Blog: The Educated Reporter
I love what Geoffrey Canada is doing with the Harlem Children’s Zone: addressing simultaneously the school factors and non-school factors that so deeply disadvantage poor, inner-city children. (Yes, it doesn’t have to be—it cannot be—either/or.) But just as much as I love the project, I hate the misuse of statistics. Thanks to Aaron Pallas at GothamSchools for calling out an overstatement of the HCZ schools’ success.
Everybody and their mother has been bemoaning the decline of education journalism, with their eye trained on the journalists themselves. (Almost always the reporters. But of course my natural instinct leads elsewhere: blame editors! Reporters know national context is important; they are dying to cover the beat with breadth and depth. You think they are begging to cover Obama’s speech or a lunchroom brawl?) Anyway, we get it.
This blog is not—I repeat, not—a place to air my personal gripes. But would someone please write a story about how practically no pediatricians in the D.C. area (and probably elsewhere) who take insurance are also taking new patients? Unless they are newborns, which I have on good authority is a totally arbitrary distinction. After all, if you are not adding patients because you are busy, why do you make an exception for the patients who need to see you every month?
I am totally willing to be your lead anecdote.
I usually am not big on think tank panel discussions, but today’s Brookings event on the purported decline of education journalism could not have been more in my wheelhouse. To have missed it would have been like Lindsay Lohan telling Tara Reid that no, thank you, she doesn’t feel like joining her for an absinthe binge in her hotel room.
Nearly a decade ago, only a few months into George W. Bush’s first term as president, Nicholas Lemann wrote a really interesting New Yorker piece about how No Child Left Behind evolved and the key players behind it. He focused especially on mastermind Sandy Kress, whom we would learn a lot more about in the Texas Observer years later.
Two of the most common frustrations I hear from new education reporters is that they have trouble coming up with story ideas, and they have trouble building up real-people sources. “Do you get into schools?” I ask, and they say they do—for formal events. Which doesn’t get you much. Here’s my tried-and-true strategy for school visits that result in story ideas, goodwill and a big fat Rolodex. (Or Google contact list—you know what I mean.)
I hope that this week you will be exchanging your Blackberries for apples and pumpkins, and enjoying family instead of reading blogs. I sure will be. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, yet I have not had a slam-dunk one for some time. I have a good feeling about this year. We are hosting my family at our cabin in the woods, where with any luck (and a cooperative toddler) there will be much playing of guitars, board games and Wii.
I’m always trying to get higher ed reporters to write about online classes, given how common they have become and how mysterious they are to us fuddy-duddies. (Can one be a fuddy-duddy before 40? The case against: I have an iPhone, and I’ve watched every minute of “America’s Next Top Model.” The case for: I just suggested having an iPhone and watching “America’s Next Top Model” makes me youthful.)
I’m glad to see more people talking about young men’s troubles getting through college, and I’ve been following with interest stories about the admissions bar being lowered for male students, so that universities can preserve gender balance on campus. I spent this morning at the annual conference of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, where panelists discussing the “American Male
I am often contacted by students completing assignments who ask me to sum up my books because they cannot be bothered to read them. An e-mail today from a foreign PhD student (where? I have no idea—he did not introduce himself) was simply delicious: “I have tried to find your book to qout what you have exactly said , but unfortunately it needs to be purchased??? Could you please send me your invlauble arguments. thank you very much”
Desperate student or bizarrely targeted Nigerian e-mail scam? You be the judge.