  9. @ Bill You’re right. I stand corrected.
    @John You left out the Trilateral Commission, Bohemian Grove and Skull & Bones.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 3, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

  10. “Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.” Alan Watts.

    Comment by Jessica Lahey — October 4, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  11. Okay but can I call Bobby Valentine an idiot?

    Comment by MG — October 5, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  12. Maybe John Henry for forcing Bobby V on Cherington.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — October 5, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

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