I. Deep beneath, the Fault Line agitates

A Triptych

Deep beneath the swiftly changing, ever dangerous surface of the sea of public education’s politics, is there a single tremulous fault line causing these hostile currents?

Could one such tectonic fault line, tremoring and quaking, cause even the present tsunami of empiricism in education? Deep within the sea of our human consciousness, then reflected in political action, are there two sides of this fault line, the agitation between which causes such aggressive, conflictive waves at the surface, never calming?

Or, as many would have us believe, are the political, social, economic, and bureaucratic forces within education so myriad and complex that any suggestion of a single divide reflects the feeble workings of a simple mind?

For a long time, I dove into this complex sea, examining dynamics that may have been causing the divide: pedagogical trends which, like the winds, can change often and sometimes dramatically; political forces which with the force of granite clash and gnash this way and that; the wildly uneven tectonic plates of educational funding; the gradual corporatizing of a theoretically profit-neutral public sector; the splintering of so many family units, huge boulders separating and falling deep into the sea, unheard at the surface . . .

Then, on land but still searching, I began to reflect more on my own evolution as a teacher. From my first teaching role, where for a time I also served as Dean of Students, through to my third teaching role, where the learners consistently tested number one in the state of Illinois, to my teaching now, where the test takers rank near the other end of Illinois’ testing spectrum.

At this last school, something counter-intuitive has clarified the search. Why are graduates persisting in college at a rate nearly three times the city average?

Because, one may or may not choose to believe, children are born intelligent.

Belief about intelligence is the fault line. Educational philosophies, practices, politics — all can be aligned from which side of the intelligence fault line one believes.

Regardless of demographic, when born do human children possess a largely equivalent capacity for intelligence?