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Mission Possible

At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses delivers a lengthy farewell—a list of dos and don’ts, blessings and curses. Fulfilling all these instructions seems difficult, complicated, almost impossible. Yet Moses says: No, guys, you can do this!

For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us hear it, that we may do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us hear it, that we may do it?' But the matter is very close to you; it is in your mouth, and in your heart, to do it.

The images that Moses uses are straightforward ones of distance and closeness. But unlike Moses, we have a tendency to mix our metaphors. For example, over the the last few days, as we begin a new school year after a summer defined by the stresses of Operation Protective Edge, I have had several versions of the following conversation:

“How was your summer?”


“How’s it going?”

“Good now, but it has been hard.”

As I hear these responses, I say to myself, "No! This summer wasn't complicated. It was simple and awful. It was simply awful!"

And, in any case, good isn't the opposite of hard. After all, things can be hard and good, or easy and bad.

In education, we also mix metaphors—especially when it comes to things we find difficult. But in this case, we have a good excuse. David Cohen (2011) describes education as one of the "impossible professions of human improvement," wherein there is no consensus about either ends or means. In other words, the way forward is neither clear, nor simple, nor easy. It is no wonder, then, that in talking of our difficulties in education we tend to mix our metaphors, describing them alternately as complicated, hard, and unclear.

To improve education and “repair” the world is both complicated and difficult. But it is not in the heavens:

It is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

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