The Mike Kirst Biography Project has over 900 Subscribers!

This Biography Project is for education policy makers and for all who work in or care about America’s public schools.

Conversations With and About Mike

Education Policy and America's Public Schools

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White House Fellows Mike Kirst President Lyndon Johnson Oval Office White House

Ninth Installment: A Young Dr. Kirst Goes To Washington

In this installment, Mike reflects on his transition to and doctoral studies at Harvard, including receiving some bad advice from his college advisors but also making a key—and, as it turns out, long-term and multifaceted—connection with John W. Gardner, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, known as “one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in education.” We’ll also hear how a very young Mike first met President Lyndon B. Johnson and served, like his mentor Mr. Gardner, as a behind-the-scenes advisor at the inception of still today the largest federal education program—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—as well as helped introduce the President to the woman who wrote Johnson’s best-selling biography.

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Who Controls Our Schools? Book Cover

Eighth Installment: Who Controls Our Schools? The Genesis

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the world,  federal, state, and local officials in the U.S.  are not only arguing over what to do but also over who has the authority to do it. As of the writing, in the spring of 2020, nearly all public and independent schools are closed in this country due to this global calamity. How and when American schools will reopen, and who will make that decision, are widely debated, prompting us to recall Mike’s most widely read book—Who Controls Our Schools?: American Values in Conflict.

In this installment, we explore how early in his studies, Mike began to formulate this question and eventually answer it in a way that demonstrates its complexities—which will help us to understand better the “Who’s in charge of American schools” question in this pandemic era.

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Seventh Installment: The Early Influences, Part 2

Indeed, internet searches have uncovered leads to aspects of Mike’s early years that have even intrigued him: “I keep finding out new things,” Mike Kirst wrote to me after the publication of the previous installment. This installment also draws on oral history interviews that Mike recorded for “The States’ Impact on Federal Education Policy Oral History Project” compiled in 2013 by the New York Archives.

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Sixth Installment: Early Influences, Part 1

We hear first-hand in this installment about the earliest influences on Mike Kirst’s personal development and his more than half-century-long contributions to reforming American education. We’ll first hear Mike talking about growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania and important personal insights about his family. We then find out about, often in Mike’s own words, about three important turning points during Mike’s high school and college years — with particular focus on the opportunities afforded by Dartmouth University for a young man who grew up in his own words “in the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania.”

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Fifth Installment: Three Lessons from a Long Career

This installment draws on a 2015 interview with Mike for highlights of “what Mike has…learned.” Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) asked a handful of its top researchers to reflect on the most important conclusions, implications, or lessons from their bodies of work. By the time of the interview, Mike was serving his fourth term with Jerry Brown as President of the California State Board of Education.

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Fourth Installment: Best Years of a Career

We start this fourth installment of “Conversations With and About Mike” with him reflecting on his 50+ year career. In it, Mike gives us a roadmap for much of the content and trajectory of his career as well as direct evidence of his character and charm.

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Mike Kirst and Governor Jerry Brown California State Board of Education

Third Installment: Moving to Mike on Mike

We start this third installment by listening to Jerry Brown again, in his final days as governor now responding to one of my final questions in that interview: “Is there anything you and Mike have done [in your recent education reform policy] that you would like to see being done in any other states?”

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Jerry Brown Explains Local Control Funding Formula Reform

Second Installment: “The Interlocutor”

We turn again to Governor Brown’s reflections during his last Friday in office. After working side-by-side with Mike for four-and-a-half decades, he offers additional insights about their time together, their relationship, and some of their most notable challenges and accomplishments.

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Book Collection of Stanford Professor Emeritus Mike Kirst Books Library of Congress

First Installment: “Conversations With and About Mike,” Starting with Governor Brown

I’ve started this Mike Kirst Biography Multi-Media Project — not only for education policy researchers — but for all who work in or care about America’s public schools. The first installation includes recorded insights about Mike from an interview I had with Jerry Brown during his last Friday day in office on January 4, 2019.

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Susan Schofield, Oral Historian at the Stanford Historical Society: Palo Alto, California

I’m enjoying all of these installments and learning a lot about Mike Kirst’s work and influence.

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About the Project

The purpose of this biography project is to make a fascinating man’s life and accomplishments come alive. Dr. Michael W. Kirst, while recognized in influential academic and policy circles, is generally unknown to those most actively engaged in American education in the trenches of the nation’s classrooms and local boardrooms, including teachers, principals, and school district leaders.

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About the Author

Dick Jung first met Dr. Michael W. Kirst four decades ago. Mike, then Professor in the Schools of Education and Business, was completing his first year as President of California’s State Board of Education. During Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor, as Mike tacked between Palo Alto and Sacramento, Dick served as the Teaching Assistant for Mike’s Stanford “Politics of Education” course.

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About the Team

Dick is supported by a project team of content, digital research, and online experts that includes a senior education policy reviewer, a digital archives manager, and a website and multimedia design coordinator.

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