Blog: The Educated Reporter

Did you catch me on CNN?

One of the perils of working from home is that when a CNN producer asks you to come on air in two hours, chances are that your hair, not to mention your eyebrows, will be a hot mess. But hey, I welcome any chance to inject my form of reality into the education conversation.

The topic was merit pay, and the producer almost uninvited me when she learned during the pre-interview that I am not a full-on hater. I knew enough about Steve Perry, CNN’s education expert, to guess he’d be unequivocally PRO merit pay and I knew enough about cable news to figure they wanted me as the ANTI. I wonder if she read the headline on this op-ed but not the second sentence, where I say, “Teachers ought to be subject to some form of merit pay; it has always seemed silly to me that they are compensated mainly for the number of years they stick around.” I had already told my parents I was about to be on TV and had changed my clothes, so I explained to the producer what would be some differences between our points of view. Because if you don’t have sharp differences, you don’t have cable news.

So I went to the studio, and after the makeup artist penciled a half-inch onto the ends of my eyebrows, I sat down in front of the camera and prepared to be talked over. I thought CNN did a good job in a short time presenting contradictory research and suggesting there might be some subtleties involved, but I cannot say the same for Steve Perry. The teaser for the segment suggested Perry thought kids were unprepared for college because there is not … merit pay. WOW. Awesome rhetoric! Right up there with Perry’s use of the word “communist”! I would have to see the clip to remember what exactly I said, and I know better than to watch myself on TV. The main thing I remember is that Perry—a get-tough principal who CNN put on (paid, I believe) retainer as their education expert after getting great response to a piece they ran on him—actually suggested that schools had been paying teachers based on touchy-feely measures.

DUDE, YOU WORK IN A SCHOOL. YOU KNOW THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. He also conflated merit pay with incentive pay to work in hard-to-staff areas. Of course, I had no way to correct him on air. Because, as my mother IM’d me, I “looked gorgeous and upset, but those [bleep]holes never let you talk.”