Thursday, August 13, 2015

What if the media treated teachers like football players?

It's not hard these days to wake up and wonder if I'm living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Whether it's women's health or voting rights or climate change deniers or Donald Trump or those pesky education 'reformers', life these days feels a lot like that episode, Stopover in a Quiet Town, where the couple is stranded in a strange town only to find out that they are really only dolls in a child's model train set.

Today's surreal moment comes once again courtesy of The Star Ledger. Jersey Jazzman, Ani McHugh (aka TeacherBiz) and I have taken NJ's largest newspaper to task over their shoddy and inept coverage of all things public education more times than I can count. For a definitive accounting of how the Ledger has cow-towed to the education 'reform' movement, check out this piece co-authored by the three of us. If you want more info, just Google any of our names with the Star Ledger and/or Tom Moran and you'll find all our postings.

They are but a sample of the larger, complicit silence of mainstream media on all things education 'reform'. If it weren't for the plethora of education bloggers led by Diane Ravitch, the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss and others, and the parent/educator-led grass roots movements that have sprung up as a result of their publishing the facts, American public education would have been dead and buried long ago.

"So Marie, what is it this time?", you ask. 

Well... As anyone who even tangentially follows politics knows, on August 2nd, Gov. Christie announced on CNN that he wanted to punch teachers in the face because, to him, we are the Devil incarnate. I wrote about it here including a link to the video.

One would think that a sitting governor with a penchant for crude and debasing remarks about women—especially teachers—saying he wants to punch three minority women in the face (NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Latina, and Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss, African Americans) and calling the nation's largest teachers union "the single most destructive force in public education in America" would garner some attention from the largest newspaper in said governor's state the next day. But no. This is what we got:

It wasn't until August 4th, two days later, that the Ledger ran a piece buried on page 4: 

Sorry about the poor quality, but trust me, the story on the right is about the video.

FYI... this was the front page that day:

Not even an editorial.

Then, whilst enjoying my cup of coffee (decaf, thank you very much) yesterday morning, I removed my Star Ledger from its protective yellow bag, (yes, I still subscribe if only as an investigative reporter and to see what Charlie Brown is up to) I opened it up, and was greeted with this:

And this:

And this...

Oh, and this, too...

Four pages devoted to some knuckleheaded player who sucker punched the Jets starting quarterback and broke his jaw. Four pages devoted to a game that has absolutely no bearing on the future of this state or this nation. Four pages of coverage of something that will not affect the rights of any child in this nation to receive a thorough and efficient education. Four pages of coverage—including fan tweets—of an incident that will not affect the future of the citizens of this state (except those in a fantasy football league). Four pages of coverage of the male equivalent of some "Real Housewives of (fill in the blank)" episode.

Where were the four pages of coverage of Gov. Christie's personal war on women? Where were the four pages of reporting on the responses from the teachers unions? Where was the reporting on all the tweets that education professionals across the nation posted about it? 

This is all we got—until that article on page 4 two days after the incident.

And to make matters worse, the press is all a-gog because New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is getting a slap on the wrist for cheating in the Super Bowl. Thank goodness, America is saved! Tom Brady will play again! But where was the thoughtful analysis and reflection when eleven Atlanta teachers involved in a test cheating scandal were tried and convicted on racketeering charges with many serving jail time? To be clear: what those teachers did was flat-out wrong. They cheated and must suffer the consequences. But, so did Tom Brady. But while many of those teachers will serve jail time, lose their careers and their reputations, Brady gets to keep his Super Bowl ring, not wash his uniform for a couple of weeks, and still collect a gazillion dollar paycheck (minus a few bucks for his suspension). And if he wins another Super Bowl this year, he can clean up his tarnished reputation with little more than a lint roller.


Some cheaters are less guilty than others.

Again, I'm not saying that the Atlanta teachers deserve to be let off the hook. I'm saying that by giving the antics of wealthy football players behaving badly pages and pages of coverage and hours and hours of air time, while virtually ignoring all of the facts surrounding education 'reform', mainstream media is complicit in the brainwashing of much of America into believing that middle class teachers and public education are the root of all evil in this country. 

I mean, c'mon, The New York Times ran an article about the sketch artist—the sketch artist!—issuing an online apology over his sketchy (sorry) depiction of Tom Brady in the courtroom! A sitting governor wants to put out a contract on teachers, and football players doing dumb stuff gets more press coverage? Really?!

I've often said that we are turning into this:

From the movie, "Wall-e"

Can anyone or anything save us? The press can play a huge role in turning the tide of public opinion about public education and educators—if they make a conscious decision to report fairly and accurately. But I'm not holding my breath. 

Thank God for bloggers.