Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dunces Weigh in on Education

In its education coverage, NPR consistently ignores the negative effects of poverty on student outcomes - and instead opts for the corporatist focus on "effective teachers." It's an approach that one expects from right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, not from a news organization [though the American Enterprise Institute gets inordinate and favorable airtime on NPR].

Today's Weekend Edition featured two education reports that ran back to back and are striking for highlighting NPR's intentional focus on the small effects of teacher effectiveness versus the overwhelming effects of poverty.

The first "report" featured host, Liane Hansen talking to Claudio Sanchez and Larry Abramson about education (if there were merit pay for reporting on education both these characters would be seeing pay decreases). To his credit, Sanchez made these startling points:
"...and finally a handful of reports are out that are kind of scary. They warn that the poverty rates among children and families are on the rise and the numbers are off the charts. The Southern Education Foundation for example says that over 2 million Americans now face acute hunger, homelessness and medical problems - and all of this, of course, has horrible implications for school-age children and how schools deal with them."
How does Liane Hansen respond to this stunning statement? She says, "Is there an issue or event that might make news early in 2011?" That's it. These are exceptional observations that Sanchez has made, and any rational (not to mention compassionate) human being would be interested in pursuing more information about them. He is absolutely correct - the data is scary

and the implications for education are horrible. But as a writer for the Washington Post (of all places!) pointed out, discussions about poverty and its effects on student achievement are the elephant in the room for our press.

Ignoring Sanchez' statements, Hansen then turns to Abramson to ask briefly about higher education and finally turns her sights where NPR loves to focus:
"What about the emphasis on teachers performance? How will that play out in 2011?"
Abramson then introduces the theme of the next story on the show; he says, "...I think what a lot of people are more focused on...what makes an effective teacher...There's one program that I looked at that's pretty interesting from the Gates Foundation. They're spending millions of dollars to answer that question..." And what is this "pretty interesting" program? The amazing idea of - brace yourself - videotaping teachers as part of evaluating their classroom practice.

Whoa, how cutting edge! It just happens that in 1987, when I was working on my masters in education at the University of Iowa, we used videotaping to evaluate our teaching techniques. Good thing one of the beneficent billionaires is "spending millions of dollars" to help teachers be more effective. If only these billionaires had 80%-90% of their wealth taxed, maybe we'd have less poverty to begin with - and then we really could justify focusing on teacher effectiveness.


Anonymous said...


Thanks MyT! I salute you as usual.

I'd like to see an end-of-year post from you along the lines of "What I hope for 2011 from NPR vs. what I expect."

gDog said...

Bill Gates and the Billionaire Boy's Club blaming public school teachers for the poverty that cripples so many school children and makes it impossible for them to thrive in school is rich, as in, laughable--except that it makes me want to cry.

Of course, NPR is there to enable the disconnect.

If Gates fails in his ridiculous school reform efforts (like he did in college) and actually ends up making it worse (like he did with operating systems)--that's ok: he can just say 'oops' and move on to wreck something else.

Anonymous said...

I just suffered through Michele Martin's Weekend Edition "What's next on the War on Terror". The 3 right wingers she interviewed were Richard Armitage (age old rt wing extremist), Michael O'Hanlon (Rt Wing Tink Thanks) and Ben Berske (CEO of private "security" company. The only question of any substance about a Wikileaks revelation was laughed off in a "I can't comment on that" moment.

NPR -- in another propagandistic triumph -- is leading the charge to (yet) another war -- this time in Yemen.

In the public interest, "NPR" (whatever the hell that stands for these days) should be shut down immediately!!!

larry, dfh said...

A few weeks ago I had my 3 hour chat with my kindergartn teacher (D.Ed) friend. She talked about the 80% or soo free-or-reduced lunches at the school, and wanted the breakfast program opened to everyone, with the intent of not stiegmatizing the free-breakfast kids. She's in the process of smashing her principal for not following state-mandated protocols in the teacher evaluations; needless to say the union has been helpful. She was also upset that the principal and a child's mother were medicating a child without informing her, when my friend thought she was making good progress without the drugs.
Today (monday) on totn was a slot with deenatempleraston, which kinda shocked me. There is no policy of intrusion or coercion carried on by our government of which deena isn't a fan. She even wants more! It would seem that she longs for the Israelification of this country, wherein we are all


Happy New Year to all my fellow curmudgeon, misanthropes, and fellow NPRetrobates!

Excellent post.

This is a great example of how NPR is just FOX lite, and it forces every story into a pro-corporate Right/Center-Right meme.

The Right has never supported public education especially since Brown v Board, and teachers are viewed especially evil since they are both government employees and union members. The two groups that stand up to corporate power.

NPR can't/won't discuss poverty rates because then it would have to point out the GOP/Bush's eight years of economic failure and the decline of the middle class over the past decade. NPR doesn't want the public to know that as Warren Buffet said: "If this is class warfare, my class (uber-rich) are winning".



(stolen from another blog comment).

"Since I don't want Gates' crappy operating system on my computer. Why would I want his crappy ideas in my school?"

This comment has been removed by the author.

Here a little commment I posted re:

Pondering A 'Plan B' In Afghanistan by Rachel Martin

O'Hanlon? O'Hanlon? Really NPR? How many wrong can someone before NPR stops using them? If their pro-Pentagon, the answer appears NEVER!

"I think the counterinsurgency effort is going fairly well." O'Hanlon in 2003.

Isn't it GREAT that no matter how WRONG the Pro-war cheer leaders are, NPR will NEVER stop giving them an uncritical platform to promote their new ideas after the repeated failures. Nine years of blacklisting the people who were right while giving an open mike to the architects and cheerleaders of our two worse foreign policies failures in history.

Accountability, NPR doesn't need no sticking acceptability.

"First, this is not the first time O'Hanlon took a trip to Iraq (for what Sen. Webb recently called the "dog and pony show") and then came back and announced How Great Things Are, that We Have the Right Strategy, and that We are Winning. From an NPR Interview, September 28, 2003"

Why doesn't NPR just save money and just rerun its old interviews over the past nine years with its standard pro-war clowns telling us everything going fine with NPR announcer cooing their approval?

It's great that being correct and knowing what your talking about isn't a requirement to be an NPR expert, in fact NPR will blacklist you? You just have to be either, a Republican, pro-war, or a defenses contractor (see the next interview).

The follow up interview was worse: Asking a Defense Department contractor to provide analysis of his employers' performance; Gee I wonder what he will say? Here a tip, "As long as I get paid things are going great!"

informedveteran said...

Saw a commericial for this Piece-O-Crap the other day on MSNBC (during Countdown). I’m assuming “The Cartel” are teacher’s unions. How long till they get an underwriting spot on standsfornothing?



Thank you MTWords:

I'll take "Dunes for $200"

Q: "This sole underwriter for NPR's Plant (worship the)Money has just agreed to pay nearly a half billion in fines for selling to the US government fraudulent mortgages after being implicated in the fraudulent foreclosure scandal".

A: Who is Ally Financial?


Anyone think NPR will report this story?

larry, dfh said...

My state (DE) got alot of $$ from the '(e)race to the top' program. My teacher friend says NONE of it is going directly toward the students. Lots more administrators, and some 'professional development' money for teachers, whcih can benefit students.
In another world, Tues. m.e. had a story about violence in Juarez. The whole story was summarized in the first 5 seconds: so-and-so works for $10 a day making parts for electronic appliances. But leave it to standsfornothing radio; always after the pro-authority takeaway. It's all about the "insatiable U.S. demand for drugs". Implied is that the only solution is a more robust war-on-drugs. Lemme be perfectly frank here: everyone I know who smokes either grows their own or purchases it from someone who does. I know very few people who are interested in cocaine, and no one who uses heroin. No,standsfornothing radio, as I see it your corporate sponsors and their friends are causing the problems in Mexico by not paying decent wages.

gDog said...

Larry, I hear ya!

Meanwhile, in States Hold Colleges Accountable For Graduation Rate we have more really shitty propaganda fronting as journalism.

The sheer blithering idiocy of Abramson's opening sentences:

States have long rewarded colleges and universities for higher enrollments. More students, more money.

just burns me up. I guess if you're Larry Abramson (anagram: lamb roars yarn) you can just pull crap out of your pancreas, or wherever.

Here in California just the opposite has been happening in the community colleges: we are being asked to accommodate a spike in enrollments with a slash in funding. So many more students are trying to get into much fewer class offerings.

But now some states are looking at what happens to those students after they enter college, and they don't like what they see.

Oh, what, grade inflation? Yeah that can be pretty ugly - especially at private schools.

How about this incisive remark (oh what an erudite fellow have we who can coin such cutting remarks:)

scarce dollars need to be spent wisely.

Wow...yeah. Maybe we could match Snott (MFW) Simian's salary?

Some college administrators are resisting [performance standards], saying they can't control students' success rate. That's a common complaint from schools with lots of low income and working students, who are less likely to finish.

So the solution to the corrosive effect of poverty on education is again to create "accountability" and "standards" and punish the schools who can't measure up by mimicking the grade inflation at, say, Harvard.

Anonymous said...

Gates? Bill Gates? Where have i heard that name before? Oh yeah, the Bill and Melinda Gates FOUNDATION. Now where have i heard that before? Wait, wait, don't tell me! That's right this foundation contributes mightily to NPR. See how symetrical it all is?


informedveteran said...

I wondered why this story didn’t mention Food Deserts, but NicePoliteRepublican was kind enough to inform me that they are a MYTH. Silly me for thinking that the higher COST of the healthier non subsidized-corn-based food had something to do with it.