Installment 2: Audio Transcripts

Clip 1: Why Governor Brown Chose and Kept Mike as His Primary Education Adviser

(Governor Brown: 1/14/19; 1 minute 42 seconds)

DJ: So, what is it about Mike that initially made you want to have him as an adviser? 

JB: Well, first of all, he is knowledgeable, was at Stanford—a place of great intellectual depth. And Michael is obviously very knowledgeable, very compatible to work with, and in touch with the currents that circulate through the world of education. And that was important–to blend the academic and the institutional or the governmental. So, I saw Mike as a bridge there. 

DJ: What is it about Mike that you’ve liked that has had you keep him as an educational adviser, a key educational advisor, for more than four decades? 

JB: Well, he’s knowledgeable, he’s honest, no games, and he was a good interlocutor and a knowledgeable person about his field–which is education, one of the biggest items in the California budget, I know. It made it all fit together very, very nicely. 

DJ: Have you had other advisers that have a long time and as deep a relationship with as Mike in other areas? 

JB: Well, I probably talk to Mike more than anybody else.

Clip 2: Mike’s Strong Emphasis on Inquiry

(Governor Brown: 1/14/19; 53 seconds)

DJ: What is it that Mike has helped you learn that’s been important about education?

JB: Well, he brings a balance, a structure. It’s a fruitful collaboration. And he does have a structure, this certain data perspective that I find helpful when I would present my own thoughts on the topic. But I like to distinguish people between those who live in advocacy and those who live in the inquiry. Yes, we can do a little of both, but you need a very strong measure of inquiry to take account of life and its many complexities. Michael’s been a good partner in that endeavor.

Clip 3: Jerry on Martin Buber, LCFF, and Mike

(Governor Brown: 1/14/19; 1 minute 40 seconds)

JB: I remember Buber somewhere along the line said: “All life is meeting.” Well, you don’t meet a metric. You meet a child. You meet a parent. You meet a fellow teacher. And in that meeting there is dialogue and there is learning, there is exchange. 

State government, federal government, distant academics want to get in the game. They don’t want to go to the classroom. They can’t. There are too many classrooms. And they’re not satisfied to have teachers teach. They want to minutely prescribe in some way. That’s been one of the tensions. So Mike came up with this weighted school formula which became the Local Control Funding Formula. And that’s based on taking some broader categories and pushing the money down…with as little criteria as possible. And that’s controversial because a lot of groups—“equity groups” as they’re called—want to precisely measure where does a dollar go, what does a dollar do. And so there’s a tension there between accountability and micromanagement and overly prescriptive kinds of involvement. And so there’s life as algorithm and there’s life as encounter. And Mike understands that. And that’s trying to maintain the human dimension.

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.

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.

Scroll to Top