Joanne Jacobs writes a lot of interesting things about education, and she doesn't editorialize too much -- the stats and articles she links to mostly speak for themselves. This article about differences in how parents talk to their kids is fascinating. Her writing has a commonsense appeal that keeps you reading, but it was all unfamiliar to me.
Then I checked out a few of the sites in her blogroll and found evidence of a bona fide learning network. There's Brian, Kimberly, the Cranky Professor, and a cast of other articulate characters, all linking to each other -- the same stories tend to pop up in multiple places. They're writing intelligently about issues in education, and maybe Joanne is a bit of a guru in the group.
I felt as though I had stumbled into some sort of parallel universe. I'm used to seeing an article or link make the rounds of "my" learning network: George, Rob, Seb, minor guru Stephen, and the other 20 or so smart folks stuck in my aggregator. But I hadn't ever come across links to Joanne's gang, or any of the articles that were making the rounds (and generating conversations) in her circles.
The blogs I follow often focus on educational technology, but many of the stories and opinions are related to education policy and theory as well...so why don't these worlds overlap more? I suppose the answer is politics. At the risk of generalizing too much, many of the sites in Joanne's network take a right-wing angle. In this world, standardized testing isn't all bad, teachers tend to whine too much, and libertarian homeschoolers and voucher supporters reign. I know that the network I'm developing isn't homogeneously left-wing, or necessarily taking opposing views on those issues, but there is a definite split.
I suspect that I've been mostly seeking out people I agree with -- perhaps I could learn better by admitting more outside perspectives. I was enjoying the inner conflict created by some of the things I read on these "other" sites. Often, my instant reaction was that they had it all wrong...but then I had to question my gut feeling. Why had I made up my mind on those things in advance? But what's really interesting to me is to think of all the other parallel communities talking about issues in education from different angles.