‘ROUNDING THE GLOBE”: Critical analysis of Boston Globe education coverage
‘Just places to play’
Two related stories appeared in the Globe today that deserve close examination.
Reporter James Vaznis was once again assigned the task of carrying the banner for the state’s latest education reform idea (thereby saving the DOE public relations office time and effort).
Vaznis’s Page One story about the latest educational madness was headlined, “Asking more of preschool,” and went on to report that the Department of Early Education and Care may require pre-school teachers to have Bachelor degrees so that pre-school can become more academically rigorous.
In his lead, Vaznis constructs a timeless monument to unexamined assumptions.
Here is the lead:
“Once considered just places to play, preschools now sandwich science and math lessons in between naps and recess. To help teachers meet the new academic rigor and to reduce socioeconomic achievement gaps that start before kindergarten, the state wants more teachers to earn bachelor’s degrees.” (Italics mine)
Just places to play.
Two graphs below, we are informed that more highly educated teachers who know “how a child’s brain develops” may be able to fashion a remedy that will help poor kids catch up. He cites unnamed educational specialists for this possibility.
Here is how Mr. Vaznis might have written his lead had he been better informed:
“Despite studies by educational experts about the importance of play in a child’s development, the Department of Early Education and Care may require preschools to sandwich more science and math lessons in between naps and recess in an attempt to reduce socioeconomic achievement gaps that start before kindergarten. A first step being considered involves mandating pre-school teachers to earn bachelor degrees.”
But on what authority might Mr. Vaznis have written such a lead? Well, on the very same day that his story was printed, a press release was sent out about a new book, co-authored by eminent educator Deborah Meier, that makes the educational case for the important benefits for kids of play in free, unstructured environments. The book is called: Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground.
Anyone concerned about child (and brain) development will surely be familiar with the vast literature about the importance of kids having “just a place to play.” Let me guess what kind of pre-school ambience Globe reporters would prefer for their own children?
(Sorry, but before I forget, I have one additional question for James Vaznis. Why, in his recent reportage about the “Amazing Teacher” website though which the City of Boston hopes to recruit teachers for its underperforming turn-around schools, did Mr. Vaznis merely identify the funder of the site as “a private foundation.” Mr. Vaznis, please, what foundation? Name names. Does this foundation work closely with the Globe and the state in advocating for Charter schools?)
A related story appeared on Metro Page One with June Wu reporting that 3rd grade reading scores have remained stagnant, the socioeconomic achievement gap has remained wide, and that half of 3rd graders are reading at less than proficient levels.
Ms. Wu details a Harvard report that takes current reading programs to task for these poor results.
Question: Could Ms. Wu have found someone-perhaps even a professor at Harvard-who might have suggested that the problem was less the reading programs than the socioeconomic gap itself?
The tale of an increasingly unequal society, with all the drab statistics and depressing costs pertaining thereto, is apparently far less compelling that simply herding all those incompetent, uncaring teachers together in the public square for their daily drubbing by Globe columnists. We all prefer someone to blame who isn’t us.
The most important thing, it seems, is that all the well-heeled elites who people our powerful institutions-in the media and industry-not feel guilty about the current state of affairs. After all, are they not crusading for poor kids to obtain a better education, albeit the kind of teaching and learning they resolutely reject for their own children?
Finally, these two question for the Globe. Do you merely ask your reporters to turn state press releases into stories? Or do you encourage your reporters to being to their story assignments a healthy degree of curiosity and skepticism?