"You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But I tell you...brother, you are going down." --Al Pacino's cop to Robert de Niro's robber in "Heat" (1995)

It's hard to believe that the final showdown over the Minnesota Academic Standards for science and social studies, and over the confirmation of Cheri Pierson Yecke as Education Commissioner, happened barely one year ago. Our friends Craig Westover and King Banaian reflect on Yecke in their respective blogs.

EdWatch and MAPSSS go toe-to-toe (photo: Star Tribune)Last year, social studies committee members (of which I was one), the Department of Education under Cheri Pierson Yecke, DFLers and Republicans, and educators organized by the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies mixed it up with dueling web sites, letters to the editor, Capitol demonstrations, lobbying, online petitions, and testimony at community and legislative committee hearings, all over the state. (That's MAPSSS activist Paul Spies in the photo, going toe-to-toe with EdWatch members in front of the Department of Education's Roseville HQ one morning last year before an Academic Standards Committee meeting.) This blog was born during those busy days. It was a fine example of an ongoing American political debate that involved lots of people, not just lobbyists. It got us thinking and arguing about the basic purposes of social studies and public education.

A year later, the number of blogs has grown exponentially. They brought us Rathergate and the Swiftees. They have evolved to where they have their own alliances, press credentials, and radio shows. But face-to-face contact between bloggers of opposing views is too rare.

Today's cyberspace duels are too antiseptic, too easy. Much of what happened last year occurred offline, at evening public hearings, in parking lots(!), at the Capitol, at the Department of Education, etc. A face-to-face debate would bring people of all political stripes into a room for some thought-provoking exchange that a cyberspace encounter can't match.

Think a joint meeting between the MOB and whatever its liberal counterpart is (I plead ignorance; please enlighten me in the comments section). Or a local version of the Hewitt v. Beinart debate (Westover v. Coleman?). Then pick a topic (education funding, taxes, transit, affordable housing). At the least we would get some good food and drink, minds might not be changed, but our assumptions would be challenged, always a good thing. And Anoka Flash would keep us all honest, left and right.