New York

A great debate — make that, Wiki-war — over an Obama adviser

The Wall Street Journal reported last night that a Stanford professor, Linda Darling-Hammond, will chair Obama's transition team studying education policy. This sounds unremarkable, but just like Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein are lightning rods, so is Darling-Hammond. The main reason is that Darling-Hammond has been consistently skeptical of the nameless movement's efforts to shake up public schools. She has criticized Teach For America, the alternative certification program for teachers; criticized high-stakes testing, and criticized No Child Left Behind for narrowing the curriculum. The passions these criticisms elicit is sometimes unbelievable. About a year and a half ago, I watched a grown man clasp a grown woman by the shoulders, look her in the eye, and vow to work together to prevent Darling-Hammond from being named U.S. Education Secretary. You can find vitriol pretty easily on the Internet, too. The vitriol accelerated to another level altogether when Darling-Hammond's was the first name to emerge as education adviser to the Obama campaign. "Reformers" were placated when it turned out that Jon Schnur, the founder of an alternative principal-training program and one of their own, was Darling-Hammond's co-chair on that advisory board. It's possible that right now, the WSJ story is repeating that pattern: Maybe Obama has abandoned his Team of Rivals approach and tossed Schnur to the sidelines, but equally possible is that Schnur will once again turn up as Darling-Hammond's co-chair. Whether Schnur joins her or not, Darling-Hammond will stir up emotions. The best evidence is her Wikipedia page.