My Post On Huffington Post – NBC’s Education Nation and the ‘In-Depth Education Discussion’

I’m posting my Huffington Post blog here since they said I could! : )

As a teacher with 30 years experience teaching in both private and public schools I really want to commend NBC News, Brian Williams and all the reporters that worked on their stellar Education Nation broadcast. They billed it as an “…in-depth conversation about improving education in America,” and truly it was just one informative segment after another.

NBC News’s staff obviously spent some time researching the real issues effecting America’s schools and then went about assembling panels of experts on all sides of each issue so that the public could become well informed about the complexities involved. This allowed viewers to benefit from the best minds and thinking about how to deal with these issues to improve education for all children. They made sure to include teachers, some award winning, that actually work with children and have firsthand experience with the subjects being discussed in almost every panel. Administrators, parents and students rounded out most of the panels that also included politicians, billionaires, business leaders, and others that had actual expertise in education.

For example, they astutely identified teacher tenure as an issue that has been bandied around for decades. So NBC brought in experts on the issue to speak about the history of tenure, how and why it was originally included in teacher contracts, is it really the problem it is purported to be, why it still exists, its downsides and upsides. Next the experts debated about ending tenure, or modifying it, or leaving it alone. I thought one of the panelists I usually don’t agree with made a great point about ending tenure I had never considered.

Another well rounded panel of experts explained and then discussed, “in depth,” the subject of charter schools. We again were regaled with a sometimes raucous, spirited dialogue about the benefits, shortcomings and statistics around charters (I forget who the NBC moderator was, but a couple of times I thought they might have to separate two of the panelists when they became rather heated during the “debate”).

If you didn’t catch any or much of Education Nation you should note that you missed similar “in depth” discussions about poverty, healthcare, teacher quality, pedagogy, testing and more.

Um… OK… I stretched the truth some here. What I described above is what America deserved to have NBC News deliver, but is absolutely NOT what actually happened. We did not actually get any depth at all. What we mainly got was apparently what the sponsors paid for. We got the “Teacher Townhall” or “Let’s-throw-teachers-a-bone-so-they-will-think-we-really-included-them-and-honored-their-expertise-and-knowledge-about-education.” As opposed to the “in-depth” treatment we were promised. The Teacher Townhall was just what many feared, a much less than in-depth circus. To be fair, it had some good points too.
Teachers and other actual educators were almost completely absent from nearly every “In-depth” discussion — as were parents and students. And note the townhall was broadcast at noon on a Sunday during football season and the end of the baseball season when teams are vying for playoff spots! I wonder if NBC News really honors teachers like they said, that maybe a primetime slot could have been worked out on NBC… and a different more in-depth format?

Additionally Brian Williams and staff cherry picked comments that supported their narrative for the week from the Townhall and reported them during the network news (I’m not an expert on education — but I tried to serve as questioner and host to the best of my ability,” Brian stated on his blog later.)

Note too that many concerned educators, parents and students contacted NBC for weeks in advance of the summit, after noting the line up of “experts,” and made it clear that no teachers, parents or students were included, and that almost all the “experts” had well established and similar opinions and attitudes about education – not a group that would produce an “In depth” discussion. Most had little to no actual experience teaching or working in schools – but did have money and / or power, or a movie to promote.

Assuming that NBC News was just naïve, many sent suggestions of other guests and topics that might lead to something closer to what I first described above. Those that made suggestions were repeatedly told that they were being listened to, changes were being made, and that teachers, parents and students would truly have an equal or strong voice. That somehow never came to be.

NBC News purported that they were sponsoring a meaningful debate — they did not succeed in any way. I get the sense from Brian Williams’ quote above that NBC bought a, “pig-in-a-poke” from well financed corporations, and politicians and really didn’t realize that the education debate is not as simple as the Billionaire Boys Club would have them believe. Mr. Williams’ ended his blog post saying, “Let’s do it again next year.” Please don’t if you are not going to learn from the narrow, almost insulting approach you took this year. Education is too important an issue to not do right by. Let’s have the quality discussion. Let’s help make a real difference in our children’s lives.

Learning is messy!

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6 thoughts on “My Post On Huffington Post – NBC’s Education Nation and the ‘In-Depth Education Discussion’

  1. I think your beating a dead horse. Politicians just use education as a means of filling their pockets and fulfilling their political agendas. Take for instance the No Child Left Behind Act, in grades as low as the 3rd, students are preparing for these standardized tests that determine a school’s funding and teachers are even getting bonuses based on these tests. The bush administration looked good in the media bolstering higher test scores and teacher’s got paid. The system is setup so the investment is in poor education, with a regiment like that, how can education improve?

    In the Kansas city school district for example, the terms for superintendents are so short they brush into office, create policies to make themselves a quick buck and then leave the school district in a mess. On the local level there’s no accountability, we need longer office terms and accountability brought back to education. Your right the problem is very complex, and I’d never leave it up to politicians, the government or the media to provide a solution. The solution starts at home by the parents educating themselves on their best options in poor school districts, charter schools, private schools, whatever best for them, and it’s up to the parents to supplement and challenge their child’s education beyond that.

  2. I just wished people nowadays would stick to what they say. What you said above was just absolutely great! I cannot believe they did not include the teachers, parents or students in their so called “In-depth” discussion. I just hope the meeting did not go to waste. You are a true educator for wanting to challenge students beyond their norm.

  3. Thanks! No rants tonite. Too much lunacy in LAUSD for me to keep up. Would you consider allowing to add a link to your site? Maybe you can write an article for Lenny too. You are clearly more cogent and in control than I am. What can I say? Between Beat Nicks, Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson I lost my way.
    Please let us know of other great blogs and check out ours–we should try to get more teachers to visit and use the resources available on them.
    BTW Jo Scott-Coe’s book Teachers at Point Blank is quite entertaining and enlightening, Godspeed.