Just the Facts Ma’am

“How many millions does Bill Gates & his media posse reach with their ill-informed views on ed? Do we even have honest journalists anymore?” on Twitter by @TeacherReality and RT’d by @Diane Ravitch”


How can anyone charged with reporting news not flinch at that?

The Tweet was in response to a Newsweek article “A Case of Senioritis:  Gates tackles education’s two-headed monster,” written by Jonathan Alter, an award-winning columnist, television analyst and author.   The nutgraph of the article?

Seniority is the two-headed monster of education—it’s expensive and harmful. Like master’s degrees for teachers and smaller class sizes, seniority pay, Gates says, has “little correlation to student achievement.” After exhaustive study, the Gates Foundation and other experts have learned that the only in-school factor that fully correlates is quality teaching, which seniority hardly guarantees. It’s a moral issue. Who can defend a system where top teachers are laid off in a budget crunch for no other reason than that they’re young?

Seems a simple premise. But ah, one wonders if Newsweek stumbled innocently (or willfully) into the world of education politics. It is a brutal, unforgiving place.

From the comments on this article you can gather a certain tone:

“Alter, I used to have a high opinion of you. It is sad to see you support people just because they have more money than others. The “Billionaire Boys Club” is privatizing our public school systems and you have the gull [sic] to put down Ravitch?”

“Bill Gates has been out of touch with our society and its public schools for his entire life, and is widely suspected of having an impaired social interaction disorder.”

“Gates’ goal is essentially to deprofessionalize the teaching force by allowing teachers to be fired at will. His is a radical agenda to privatize public education that will further destabilize our public schools,”

I have to say that the rhetoric surrounding Bill Gates and education reform has recently become much more organized and predictable (and boy do educators seem to universally hate Bill Gates). Almost as with one voice people emerge with the same talking points and derogatory comments – as though by repeating something often enough and loudly enough it will become the conversation. Which makes me sit up and realize that perhaps, just perhaps, John Merrow really had something when he said that being an education reporter was a happening beat today.

And that is why I have dusted off the Newmediacy Blog. I can’t imagine a world where journalists are cowed by loud and organized voices into ignoring the man behind the curtain (not that Alter is cowed, mind you. In fact, for most journalists I know, personal insults and attacks would simply rev up the old engine a bit). So for the next few months at least, the Newmediacy Blog will endeavor to uncover the half-truths and misleading statements currently making the rounds in education politics. Should be fun!

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