As I put this issue together, it is difficult to know how to begin my comments. Since assuming editorial responsibilities I have sought to make the focus of my comments the articles in each current issue. That is more difficult than usual for this issue, the first since the slaughter (to call it "senseless" seems redundant) of the children in Newtown. One does not know whether to be more outraged by the specific act, by the fact that gunfire is a leading cause of death among American children, or that we accept so many people being killed by gunfire in an average day that we only notice it when large numbers of people are killed in a single incident. Thirty separate incidents is not news-worthy.
What is one to say when there is nothing to say? What is the significance of scholarly work, even really good scholarly work, in the midst of insanity inscribed as social norms? That the shooting took place in a school is less significant, it seems to me, than that we are a society that routinely allows its children to be killed, and then, if they survive to young adulthood, to be sent off to war. How do our systems of education shape our children to fit into such a culture of violence? And what can we do to change things?
In the face of such questions, of such catastrophe, I would love to be able to say something profound, but I cannot imagine there is such a thing to be said. Perhaps all we can do in a society with so much insanity is live as sanely and as well as is possible. Perhaps all we can do is do the work that is ours, and do it as well as we can.
In this issue, the authors are asking important questions that are connected to the practice of good education. Graham P. McDonough, by focusing on the importance of judgment in teaching, suggests ways we can ameliorate the mindlessness of test-based teaching by remembering that we are engaged in a social endeavor, not a technical one, that it is as much an art as a science, and that the imprecision of judgment is indeed the best we can do. We need what Aristotle called phronesis, what Dewey called intelligence, and not just the precision of techne. By either judgment it is far removed from technical rationality and far closer to the requirements of education worthy of the name. With this emphasis on judgment, he reminds us that the relationship between theory and practice always depends on not only seeing what practical implications follow from which theoretical commitments, but also exercising...