Few of us will be familiar with the 1950’s Edward R. Murrow radio show, This I Believe. But some of you may have run into one of its later iterations either in school, on NPR, or through the new podcast. I stumbled across This I Believe many years ago when a colleague used the concept as an assignment for his English class. I have since seen it used as the prompt for initiating the college essay process, and in a number of other self-reflective exercises. The basic idea of This I Believe, is for individuals to share a core personal belief in a short essay for print or to be read on the radio. Executive Director, Dan Gedimen describes the concept this way, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”
While the idea intrigued me, it didn’t really take root until I began reading the essays. Essays from some of my heroes like Muhammed Ali and Albert Einstein, and some just as powerful from, what we might call, “regular people”.
Regardless, these essays and the simplicity and clarity they communicated struck a chord with me, and I have since purchased printed copies, and have followed the various ways in which they are being curated. Throughout my life, I have endeavored to explore ideas, actions, institutions to find their core values and mission, and the essays I read spoke to me at that most basic level. Simply, they inspired me, even those from “regular people”. The core of my discovery was that I believed in the idea and power of “Belief”.
As I embark on this “Blog” journey, it occurred to me that my excitement for it is rooted in the This I Believe idea. Fundamentally, I believe in “school”. Not so much “education” as that feels too political and controversial. I don’t want to discuss the value of standardized testing as a vehicle for measuring achievement, or whether or not teachers are undervalued in society (they are). But, I want to talk about school. That place to which we entrust our children every day. That vehicle designed to share knowledge, to develop identity, to establish habits and values. I want to delve into that ideal that is school and dissect the fundamental mission and commitments that make it the single most important social organization in our world today.
When I started teaching in 1987, I didn’t have such a lofty perspective on my new place of employment. I knew it was important, I understood the value that lived inside of it, but I didn’t have a great deal of perspective at the time. Now, over 30 years later, I think I get it, and through this Blog, I hope to share some of what I have figured out. To take a giant step back from the day to day dramas and challenges that dominate our lives as teachers, coaches, students and parents, to remind everyone of why this institution means so much to all of us.
I believe in School.