I had the idea for Chalkboard Review, a publication for open-debate about all things education, in early 2020. Most people I spoke to about the idea gave enthusiastic support, but there were detractors. One editor told me point blank that, alas, no one cares about education and so the publication would go nowhere. A scholar wondered how, even if the site filled a much-needed gap in commentary, we could produce regular content and who our audience would be. Even our own co-founder and director Tony Kinnett expressed reservations.
At one year in with well over 30,000 monthly readers and millions of social media engagements, I’m happy to say that Chalkboard Review is a resounding success.
We began at a serendipitous time. The editor had a fair point. While I believe education is perhaps the single most consequential issue in America, voters typically rank it well below the economy, health care, immigration, or the most recent crisis. That has changed drastically. Education is now the issue de jure, decisively determining elections and registering as the number one issue for many voters.
The Chalkboard Review chose to dive into the thick of that. We have provided breaking news reporting on topics ranging from debates over books on school curricula to vaccine mandates and rising enrollment in private Christian schools. We have provided commentary both for and against critical race theory, school choice, gifted and talented classes, teacher prep, and almost every other issue in classical and modern education.
Despite this mass of content, community, and creation, I’ve found the range of commentary that comes in exhilarating. When we removed the ideological gate-keeping from education commentary, not only allowing but actively encouraging teachers with heterodox opinions to submit articles, a prism of thoughtful content came in:
- One teacher wrote about the overabundance of noise both literal and metaphorical in the classroom and provided tips on how to encourage moments of silence and reflection. It even prompted me to turn off my podcasts and spend more time in silent reflection while driving or doing yard work.
- We have had controversial articles that ask questions that simply are not allowed in most professional meetings but need to be asked like “Is Inclusive Education Working?” If we don’t ask the hard questions, ineffective practices can persist.
- Another author, a student mind you, wrote about how the supply-chain crisis has affected public education.
I’m scrolling through our backlog and the list of interesting topics is endless: critical pedagogy, vocational education, licensing reform, book reviews, a personal narrative about how an inner-city school reformed itself, first-person comparisons between international school systems, homeschooling, classical education, and an ever-growing buffet of quality material.
Throughout this whole process, it has become crystal clear to me the incredible importance of intellectual diversity in education. There are very few—if anyone—defending the status quo right now, and the education system is primed for a Cambrian explosion of educational diversity and pluralism, but there remains a definitive need for a space to hash these arguments out, think through alternatives, and hone our philosophy. Education is calcified by single narratives. Herein lies our endeavor: to crack such calcification so that interesting and engaging thought might flow again.
Our core and foundation are the teachers, students, parents, and advocates who continue to write for us. There’s a lot of collective wisdom spread out among all those who are in the education system itself. We’re giving a platform to all of those voices without censorship or an ideologically driven agenda. Free and open debate remains our desire and will continue to be our mission. Everyone is a stakeholder in education.