Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The News We Deserve

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the news lately: major newspapers and online news sources have eliminated the Education news section from their papers. As a teacher I have relied on Education news in my favorite news sources to keep me up to date on education legislation that is being considered or voted into law, as well as trends in other states. As a citizen I have relied on Education news to let me know how well No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is working (or not working) to ensure that the next generation of Americans is well equipped to take care of the country when I enter my golden years.

When my favorite online news source redesigned its website and dropped the Education news category from its front page, I went hunting through the website to find any education news and was disappointed. Then I kept getting these pop-up windows asking me to give them feedback on their new site, so I did. I told them that I would find another online news source if they didn’t put the Education section back up. Not only did they not put it back up, they never acknowledged my feedback.

I went looking elsewhere for a favorite online news source, and that’s when I discovered the disturbing trend: NONE of the major online news websites have an Education news section anymore. Well, there was one that did, but I had to go deeper and deeper into it to find it, so it might as well have not been there at all (the average web surfer will give up three layers into a website if they do not find what they are looking for).

What does this mean in the big picture? I’m afraid that it means that Average American is tired of reading or hearing about how poorly NCLB is doing, and is also tired of reading or hearing how poorly our students are doing as compared to students of other industrialized nations. The sad truth is that our students still lag far behind other countries in math, science, social studies, and language arts test scores; and this is after nearly eight years of NCLB.

Again it appears (to me) that we are not asking the right questions. While trying to get our students’ math, science, social studies and language arts scores to go up, we’ve narrowed our focus to those four subjects. In the countries where the scores are high the educational focus is broad, with more emphasis on the arts and foreign languages (much like what we in this country once called a “classical education”). It appears that getting math, science, social studies and language arts scores to go up requires a more holistic approach to education (according to the most current brain research). (If you are interested in learning about why learning art or dance or music is essential to becoming expert in math and science, get one of my favorite books: “Arts With the Brain in Mind” by Eric Jensen.)

A further sad truth is that our collective response does not seem to be to try to solve the problem, or even to educate ourselves about it. When searching fruitlessly for education news online I made another startling discovery: where the Education category once existed there is now a category called Living (on my favorite news website) and additional Entertainment categories on that site and all the other news sites.

I fail to see why we need additional Entertainment categories when Brittney Spears and her travails are already considered headline breaking news (much to my dismay—I could live the rest of my life without ever knowing what her next debacle might be). No, we Americans would rather ignore the problem of the ever declining intelligence of our children so we can learn more about our favorite TV programs and their stars, and how long the Hollywood writers’ strike is going to last so we’ll know when we can expect to see the beginning of the next season of our favorite show.

Voltaire said that nations get the leaders they deserve. Well now it seems that we’re getting the news we deserve as well—drivel to satiate and titillate our diminishing collective intellect.

The good news for me as a teacher is that there are all manner of Education publications that I can get my hands on to find out what the state of education in America is. But that doesn’t make my mind rest easier, because the lack of education news in the mainstream news (in paper or online) suggests that people just don’t care to hear about how poorly we’re doing anymore, and that is disturbing to me. We all need to wake up before we become so dumbed-down that we can’t even understand the entertainment news anymore, and I’m afraid that day is not so far in the future if we continue the way we’re going.

1 comment:

Butterbean said...

Amen, Ceilon,
National media is dictated by the dollar - national newspapers and magazines are funded by the food, entertainment, pharmaceutical, etc. industries, so any potential threat to their profit is not allowed to be printed, or sponsors will extract their financial support. Newspapers and magazines have evolved into glorified marketing schemes with a few interesting articles between the ads just to keep us rapt. This is why we don't see any of the scientific breakthroughs that are occuring behind the scenes. For example, as revealed in the bonus material in the documentary, Fast Food Nation (Morgan Spurlock), daily physical education for kids in middle and high school raised their overall math and science scores - Spurlock's highlighted school outperformed China in both math and science scores (on an international scale) as a result of requiring kids to partake in daily phys ed. Also highlighted was an alternative school(in or near Appleton, WI) for kids who had been expelled from the public school system for bad behavior. The alternative school provided organic food for the kids, sometimes grown by the kids themselves, which resulted in not only drastically improving their behavior (which, relatively quickly, became better than the behavior of the kids who attend the public schools), but also significantly improving their grades.

This is the same reason why the insurance companies typically do not support the practices of natural medicine like chiropractic, holistic, orthomolecular, etc. It is more profitable to keep Americans sick than it is to promote the maintenance of good health.

I've decided to post this with some other comments on my own blog.

Thanks for the jumpstart, Ceilon!