11/24/2009 04:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Giving Thanks In Tough Times

like Thanksgiving for more than the food, for more than those cute
turkeys-made-from hand-tracings kids do in elementary school, for more
than the Mile High United Way Turkey Trot.

I like Thanksgiving because in this hard-bitten world, where the
challenges seem so overwhelming and the odds so long, it is good to
pause at least once a year and remember that there are, in fact,
reasons to give thanks. Even where public education is concerned. This
may seem clichéd (last week Jon Stewart did a hilarious bit on reasons
not to give thanks), but at least it’s sincere.

You may have to force yourself into a different mindset to be able
to give thanks. I certainly have. Last week, after listening to Howard
Fuller speak, I felt more despair than usual about the state of public
education (see Nancy Mitchell’s 10-minute video excerpt, and the shorter one I shot with a  cheaper camera).

Among the points Fuller raised, and which didn’t make it onto either
video, was his skepticism about the Race to the Top grant competition.
How, he asked, do we expect Race to the Top to succeed, when the money
will go to the same people who helped us “race to the bottom?” Ouch.

Then, on Friday, I was called all sorts of names (see the links at the beginning of this blog post) for insisting on some standards of civility and fact-based writing on the EdNews
blog. And I wondered: How can we ever make progress on the pressing
issues of our time if we are so full of anger and bile, and assume ill
intent on the part of those with whom we disagree?

But over the weekend I let it all settle, and now, writing on Monday
morning, I am ready to feel thankful. For what, you may ask?

I am thankful to Howard Fullers of the world for telling hard
truths; for making us think hard about our preconceived notions and our
boxed-in thinking.

I am thankful for the challenges that lie ahead of us in education
reform on the local and national level. The more profound the
challenges, the more resonant the call to action.

I am thankful for passionate education advocates across Colorado,
including those in northwest Denver who get their passion twisted up
with anger. Channel all that passion in positive directions and real
change can occur.

I am thankful for the principals and teachers who spend their days
doing some of the hardest work known to humankind. Teaching, especially
in urban schools, is an all-consuming, exhausting, never-ending

I am thankful for students, especially those, as Fuller says, for
whom just showing up at school each day is an act of will and courage.

I am thankful for everyone, even those with whom I strongly
disagree, who has the courage and selflessness to run for school board.
I can think of few more thankless jobs.

I am thankful to the pioneers who have launched schools, many of
them charters, that have demonstrated that almost all kids, regardless
of their circumstances, can learn at high levels.

I am thankful for Rosann Ward and the board of the Public Education and Business Coalition, for granting EdNews complete autonomy, despite the headaches this occasionally causes them.

And finally, I am thankful for everyone who reads this newsletter and visits the EdNews
website; especially those of you who read it muttering and cursing. Our
goal is to inform and provoke, respectfully and with integrity. We are
striving to get better each day, and your feedback helps us do that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Read more HuffPost Thanksgiving coverage and commentary