(Courtesy Everyday Mathematics)

So much to learn

If putting together an issue on education taught us one thing, it's that we have much yet to learn.

Get your teaching certificate,” my mother advised me as a teenager. It would be “something to fall back on.” I wanted to be a journalist, then ranked one of the lowest-paying careers (could teaching have been much higher?). It didn’t sound very stable to her. Although I didn’t follow her suggestion, in my family the value of education and teaching is ingrained. My mother is a former preschool teacher and director, kindergarten teacher, and current second-grade teacher. My sister has taught middle and high school.

When my mom’s school adopted an early edition of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, developed at Chicago in the 1980s and ’90s, she talked about it at home. (It got mixed reviews. Although “in theory it was a very good program” with a “goal of having kids think mathematically,” she says now, it didn’t give students enough practice. Later versions, she stresses, made improvements. “And the games were very good.”)

So one of my first impressions of the University of Chicago was that it was a place that showed teachers how to teach. I didn’t know yet about John Dewey, the Lab Schools, or Chicago’s reputation as a teacher of teachers. But when I arrived at the Magazine in 2002, I learned how seriously the University and alumni take their education mandate, both in the wider world and in the College and graduate curricula. It was a subject near to this community’s heart, and I had reason to relate.

In the past decade the University has strengthened its education c. vitae, enhancing existing programs and creating new initiatives to study education, train teachers, and educate students. Every week seems to bring headline-making research or innovative programs on campus. Education at Chicago, we thought, would no doubt be a rich topic for a special Magazine issue.

Yet even with 96 pages, we feel ourselves falling short of this big subject. In a country where public schools are failing, we’ve included a few attempts to address the problem—the University’s charter school campuses and research into incentives for students, teachers, and parents. (And we don’t even discuss alumni experts who oppose incentives overall.) Our time line could capture only so many milestones. Our interviews with alumni and teachers who have formed professional and personal friendships left out countless great stories. We didn’t cover our many alumni who serve as presidents at impressive colleges and universities.

For us this issue proved the axiom: the more we learned, the more we realized how much we didn’t know (or didn’t have time, space, or manpower to report, write, and publish by deadline). I don’t have to ask Magazine readers to write us about what facts we left out or got wrong. But in addition, if you have a personal story, or an alumnus or professor whose education-related work should go noted, please share it with us at uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.