Sunday, September 26, 2010

What the NBC “Education Nation” Sunday shows taught us.

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Nothing.

After watching Oprah’s attempt at whoring ratings using education, NBC jumped on the bandwagon on Meet the Press, and then proceeded to create a “Teacher Town Hall”, a meeting that seemed more like a cross between a faculty lounge lunch conversation and promotion for charter schools. 

But while problem after problem came out to the front, nothing was really addressed in terms of finding solutions.  At the Town Hall teachers went on stage to give only a small summary of some of the issues, and then were promptly overshadowed by a litany of teachers grieving all the issues that we discuss on a daily basis.  Along with public school teachers were a line of charter school teachers that acted like we were all in the same boat when it came to students, but not in terms of results or pedagogy.  Eventually, the real issue that society has a problem with actually valuing education was completely lost in the conversation.  When someone started to bring it up, it was drowned out in conversations about tenure, working on Saturdays, teacher evaluations, and Waiting for Superman. 

So what didn’t we learn from Education Nation?  Well, society taking responsibility was one thing.  Along with:

-We didn’t learn that Monica Groves, the first “teacher” that NBC followed in a typically miserable/rewarding first year, is no longer a teacher.  She is in fact a dean at a KIPP school in Atlanta.  While probably a very nice woman, she was the perfect example of the issues around teacher retention.  A Teach For America alum who left the profession for different pastures, like most TFA educators.

-We didn’t learn that charter schools and public schools don’t play by the same rules.  We didn’t learn that even with those rules, over a third of charters do far worse than public schools and only a little over 10% do “better”. 

-We didn’t learn that even in weak union states, or districts with little or no union representation at all, that students are struggling.  I wonder if Michelle Rhee would get the same results in Texas.

-We didn’t learn any semblance of a solution.  Even on the #educationnation Twitter feed, the teachers responded with a whole lot of anger that the problem seemed to be dumped in their laps without a whole lot of consideration towards the bigger picture.  We learned that there is plenty of blame to go around, but we are a long way from solving this issue.

Thanks to Stephen Lazar (Outside the Cave on the blogroll) for being a part of the Town Hall.  And if this whole conversation does anything, I would hope that it galvanizes good teachers at banding together to protect and enhance their profession.  

UPDATE

Hold on, I’m going to watch the Waiting For Superman town hall.

Ok, well the town hall was basically a Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada stroke party, with a healthy dash of union bashing mixed in.  Again, no help to education and really bad television.  Thank God I Tivo’d Iron Chef America.

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