Tag Archives: Changing Minds

Obama’s State of the Union, Howard Gardner’s Changing Minds

President Obama should consider Gardner's book while trying to enact his legislative agenda. Standing before a dramatically different Congress than he did two years ago, a sober, greyer Barack Obama delivered a call for America to win the future in his State of the Union address last night.

Although based on a future vision, the speech was largely shorn of the soaring calls for transformation that characterized his historic presidential run in 2008. Instead, in a phrase that was reminiscent of former Mass. Gov Michael Dukakis’s White House quest, Obama spoke about the need for open and effective government.

As he had during the past two years, Vice President Joe Biden sat behind the president.  The person next to him was different, though.  Rather than barrier-breaking Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, the recently elected Speaker of the House, sat in the chair reserved for the nation’s elected official who is third in command.

Boehner’s presence was a reminder of the self described shellacking Obama said his party took in the November elections.  While midterm losses are standard fare in midterm elections, the Republican gains led to their taking control of the House, picking up a number of governorships and making inroads in the Senate.

In order to enact the wide range of proposals he called for, Obama knows he must move beyond the bipartisan rhetoric on which he campaigned and the show of unity and absence of rancor that has filled Washington in the days following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon two short weeks ago.

To accomplish this challenging, if not insurmountable, task, Obama has to figure out a way to reach Republicans who for the first two years have been characterized by their implacable, reflexive and unwavering opposition to his proposals.

He might consider reading Howard Gardner’s Changing Minds.

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Ron Huberman’s Reading List

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

In a surprising move, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley apparently is going to appoint Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman to head the Chicago Public Schools today.

The 37-year-old Huberman, who has no education experience, will replace U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Huberman clearly will not be lacking for things to do in the upcoming days, weeks and months. 

Still, in order to familiarize himself with the field in general, and with inner-city education in Chicago in particular, he might consider reading the following:

1. Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, by J. Anthony Lukas.  Set in Boston, this absolutely classic work traces the lives of three families-one Yankee, one Irish-American, and one black-during the decade that starts in 1968 with Dr. King’s assassination.  In addition to reading like a novel and emphasizing the importance of class, Common Ground has extensive sections on children’s education, the intersection of internal and external social forces, and the factors that promote or hinder achievement.

2. So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools, by Charles Payne.  This recently released book by acclaimed historian Payne provides a ‘guardedly optimistic’ if sobering look at urban school reform during the past 30 years. 

Payne’s central contention is that school reform efforts often do not address the lived realities of students in the hardest to impact schools, and thus have little chance of truly helping those students reach their potential. Heavy in references to the work of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and Chicago Reporter sister publication Catalyst-Chicago, the book is stronger on diagnosing than solving the problem, but is a useful orientation to school reform efforts in Chicago as they relate to the national landscape. 

3.Maggie’s American Dream: The Life and Times of  A Black Family, by James Comer.  Yale psychiatrist Comer has developed a highly successful method of collective adult involvement in students’ lives to boost achievement and build community.  In this book, he tells the story of his mother Maggie, who helped inspire and form his vision.

4. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, by Jonathan Kozol.  This 2005 book returns to the subject of education, which Kozol first tackled 40 years ago in his National Book Award-winning Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools, and offers a bleak assessment of the state of education nationally 50 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

5. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing People’s Minds, by Howard Gardner.  The MacArthur Award-winning Gardner pioneered and developed the concept of multiple intelligences.  In this book he writes about how business leaders, politicians and advocates can go about changing public consensus. 

Gardner discusses seven levers to change and six realms in which they occur (Two are classrooms and diverse groups like a city or nation).   Although a bit vague on specifics, the book could be useful for Huberman to consider both in terms of his work within the schools and the public perception of him as having dubious qualifications for his job.