Media Watch: Back To The Land Of Kozol

Today's NYT piece on the role of non-school factors in children's education (It Takes More Than Schools) lingers for a disturbingly long time -- basically the whole article -- in what I'll call the Land of Kozol (even though it's Rothstein and Jennings who get mentioned).

Reporter Diana Jean Schemo seems to be returning to the age-old question of poverty and housing, and introduces some interesting research, but she seems to be forgetting -- and omitting -- what has happened when educators think (as many still do) that nothing can or needs to be done to ensure that low-income students succeed in school. This would have been a fine place for a quote on the other side of the issue -- Piche, Haycock, or any other number of others.

UPDATE: Joe Williams takes this one step further, penning a song about the Times article. Julie at School of blog weighs in that no one should over-react here.

UPDATE 2: Several folks have asked if Schemo is the new education columnist, and I don't know but will ask. In the meantime, check out the detailed comment #3 here from someone who I'm guessing is a journalist.

UPDATE 3: EdWize says he's uncomfortable with Schemo's argument.

UPDATE 4: Schemo says her editor asked her to fill in, she's not the new Winerip.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article also begs the question why do high performing schools in inner cities tend to have longer school days and school years. Is it merely more instruction that leads to better academic performance, or is it also less time in poor home and neighborhood environments. No one wants to talk openly about this, but if home, family and peers are part of the problem, perhaps part of the answer is limiting kids contact with their uneducated parents and violent peers, and increasing their exposure to educated adults (e.g. teachers) in structured environments (e.g. schools). Of course, investing in longer school days and years is a hard sell given tight budgets and teacher contracts.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

thanks for your comment. that's an intensely controversial idea, but perhaps one that needs more discussion.

i know that some places have gone so far as to try and create residential "boarding school" programs for at-risk kids, but i don't know about their success.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what bugged me more than her sympathy toward the Kozol viewpoint and the lack of balance in the quotes? Her labeling.

Again, she calls Jennings & Co. "non-partisan."

And how about this line, talking about Coleman:

"Conservatives used them to say that the quality of schools did not matter, so why bother offering more than the bare necessities? Others, including some educators, used them essentially to write off children who were harder to educate."

Huh? I'd say very few people -- liberals, conservatives, whatever -- would argue that quality schools don't matter, but she just says "conservatives" argue this, as if they all do or it's a generally accepted conservative plank.

Meanwhile, the nebulous "others" (seems she couldn't bring herself to say "liberals"), including "some educators" (who??) wrote children off?

Then she does something that drives me nuts -- pulls one test (which she doesn't even name) and makes it sounds like its results are widely generalizeable.

We did great in reading in 2001 vs. the rest of the world, she says. How about math that year? And what about the scores from any year since?

And finally this:

"A $100 million school voucher bill sponsored by Republicans gives vouchers a prominent place in next year’s debate over renewing No Child Left Behind. But other voices are likely to call for a sense of responsibility for improving children’s academic success that does not begin and end at the schoolhouse door."

Here she calls out Republicans and hints that their support of vouchers make them the bad guys by contrasting them to the faceless "other voices" (Democrats? The Green Party?) who will call for a sensible approach.

I know this is a column, so some leeway is allowed to make an argument. But Jeez! She's not a columnist and still has to cover this stuff as straight news day-to-day.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Lori Jablonski said...

I for one welcomed the Schemo piece as a respite from the usual blather of high expectations and no excuses. The idea that the column might lack balance is something a distraction. As far as the early responses go, Julie at School of Blog makes a whole lot of sense.

Just to clear up any misgivings about my position let me offer the following: I teach in a high poverty urban high school. I believe that we can and must do better by our students. I believe in high standards for students, teachers, administrators and all the rest. I believe all my students can learn. I believe in accountability for all of us working in our public schools...(I'll stop now...a bit obnoxious I know; I just didn't want to get dismissed as living in some sort of fantastical "Land of Kozol").

No one has ever been able to answer for me why insisting on excellent, well-supported, accountable teachers and school AND focused anti-poverty efforts in our communities are mutually exclusive goals. Yes, yes, yes we must improve teaching and schools and accountability...but we also must believe that responsible governance and an active and engaged citizenry can work to improve the lives of our poor kids and their families beyond the school house door. We really can talk about and embrace both goals..that is if we still have faith in our representative form of government and the idea of a precious public trust we are all responsible for protecting.

Very simply, when we refuse to recognize and talk bluntly about the impacts of poverty and all its associated manifestations on what we do and what our students bring into the classroom we are actually letting our elected leaders, even more all of us as citizens, off the hook. It cheapens our discourse, makes us lazy and complacent, gives openings to those with more narrow, self-serving agendas, and only serves to further erode any sense of public responsibility and accountability.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Alexander Russo said...

thanks for your eloquent comment, lori -- you won't find me dismissing the call for balance, and i'm certainly not against antipoverty programs.

9:02 PM  

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