On Common Ground:
Who We Are, Where We're Going

We have chosen four works of art to amplify the themes of this inaugural issue of On Common Ground. Jasper Johns' Three Flags (1958) introduces the essay by Secretary of Education Richard Riley, which emphasizes the need to forge a new partnership between the federal government and the states. Johns does not merely offer a photographic depiction of the American flag. He translates the idea of unity out of plurality into the very terms of his design, in which three painterly renderings of the flag have become a single pattern. Pablo Picasso's First Steps (1943), on this page, pays tribute to the solicitude of the teacher and the awkward boldness of the learner. The Cubist distortions seem here to render the child's perspective, its uneasy balance, its natural firmness. Like such a child, we too are making our first steps into the world.

Joseph Stella's The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation on an Old Theme (1939) is a less modest image for our own endeavor, as I suggest in the commentary on page 19. And Winslow Homer's watercolor, Blackboard (1877), on page 20, returns to the explicit theme of teaching. This sympathetic image of a teacher in a pensive mood also suggests how our abstract studies relate to our perceptions of the life about us. Homer's painting, like those by Johns, Picasso, and Stella, is at one level "about" the relations between mathematics and art. The figures inscribed on the board are echoed in the shapes of the teacher's body, even as their stark white-on-black contrasts with the pastels of her gingham apron and ruffled dress.

These art-works, like others that will appear in future numbers of "On Common Ground," remind us that education is interdisciplinary, and that it is not simply a verbal affair. The non-verbal arts have their own complex languages, which can often speak more directly to our students these days than any words can do. In many fields, visual materials are increasingly important to the educational process. Indeed, we hope that each number of On Common Ground will contain images that a teacher might use as the basis for classroom exercises. We encourage you to keep these images on file.

Our Plans

On Common Ground will be published three times a year by the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute, with support through 1995 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It will not be a show-case for the work of the Institute or any other organization. Its concern is the development of teachers and their curricula through university-school collaboration. It will focus on issues that arise in collaborations of many kinds throughout the United States. And it seeks to address a wide and diverse readership teachers, administrators, policy-makers, and funders of American education at all levels and in all kinds of institutions.

The title of this periodical, like that of the Institute's first book, Teaching in America: The Common Ground, points to the fact that university, college, and school teachers have a strong mutual interest in the improvement of teaching and learning. Most collaborations, no doubt, have been explicitly directed to the improvement of teaching in the schools. But many college and university teachers have recognized the beneficial effects of collaboration upon their own work. And the indirect benefits for higher education of improvement throughout our school systems would be great indeed. American education needs to recognize that it is, ideally, a single field of interrelated efforts.

In June 1993 a planning committee that included members of the closing panel of the Institute's 1991 national conference met to determine how a new publication might best fulfill the evident desire for more adequate communication among those interested in university-school collaboration. We concluded that we should undertake a yet more challenging task. We should try to create a publication that would enable a wide-ranging national conversation on all the issues that concern such collaboration.

We therefore decided that On Common Groundshould include lead articles on timely topics, responses to those articles, editorial statements, information on developments in state and federal policy, articles from and about grant-makers, and news of general interest. We also decided to carry some regular columns or features, an occasional review, and art-work that relates to the teaching profession and to the themes that are appearing in On Common Ground. We wanted to make certain that each number would represent one or more voices of elementary or secondary school teachers. Most importantly, we agreed that On Common Groundshould reflect the concerns indeed, the participation of its readers.

Some topics for consideration had already been broached by the national conference: the advantages of close relationships between academic content and classroom procedures; the role of school administrators in collaborative programs; the evaluation of such programs; the incentives for participation of teachers from universities and schools; the services that such programs can provide to urban school districts; the extension of such collaboration to include new partners; its role in wider school reform; the bearing of its experience upon state and federal education policies; and the means by which teachers may have a more influental voice in matters of school improvement.

We thought, however, that we should open up the field yet more broadly. In its meeting of October 1993 the Editorial Board therefore selected eight topics for special emphasis over the next few years:

1) National, state, and local policies that affect collaboration;
2) University-school collaboration in historical context;
3) Collaboration and community in a multicultural nation;
4) Educational change and organizational structure, including relations to schools and departments of education;
5) Collaborative programs to prepare students for the world of work;
6) The rhetoric of educational reform;
7) Collaboration and the arts;
8) Collaboration and science and technology.

This first number, which contains articles by Secretary Richard Riley and Terry Knecht Dozier, begins to deal with national, state, and local policy. In our second number we will have responses to Secretary Riley's statement. We will also have in that number a statement from Ernest L. Boyer of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an article by Vito Perrone that places university-school collaboration in historical context, and some responses to that article.

The shorter pieces in this number by Norine Polio, Charles Serns, and Manuel N. Gomez, begin our process of listening to local teachers and both school and university administrators. That by James Herbert is the first contribution from a person who has worked closely with funding agencies. And the piece by Fred Hechinger is the first of the regular columns to be provided by that distinguished commentator on educational affairs. On Common Ground has an Editorial Board that reflects much of the diversity of institution, function, specific field, ethnicity, and philosophy that can be found among those who are interested in university-school collaboration. For that reason, we do not expect to be able to speak with a single voice on all questions. And yet it seemed right for "An Editorial Statement" of some length to appear in the pages of this first number. We therefore thank Jay Robinson for trying to capture in a single statement much of our diversity, and much of our common ground.

Let us know your thoughts

We invite you to let us know of your thoughts about any of the pieces carried by On Common Ground. We shall be happy to consider any responses that are submitted for possible publication. We want On Common Ground to be a continuing conversation on the issues that most concern us.

We also urge you to suggest works of art that might be reproduced in these pages. We shall be happy to establish a committee of art historians and teachers to help us make our selection.

We want On Common Ground to circulate as widely as its contents may deserve. Authors appearing here therefore grant permission for any photocopying or reproducing that readers may think useful.

This inaugural number of On Common Ground has been widely distributed in order to reach many who are interested in the issues with which we will deal. If you wish to ensure that your name remains on our mailing list, please write us a note to that effect.

Thomas R. Whitaker
Chairman, Editorial Board

Back to Table of Contents of the Fall 1993 Issue of On Common Ground

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