Ted Sizer has passed away. He was an amazing force and thinker in American education. In fact, our first interview at Education Sector was with him. As both an educator and intellectual in education he changed lives for the better. Not much more you can say for someone than that.
For me couple of things stand out. First, Sizer was a serious thinker. He didn’t like No Child Left Behind, for instance. But he also had an alternative that was serious and nested in a well thought through theory of action. That forward looking perspective (and willingness to take an unpopular stand, his remedy didn’t endear him to many either) is all too rare. Second, you didn’t have to agree with him on everything to see that he offered ideas that may yet prove timeless. We’re not there yet but I’d be surprised if his ideas about how to teach writing (and by extension thinking) do not become more commonplace as public schools begin to think in different ways about staffing. Finally, and completely selfishly, he’s the reason I came to know Ethan Gray, a remarkable person in our space who is now at the Mind Trust in Indianapolis. Sizer was Ethan’s thesis advisor and steered him my way upon graduation. For that, as much as for his provocative ideas, I remain indebted.