Wouldn't it be nice to come into work and find that a senior colleague had left an interesting poem in everyone's box? Or recommended a thought-provoking article from, say, Scientific American?
I think so. But I wouldn't, ironically, expect such goings on at the New York City Board of Education. Yet in a place well known for its highly honed political acumen, members are coming face to face with a chancellor who wants them to read, ponder, and listen - just the way they hope the more than 1 million students in the New York City school system will do.
Harold Levy says he is trying to sharpen and deepen the level of debate among board members. The goal is to keep an eye to intellectual rigor amid endless bureaucratic demands. And even as he dangles lectures on cosmology at the Museum of Natural History in front of board members, he is reaching out to district superintendents with lectures by authors like Jonathan Kozol ("Savage Inequalities") and even a group violin lesson taught by Isaac Stern.
Some board members have been receptive, citing the importance of intellectual enrichment. Others have griped that Mr. Levy's actions are condescending, or just inappropriate (What if one prefers serial-killer novels to poetry?).
But it's not a bad thing to be reminded on the job of larger ideas, or inspired by a poetic turn of phrase or melody. It's particularly important in education. And what if the gesture is a bit offbeat? Sharing ideas should hardly seem unusual. That typically inspires our best thinking - and besides, it fits right in amid the blossoming of trees and opening of doors that accompany spring.
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