Blog: The Educated Reporter

More on ‘Bully,’ a ‘Hungry Heart’ for Higher Ed, and a School Board Sit-In

If you haven’t yet seen “Bully,” you might want to first read Slate’s Emily Bazelon and find out what producers chose not to share with audiences when it came to the background of one of the documentary’s central figures.

In the film, the parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long blame his suicide entirely on bullying. However, Bazelon reports that Tyler had Asperger’s, and was also being treated for bipolar disorder — both of which have been linked to a higher rate of suicide.

Bazelon makes the case that by withholding those important details about the teen’s history, audiences were led to believe that intense bullying alone led to his taking his own life.

The film “is supposed to be a teaching tool, yet it offers some serious misimpressions about the connection between bullying and suicide, misimpressions that could have real effects on young viewers,” Bazelon concludes.

University of Virginia Prof. Mark Edmundson makes a compelling case in the New York Times for a “hungry heart” when it comes to deciding who will best benefit from a college education.

Edmundson, who has been teaching for 35 years, writes: ” The best students and the ones who get the most out of their educations are the ones who come to school with the most energy to learn. And — here’s an important corollary — those students are not always the most intellectually gifted.”

This is an editorial that I expect will stir up some important conversations about the inherent value of knowledge, beyond the tradeoff for a potentially bigger paycheck.

I have to admit, I don’t often miss covering school board meetings. However, there are times when I’m reminded that for many communities, school boards represent the most direct means of allowing the public to voice its views on educational issues. You would also be hard pressed to find a more passionate audience than a board room full of parents who have just been told their child’s school is going to close.

That’s what played out in Oakland, Calif. late last week when the board announced it would close five elementary schools. Protestors refused to leave the building, and they were eventually arrested. Oakland Tribune education reporter Katy Murphy summed up the scene nicely in her blog, noting that board trustee Alice Spearman, “who serves up at least two colorful quotes and/or insults per meeting,” was nonplussed by the protestors.

Spearman is quoted as issuing this pronouncement: “I want to say to these revolutionaries who want to camp out: I hope you’ve got your tent. I hope you do. Walk your talk.”


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