Dogged Dilemmas in U.S. Classrooms

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Over the past ten years I have blogged, I have written often about dilemmas facing teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members. These dilemmas (as distinguished from “problems”) have to be managed since they cannot be “solved.” That distinction goes against the cultural belief that Americans are “problem-solvers” who can–often through technology– figure out ways to end hunger, cure any disease, and iron out inequalities. But dilemmas differ from problems. This post explains the differences and gives a classroom instance familiar to many teachers.

I have used the word “dilemma” in earlier posts since superintendents, principals, teachers, and, yes, students face situations that call for difficult choices among conflicting values. So for this post, I offer a thorny dilemma with which readers can wrestle.

By dilemmas, I mean situations where you have to choose between two or more competing and prized values. The choice is often hard because in…

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