This conference and particularly this section are especially timely, for the improvement of practice is at present the dominant thrust of national education policy. I would like to make a sharp distinction between national policy and federal policy, however, and suggest that, if the federal government slid into the sea this afternoon, the improvement of education would go on, for it is a deeply felt need in the state capitals and in many communities. Grassroots improvements are taking place at present—many of which, in my view, are clumsy and some a little simple-minded—but enough is going on so as to cast doubt upon the need for federal involvement. Most federal efforts to improve educational practice arose from the belief that practice would not improve otherwise. Some saw Washington as a necessary catalyst, not only the source of money but also of ideas;some thought that others implicitly lacked the wisdom, the knowledge, and the will to improve educational practice. That was a singularly arrogant way of thinking about things, but it was not untypical of our approach to the federal role in practically everything,including health care, social services, criminal justice, and clean air. But if this trend toward federal involvement was once the dominant tendency in education, it is not the case today.

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