Liberal Media Shill For Education EstablishmentLiberal Media Shill For Education Establishment

Summary: Media are supposed to be neutral and state the facts. Instead, most newspapers have rushed to promote new, unproven ideas coming from federal government.

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Race to the Top? I'd bet a more accurate name is Race to the Bottom. But there's hardly a newspaper in the land that isn't salivating over federally mandated mediocrity.

The feds throw tens of millions of dollars at each state (knowing they are desperate). In return, states have to abandon standards and testing procedures evolved over many years, and use the generally lower, and not even fully worked-out, standards from the Education Establishment.

There is a lot of talk about "AUTHENTIC assessment," which signals you that it won't be authentic. And much talk about "21st Century Skills," which signals you that our elite educators are doubling-down on tired ideas from the past. The unstated goal is to fix it so everybody gets at least a C. Students (often in teams) prepare projects, presentations or performances, things that don't require specific knowledge and that can be graded subjectively. Teachers can say, this boy tried, he needs some help in life; he passes.

If the feds had any good ideas, would they have to bribe states? If the states weren't in such bad shape financially, would they be pushed around by the federal government? Remember, the Constitution does not mention education. It is not the job of the federal government to provide for or meddle in education. Letting the feds have ever greater control over what goes on in the country's classrooms means, I fear, that they will lock in the decline of the past 75 years.

Even worse, states that are holding out -- and there are many-- are often browbeaten by their own local media.

I'm in Norfolk where the Virginian-Pilot accused Governor McDonnell of having a "tiff" with the commissars in DC; this word implies that the governor is unreasonable to refuse a perfectly good bribe and to try to preserve Virginia's independence. The nerve of this guy!

The broader pattern, at least as I see it, is that our media ALWAYS support the Education Establishment. You'll sometimes see mention in the newspaper, for example, that students can't read at grade level; but you will never see investigative journalism explaining why. (Newspapers seem to have no clue that illiterate, poorly informed kids will NOT grow up to be customers.)

In June, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column saying that there were some good things about the new education proposals. I sent to the Virginian-Pilot a letter which does a good job, I think, of summing up a complex situation in a few words. Did the Pilot print this letter?

--"David Brooks ('A race to the top--and sanity,' June 7, 2010) says he likes what Obama is doing in education. I would urge a little caution. This so-called Race To the Top appears to me a brilliant PR maneuver, with the Department of Education using taxpayer money to bribe the states into doing what the Department of Education wants them to do. Is that even legal?

Our long-running national tragedy is that the people in charge of public education are indifferent, even hostile, to content. They must continually tinker with appearances to hide this reality. The jargon one hears these days is not reassuring. Our Education Establishment wants: Authentic Assessment (i.e., no right or wrong answers); Cooperative Learning (i.e., no one can do independent work); Portfolios (i.e., scrapbooks); Constructivism (i.e., students reinvent the wheel); Self-Esteem (i.e., students praised and passed even if they learn little); and 21st-Century Skills (i.e., the mundane, non-academic things labeled 'life adjustment' 60 years ago). Our experts want to implement all these things and call their victory 'reform.'"--

The Pilot ignored the letter (censored me, I would say), presumably so the community wouldn't hear criticism of Obama's education plans. Which jumps us to a huge related issue: that liberal newspapers actually think they can survive in the digital age by suppressing the range of voices. Exclusion? Censorship? How can these possibly help a paper to squeak by? Smart newspapers would do the opposite: more voices, please.

I've written elsewhere that this obtuse behavior is tantamount to suicide. Meanwhile, Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, recently said the government should subsidize these very same liberal papers which have forgotten how to do journalism. Bollinger did NOT propose improving instruction at the Columbia School of Journalism, which is doubtless the kind of place that tells students it's okay to preach at the customers.

The Education Establishment, regional officials, and local media work as a cartel to make sure that schools are mediocre and our country less competitive. Everyone should be ranting.

Here's a thesis I write about all the time: if the people at the top actually wanted better schools, we would have better schools. It's quite doable, folks. Everyone's job is to wade into this mess, disrupt enemy lines by doubting everything they say, and try to promote common-sense respect for the best of traditional education. Kids start by learning reading, writing, arithmetic and geography; and then move quickly on to history, science, literature and the arts. None of this is rocket science.

(For ways to improve, see "38: Saving Public Schools" on Improve-Education.org.)
by Bruce Deitrick Price
References and Bibliography
Bruce Deitrick Price is the founder of Improve-Education.org, a high-level education and intellectual site. One focus is reading; see "42: Reading Resources." Another focus is education reform; see "38: Saving Public Schools." Price is an author, artist and poet. His fifth book is "THE EDUCATION ENIGMA--What Happened to American Education."
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