Jake, in response to my Spitting Venom post, wrote:
Regarding criticism in general, I’m sure you will agree that understanding the faults of a system is important to improving it. I would hope that you would welcome such criticism and respond to it with reasoned analysis of why it is wrong or how legitimate problems can be addressed.
In a way, your post could be seen as an example of the very practice you are criticizing. You denigrate what Shuford has to say, but you offer no advice for him to improve his advocacy aside from implying that he should change his mind to believe what you do.
Point well taken, Jake….I was definitely spitting my own venom the other day.
I’ve actually written on school choice–Shuford’s main target–a few times in the last several months. In fact, last night I was shooting the breeze with a friend of mine—Dr. Parry Graham—-who I generally think is brilliant. He’d read my Boortz on Choice post and sparked my thinking by comparing school choice to America’s struggles with health care.
"Health care and education are both essential services that people have to have," he said. "And yet we’re comfortable allowing 50 million Americans to live without the basic medical attention that they need. Are we comfortable with seeing the same trends in schooling? Because that’s what we’ll end up with if we switched to a school choice model and abandoned public schools completely."
I actually like Graham’s comparison between health care and education because it demonstrates America’s apparent comfort level with drastic differences between the lives of the rich and the poor in our country. That comfort allows school choice advocates to argue that little harm will be done in a system where "neighborhoods" have control. Is there really any doubt that the schools serving wealthy children will be better staffed or supplied than those serving the poor?
I’ve also written about teacher quality—another one of Shuford’s concerns—wondering if we have the kind of profession that can successfully attract and retain accomplished teachers and whether or not teachers are assertive enough to own their own profession. I’ve looked at the challenges that NBCTs face in trying to serve as school leaders and the logical ways to hold teachers accountable for their performance.
The intent of my Spitting Venom post, however, wasn’t to debate the merits of school choice. Instead, it was to call attention to how the "battle" over education is increasingly being fought. Critics pull out propaganda tricks in order to try to bury the public in half-truths. Demonizing schools and teachers is often their only move. Consider these quotes from Shuford:
Today’s college-of-education apple has not fallen far from that training-service-for-cooks-and-house-maids tree.
Limited academic talent of too many educators.
Politicians secure the political support of teacher-training institutions, educators of limited ability and their unions by making sure that parents/families — unless they have means or are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices — have no options.
This is the perfect structure for “inadequately educating” children, enfeebling families and weakening neighborhoods and communities.
The name calling, character assassinations over generalizations and doomsday thinking found in this one short piece (and, admittedly, in my response) are part of a repeating pattern playing out on hundreds of radio dials and in hundreds of newspapers every day. It is that open animosity—often packaged as "understanding the faults of a system"—that I’ve grown tired of.