#520 – Dick Bernard: A Million Copies

Sometimes, something is just too good to wait.
This morning I had the opportunity to re-union in St. Paul with Marion Brady.
Marion and I were long time members of a quality education e-list maintained by the National Education Association (NEA). We “met” on-line in the mid-1990s, and had only seen each other in person one time, when I stopped by his home literally across the river from Cape Canaveral in January, 2003.
Though it had a long run, the e-list passed on, as such lists do, but we continued to visit from time to time on-line.
Here’s we two today: Marion is the guy on the right (click to enlarge).

Dick Bernard, Marion Brady February 18, 2012, St. Paul MN

Our hosts, Wayne Jennings and Joan Sorenson, served a great breakfast, and we had a great conversation, one of those that makes time race by. Both Wayne and Joan were long-time innovative educators in Minnesota History of Ed Reform in MN. Wayne founded in 1987, and till 2000 owned, a Minnesota organization, Designs for Learning, long involved in facilitating institutional change in education.
We covered lots of ground in our time together.
Marion had been up to speak to a convention of an organization called MN Association of Alternative Programs. Wayne is ex-officio on the Board of MAAPMN.
I’ve been a fan of Marion’s work for many years. Though he’s retired far longer than I, he really never quit teaching and learning and writing. And his ideas make a great deal of sense. His on-line presence is here. He’s the absolute model of persistence – promoting his philosophy to whoever will listen, and achieving some success. He just keeps going, going and going….
For some years, Marion has written columns for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet section. Ordinarily, he passes them along to me.
All of his columns for the Post, and many others, are accessible here.
It was a comment about one of those columns that caught my ear near the end of our visit.
I had mentioned the Answer Sheet, and he was telling me about a recent column he had written, December 5, 2011, that had gotten such an unbelievable response that the section editor had requested permission to interview the unnamed source to make sure that she wasn’t defending a piece of creative fiction.
Succinctly, Marion’s topic was what most would consider to be somewhat boring – testing of student proficiency.
This particular column, he was told, had gone viral, and there had been 1.1 million hits in the first 48 hours. Yes, a MILLION.
By now you’re curious, doubtless, so here is the specific column, with a link provided to the editors note about the results of her efforts to verify its contents.
For those of us who toil pretty anonymously in the vineyard of opinion, this column by Marion Brady is an object lesson in the value of persistence. Some day when you least expect it, you get noticed, and noticed, and noticed some more.
Of course, you don’t win the race unless you show up and run in it, but it happens more often than we imagine.
Earlier we had gotten around to talking about a landmark settlement achieved by a largely unknown group of women called the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) in the late 1970s.
Joan and I discovered we had both worked with what was called the Minnesota “WEAL Agreement” (WEAL Agree MN Nov 77001 )which has had a long term huge impact on practices to hire women as school administrators and social studies teachers in Minnesota public schools.
The agreement was an attempt to implement Title IX – affirmative action for women – in public education. A shero in common was Margaret Holden, then local president of WEAL.
What is common today was a very, very hard slog back then.
Joan mentioned the famous Margaret Mead quotation about the impact of small numbers of people: “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I had just given them my card, which refers to that quote at the top of my website page, and suggested they take a look there, AMillionCopies.info, where that very quotation has been sitting quietly for the last four years – just waiting for today.
Congratulations, Marion, and Joan, and Wayne, and all who plug along.

Dr. Wayne Jennings, Joan Sorenson, Marion Brady February 18, 2012

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Dick Bernard: Looking at Public Schools from Outside the Walls

To easily find this page in the future, simply enter the letters OTW in the search box for thoughtstowardsabetterworld.org.

UPDATE July 13, 2012
These are thoughts gathered over time which may help generate additional thoughts and ideas for readers.
1. Thoughts on Organizing:
A. An assortment of thoughts on The Future for Public Sector Unions – Part A: The future for public sector unions Part A
B. Early comments after June 5 on The Future for Public Sector Unions: The future for public sector unions C
2. Uncomfortable Essays here
3. Archival Items on building Community Relationships here.
4. Index of assorted thoughts on organizing at this blog site: Outside the Walls Blog Organizing
5. A message to younger teachers: AssociationYoungTeacherJuly12
UPDATE: August 22, 2012: Excellent commentary, Opening a New Front, on teachers, students, parents and the 2012 election can be found here. The writer, Alan, is retired, a former teacher. His posts, including this one, are long but I’ve found him to be an excellent source of information almost every day, and have subscribed (free) for a long while.

Original painting courtesy of Marie Thielen, Minneapolis MN. Lauzon School, Badlands of SD, between Custer and Edgemont.

INTRODUCTION. This site, commencing May 3, 2011, replaces and is now the primary site for the still-existing-and-functioning Outside the Walls website (2002-2008). Contact site owner Dick Bernard with your suggestions and ideas (see business card below for contact information). If you wish to be a part of an e-list which may become an information sharing group, please provide your contact information.

DICK BERNARD INTRO: one minute 46 second video
Brief Bio: DickBernardBioMay11001
PURPOSE: This page is a continuation of earlier work (see next paragraph) which conveyed ideas from outside the Public School walls to help build positive relationships with the large majority of citizens who have no day-to-day relationship with the public schools.
OUTSIDE THE WALLS (the original site). After retirement from teacher union staff work in January, 2000, the author of this site, Dick Bernard, became interested in helping public schools, in particular, get more positively involved in what he calls the “Outside the Walls” community. This is described here. This site was active 2002-2008. There are approximately 59 short essays, each with timeless ideas, at this site, each describing some means of better connecting with the 75-85% of the population who have little direct contact with public schools. (See the last Archive here.. The four posts are examples of all the others, and, like the others, all still apply to the present day.) Here’s a suggested “lesson plan” for using the archived ideas: OTWideasWeb
INAUGURAL IDEAS MAY, 2011: Reader suggestions and content contributions are solicited for future use:
1. Thoughts on National Teacher Day, May 3, 2011, from Dick Bernard. Follow up column dated May 7 here. UPDATE: Comment on National Teacher Day May 8, 2012 here.
2. Floridian Marion Brady, is very, very actively engaged in education reform issues. His website is here.
3. OTHER OUTSIDE THE WALLS GROUPS AND ACTIVITIES can also be publicized here, such as a joint venture between retired and active teachers, students and community members, World Citizen’s Peace Education program for school teachers. World Citizen, of which I’m vice-president, is in process of moving its training program onto the internet. This process will take place during 2011-2012.
4. This can also be a space for ideas perhaps not noted in other venues. For instance, in 1984-85, there was a highly successful “Year of the School” called “Ah, Those Marvelous Minnesota Public Schools“. It was a year-long public relations campaign, with many ideas which, though many are now dated, are still worthy of revisiting. They can be found here: 1984 Revisited001
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you stop back again, soon.
Dick Bernard

#82 – Marion Brady: A message to students

NOTE FROM MODERATOR:  This YouTube video, produced by Marion Brady, is a simple very well done video message to today’s students, educators and policy makers.  I would highly recommend that educators and leaders and policy makers for public education be made aware of the video.
For 77 years Marion Brady has been immersed in public education in numerous roles, from student to teacher to text book author to informed commentator on public education.  His previous blog entries at this space appear at April 24 and May 27, 2009.  Marion lays out a very simple, but very essential prescription for necessary change in Public Education practice to fit the present day and future needs.  He contends that modern public education policy originated in the 1890s, and has inadequately changed in the well over 100 years since.     

#30 – Marion Brady: A very serious and comprehensive look at the need for Public Education Reform

Note from Moderator:  For 77 years Marion Brady has been immersed in public education in numerous roles, from student to teacher to text book author to informed commentator on public education.  In blog entry #10, (April 24, 2009), Marion laid out a very simple, but very essential prescription for necessary change in Public Education practice to fit the present day and future needs.  He contends that modern public education policy originated in the 1890s, and has inadequately changed in the well over 100 years since.  Below Marion Brady provides more specific context.   


Marion Brady: For more than forty years, in books published by respected presses, in a great many articles in education journals, and in newspaper columns distributed nationally by Knight-Ridder/Tribune, I’ve maintained that there will be no significant improvement in learner performance until problems with the deeply flawed “core curriculum” adopted in 1893 and in

near-universal use in America’s schools and colleges are recognized and addressed.


My criticisms have been myriad and specific, and have been articulated in simple, straightforward language, but education “reform” efforts from the local to the federal level continue to assume that poor performance is primarily a “people problem” rather than a system problem.


Until problems with the 1893 curriculum are addressed, rigor, raising the bar, trying harder, bringing market forces to bear, and so on — the reform strategies being promoted by corporate America and state and national politicians and policy makers — won’t just fail but will be



For a summary of major problems with the familiar, traditional core curriculum, see:



#10 – Marion Brady: An affirmative response to Corporate America's big "RIGOR!" push

Note from Moderator: I’ve known Marion Brady since the mid-1990s when I joined a national Quality Education listserv. For many years, Marion has been a consistent and articulate spokesperson for substantive change in how young people are educated. He was a regular columnist for a major newspaper in his home state of Florida. Recently he sent to his mailing list a most interesting power point summarizing his case. It is about 12 minutes, and the link is below. Even more recently, the same power point has been posted on YouTube. That link is also noted. Following the Power Point and YouTube links is a letter he recently sent to the new U.S. Commissioner of Education, Arne Duncan. In that letter, shared with his permission, he well defines himself.
Marion Brady’s is a voice worth listening to, and worth sharing with the public education community in the United States.
Marion Brady:
To: Dr. Arne Duncan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Respectful of your busy schedule, I’ve pulled together in summary form and am enclosing a very broad-stroke “big picture” of where I believe the social institution [public education] that’s now your responsibility has been, is now, and appears to be heading.
I’m hoping my 77 years in education as, at various times, a student, middle school teacher, high school teacher, college professor, teacher educator, textbook author, county level administrator, professional book author, publisher consultant, contributor to academic journals, paid education columnist for Knight-Ridder/Tribune, visitor to schools across America and abroad, and partner in conversations with respected educators on every continent, will prompt you to bring to the enclosed a mind open to ideas lying outside Washington’s conventional wisdom on educational matters.
What prompts me to write is the current drive to nationalize standards and tests for school subjects. For reasons I believe the enclosures [see above power point for summary presentation] make clear, if that effort is successful, among its unintended consequences will be a gutting of the ability of schools, including charter schools, to innovate sufficiently to adapt to social change and prepare the young for what will surely be a complex, challenging, and dangerous future.
I’m copying the material to others outside the field of formal education. I’ve chosen these individuals because I respect their work and their obvious commitment to the public good, and because they have what working, experienced educators no longer have-a public voice.
I can be more specific about the reasons for my choices. For me (an author of three textbooks), Jon Stewart’s “history textbook,” America (Warner Books, 2004), did for American education what his confrontation with Jim
Cramer did for CNBC, albeit with considerably more subtlety. In President Clinton’s case, he and I share an admiration for the work of the late Carroll Quigley, a professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, whose explanation of the dynamics and dangers of the process he called “institutionalization” is currently being ignored in education policy, a fact America will come to regret. I “knew” Quigley through a student we shared in the early 1960s. One of the enclosures, taken from the introduction to a forthcoming book I was asked to write, summarizes that institutionalization process and its applicability to the last century of education in America.
I’ve no idea whether or not these people might be willing or able to help, but I’m hoping their appreciation of the centrality of public education to societal survival, combined with perhaps a better understanding of the current educational situation, will prompt them to give serious thought to the issue and act in ways that move us closer to the goal I’m sure we all share of improving public education.
Thank you for your attention.