Simple strategies, such as the use of restorative circles in classrooms, provide opportunity for students to communicate with their peers and teachers about feelings and concerns, reducing the anxiety and misunderstanding that produce tension and conflict in schools.
The status quo is unacceptable. We need to shift the paradigm in education in general. Even our top performers need to be taught that a love of learning will foster life-long learning, a necessity in this era of increasing disruptive innovation.
With the 2013 mayoral election in New York likely to produce a Democratic mayor supported by the teachers' union, education reform seems likely to join other major political disagreements in current U.S. politics, where the extremists dominate the debate and moderates have no forum.
Mastering algebra is also like doing push-ups. There's nothing about push-ups that you're going to need to know later in life or that you would have to employ in some way on a job. But the fact remains: push-ups make your body stronger. Algebra makes your brain stronger.