An Interview about Where We Are Going – Part II

This is the second part in a series of interviews about “Where We Are Going” with Michael F. Shaughnessy of Eastern New Mexico University.

I have enjoyed your Oliver Wendell Holmes story about the issue as to where we are going. With all this emphasis on Annual Yearly Progress and the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) , where indeed are we heading? Can you tell us the story to set the context for this interview?


As the train conductor made his way down the aisle collecting tickets, the forgetful Oliver Wendell Holmes saw him coming. The Associate Justice reached into his pocket—first into one, then into another, then into a third pocket. When the conductor arrived in front of the then frantic Justice Holmes, the conductor said, “That’s all right, Mr. Holmes. I know who you are. When you arrive home and find your ticket, just mail it in.” Mr. Holmes replied, “You don’t understand. It’s not the ticket I’m concerned about; it’s where I am going.”

Too often educators make policies without considering where implementation of the policy leads them. Just consider all the education reforms in the last few years. NCLB is a perfect example. Classes that enrich for growth—such as art, music, science, and physical education—are being eliminated. Yet these are courses that can assist in improving skills in many areas—including math and reading. NCLB lacks any emphasis on creating a responsible citizenry. Learning how to read and write alone are not sufficient for a functioning democracy. As an aside, NCLB is based on a negative foundation. No educational policy based on negativity endures for very long.

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