Monday, July 4, 2011

The Significance of the Name of this Blog

When I studied and later taught literature and composition, I came to the conclusion that key to good writing often involves packing much meaning into few words. (Frank Kermode, in Shakespeare's Language, argues that late Shakespeare takes this approach to such extremes as to be have been in passages virtually incomprehensible to his original audiences as well as to us.) To writers thus oriented, puns appeal.

There are two words in both the title and the URL of this blog, and although cognate, they do not match. "Founding Principles" was my first choice, and I hit upon "principalfoundations" for the URL only after finding that "founding principles" and "foundationsprincipal" were both taken.

Among other things, founding is the present participle of to found, something a founder does. When I left Green Dot, my friend Erica Gonzales presented me with a card holder engraved "Bruce Smith" and "Founder" because she knew I planned to found a school, now known as One World Secondary School. But in this blog I am also trying to found a new, broader, more fruitful discussion of education as a whole, so as to improve it. Similarly, Foundations denotes a specific, advanced humanities course, of which I am very proud, that I teach over the last four years of secondary school; but in this blog, foundations also has indicates more generally that we will strive to discover and articulate the fundamental purposes and values of various educational proposals, so as to rise, ideally, as via Socratic dialectic, to clearer and clearer understandings of what we are trying to do.

In keeping with this, principles are what we will hope to discover and agree upon, or agree to disagree about, if that's the best we can do, after we understand one another. But principles is also homophonous with principals, the people in schools who should be best able to articulate the principal aims and values their schools are trying to further; articulating such principles is particularly important for a principal who is hoping to found a school that will serve as a proof of concept--and if the principles on which the school is founded are proved, could serve as a model for the whole world, or at least its developed parts. And all of the dialogue that I hope will take place in this blog should be useful in training principals, the demand for whom, and in particular for authentic leaders, has never been greater.