Editor's Note: Indulge in a Little Favoritism!
A little honor for those who deserve it.
Credit: Getty Images
If you have children, or work with children, you are probably familiar with the well-meaning tendency, found most frequently in organized sports, to deemphasize the special abilities of certain individuals in order to protect the self-esteem of everyone else. "Trophies all around!" is the end-of-season refrain on sensitive soccer fields nationwide. Many adults have taken up the cause, modeling the behavior that they demand of their kids as a form of political correctness.
Is this a good thing? If the massive popularity of The Incredibles is any indication, the answer is no. That cautionary tale about the pitfalls of oppressing superheroes skewered this polite conspiracy, raking in hundreds of millions at the box office in the process. Sure, we marveled at the animation, but we also loved the hilarious reminder that we all benefit when an extraordinary few are honored for their skills.
Anyone who works with students knows it doesn't matter how many of them you face or how old they are, they demand nothing less than heroics in exchange for their unbridled attention. Without X-ray vision or invisibility shields, educators are routine rescuers, and they find ways to gently encourage the budding heroes in their midst. The best teachers know it is possible to reward the accomplishments of some in a way that fires up the ambition, aspiration, and sense of purpose of everybody else in the room.
Which brings us to our Daring Dozen of 2007. None wears a cape -- as far as we know -- but they are super and, in their own ways, heroic, and we don't mind saying so. Every thriving culture has its exceptional citizens, and in the world of education, where it takes exceptional skills simply to survive, these folks stand out.
As we have in the past, we looked for more than a single accomplishment or remarkable stamina. We tried, instead, to identify education activists dedicated to enlightenment and reform, individuals who seek to add distinct brushstrokes to the Big Picture. They seek success and access in equal measure, ensuring that their work will have resonance in every quarter of the education community, from rural Montana to urban Baltimore, in the families of U.S. military personnel, on the Internet, among refugees in Atlanta's suburbs, and in preschools across the country. We were thrilled to find too many to list, and pained by the necessity of choosing some over others.
One reason we had so many worthy candidates this year was our solicitation of Daring Dozen nominations from our readers. In answer to this call, we received a gracious outpouring of praise for your friends, mentors, and fearless leaders. Each entry was a revelation -- not just about the rich resources of the community but also about what matters most to our readers. We will share these thoughts -- and the names attached to them -- in an upcoming feature that will spotlight some of the folks you find worthy of attention. Look for "Local Heroes" in future issues of the magazines and on our Web site, Edutopia.org.
Finally, we have included in this year's offering some features that acknowledge the flatness of the world, the influence of elders, and the power of positive reinforcement. Look for the Global Six, a collection of daring educators from beyond our national borders; the Classic Six, a lineup of past purveyors of teaching wisdom; and a look at past Daring Dozen honorees and their current aspirations.
Go ahead, then, and indulge with us in a little favoritism. This is not a competition, but, thanks to the work of these individuals, we all win.