SEPTEMBER 5, 2015
(Read to Graduate Education Students at Hunter College)
I often kidded Dr. Sobol when I was his student and he my professor, mentor, inspiration and dissertation advisor, that we were connected because when he talked to his students about civil rights and the March on Washington, I was the only one old enough to have been there with him. I went back to get my doctorate in education when I was 50. Although I had several Masters Degrees and administrative credentials, I had always aspired to getting a doctorate and going to Teachers College.
I took every course he taught and had the great privilege and good fortune to have many conversations with him before or after class and after I had received my doctorate degree. He was tough on me at the defense and I was surprised by just how tough. There was no compromise of his standards when it came to the hard work of academic study, teaching and learning, ethics, social justice, creating a worthy inclusive curriculum, and the possibilities of positive social change through schooling. The work was just too damned important; the stakes too high.
He profoundly influenced the current generation of educational leaders and all of those whom he taught not only through his brilliance and passion about children and schooling, but also through his creativity and infectious joy in the process of learning. He started a national advocacy group called Public Schools for Tomorrow, an organization to deal with what he called the “quiet crisis” in current educational policy that does not address the issues of how to educate impoverished children.
One of the most exciting and humbling experiences in my 35 year career in education is when Tom asked me to teach his policy class at Teachers College. His health had been declining for some time and it became clear to him that he did not have the physical capacity to teach that semester. He made all of his materials and course plans available to me and said, “If this is any help to you by all means use it. But Jane, this is your class – make it yours.”
And because of what he had taught me, I could do that. We will miss his wise counsel and warm smile, and we will pass on to the next generation of educational leaders the lessons he taught.