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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Ted Kolderie of Education/Evolving

January 13, 2017

Good thinking requires settings that provide time, resources and political freedom


According to Ted Kolderie of Education|Evolving, Minnesota's success has come largely from the ability to adapt public systems and create innovative new public institutions. This requires good thinking, good ideas, good analysis and good proposals. He says we are suffering today from a deterioration of this civic process. There is inadequate attention to the question of how to get from problems to goals. Finding the "why" and finding the "how" are very important, Kolderie states. Often the why of the problems and the how of the solutions lie in the structure of the system. A strong, local civic process will be essential to carry out the thinking needed, he says. Good thinking occurs in "settings," which he defines as an opportunity for organizations and individuals, by themselves or with others, to have the time, the resources and the political freedom to ask unpopular questions, to think about problems and to make unconventional recommendations. Kolderie cites several examples of successful Minnesota settings, such as the Citizens League and its study committee process, and a national setting, the Carnegie Corporation commissioning Gunnar Myrdal in the 1940s to do a study about race relations in the United States. Minnesota has had a strong, local civic process in the past and could do this well again in the future, he says.

For the complete interview summary see: link to interview

Individual Responses:

Tom Ables

greetings from Rwanda

Reading Ted's interview and Paul's comments, it seems to me that the CC needs to re-examine itself and its mission:

Ted talks about civic action but the CC has assiduously stated it only finds interesting topics to discuss/people to interview. Ted's example from the editorial desk of the past and the rise of social media which the common citizen and the president of the US can access requires the CC to seriously consider its policy. CC creates nice blog posts and summaries which are shuffled in with the rest of the public voices, its quality or value not withstanding

Ted mentions the Citizen's League and Ed|Evolving and their past history of accomplishments. But that's the past. Again, the social media minefield requires radical rethinking for today and the future. Perhaps a CC set of "round tables" on civic advocacy/civic change and the mission/directions of these organizations, mostly left of center politically, might help focus on the future of the organizations themselves much less their policy predilections

As Khayyam has penned: The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on...  As Ted noted, we are in a world of rapid change. Past glories are the past.

tom abeles

PS everyone seems to cite, with expected pride, charter schools and today we see where that has taken education with the presumptive sec'y of education, betsy devos

the idea has evolved, the times have evolved and charters, even in MN have changed. I am not sanguine that bragging rights trump the future, so to speak!

Wayne Jennings

I found: Kolderie's ideas illuminating. I particularly liked his concept of determining the "why" of problems. Also, the concept of not just stating problems but offering solutions.

Scott Halstead

Greetings from Sunny Shoreview!

I really appreciated the interview.  Very accurate and wonderful historical look at public policy in the past.  Policy at the legislature is provided by lobbyists and financially powerful interests.  I question whether the foundations will be an advocate for public policy at the legislature.  It takes grass roots support, use of the media and identifying legislators that have responsibility for a subject and working with them individually and/or in committee to get legislation drafted and acted upon.  You need to extend to additional legislators and the Governor.  It's not easy in today's political climate

Joe Nathan

Civil Caucus leaders, Thanks for sharing these insights.  Here are a few reactions:

1. Ideas are important - unquestionably.

2. Moving from ideas to adoption & implementation: It's not clear from this summary of Ted's thoughts whether there was an emphasis on working directly with legislators, city council members, school boards and other elected officials to translate ideas into laws and policies.  This is vital.  Dan Loritz was a master at this. So was Steve Lindgren.

Over the 40 years I've worked in education policy, I've seen the critical importance of sharing ideas and then doing the detailed, time consuming work to make sure those ideas actually are adopted, refined, defended and expanded.  Whether it's Post Secondary Enrollment Options, other forms of dual high school/college credit, chartering public schools, creating "teacher powered-teacher led" district public schools, or other changes, it's not enough to have good ideas and write about them. Those steps are important.  But so are efforts to move ideas from the pages of a report, article or book into actual laws and policies.

Someone needs to do the day to day work with policy makers to make sure good policies are adopted, and then implemented well.

3. Re working with diverse populations:  I've encourage Civic Caucus to meet with leaders of groups such as Students for Education Reform, Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, Migizi Communications, Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, Minnesota Council for Asian-Pacific Islanders, Coalition of Asian Leaders, Somali Action Allliance, Voices for Racial Justice etc etc.  These groups are active at the legislature and in the community.  It's vital to know more about what they are doing, and whenever possible to learn from and  work actively with them. I'd also encourage Civic Caucus to expand and diversity the core group of people who are meeting with these groups. I think it's very good that Civic Caucus met with Jeff Hassan of the African American Leadership Council.

4. Re listening to students.  During the discussion reported below, someone quoted Sean Kershaw, "

For example, Kolderie noted that Citizens League Executive Director Sean Kershaw said at a recent League program that in discussions about education policy, nobody asks the students or listens to them."  I was not at the meeting so I don't know exactly what Sean said. 

But groups like Students for Education Reform-Minnesota, Minnesota Association of Charter Schools and Center for School Change constantly listen to, learn from and work with students.   Without strong insights from and collaboration with students, a number of the good ideas for improving education would not have been adopted by the Minnesota Legislature.  Students repeatedly have helped defend and strengthen good ideas like PSEO and chartered public schools when they have been attacked.  

I hope these comments are useful.

Tom Spitznagle

Dear Civic Caucus Folks,

Thought-provoking interview.  Perhaps it is the Civic Caucus’s role to identify the highest priority issues and organize diverse groups to analyze and develop potential solutions after all.  Who else would be better to do that?  Can the Civic Caucus provide the needed settings?  I think that it can – just look at the experience it has on the interview panel.

The interviews have been great but they can go on forever.  Does the Civic Caucus now have enough information to do the above and begin moving the ball forward?


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The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
 Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow (chair), Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman



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