Time to Quit Education Blogging! We’re Useless!


Yipes. I had no idea how irrelevant we all were. I guess there’s always the patronizing suggestion that we do some good, noble work locally or in a tiny niche – which is the equivalent of sitting the Kids’ Table at Thanksgiving.

Richard Whitmire is guestblogging over at Eduwonk:

“… where the important education reform issues of the decade get debated. I maintain, however, that these debates would be greatly diminished absent indirect contributions from the thousands of sentinels out there expending shoe leather at local schools and school board meetings. Those would be our members at EWA.”

That’s the National Education Writers Association. Take a few minutes to browse their website – what they do, some of the EWA member stories, some of their events for members. Drop your jaw in awe after about 45 seconds [I've got to instruct you because it won't happen naturally].

Whitmire gives a few nods: Jeff Solochek’s Gradebook team in Florida [I say this because Ron Matus pumps out just as much good stuff], Scott Elliott in Ohio and Cathy Grimes in Virginia. I don’t know much about Cathy Grimes’ work in the Newport News area, but I’m well familiar with the other two papers, both of which do a solid job covering their state/local education scenes.

Elliott says:

“Richard has some kind words for Get on the Bus in the course of arguing that education coverage needs traditional media sources because free-standing education blogs could not provide the depth of coverage necessary for quality commentary on the issues without relying on traditional journalism.”

Eeep. No depth, lack of quality commentary. Touche, Elliott.

But it’s partly right – the education blogosphere, like pretty much all the blog sectors, depends on traditional journalism for their material. Why? Because it’s efficient – it’s there and ripe for the picking – not because we aren’t capable of doing it ourselves.

Think of it this way: EWA writers grind the flour [and apparently see themselves as soldier-sentinels with a penchant for gumshoe lore and professional martyrdom, admittedly odd pairings for flour-grinders but perfectly appropriate for writing about teachers] while more knowledgeable folks bake with it.

And, yes, I said it – more knowledgeable. The biggest problem in education writing is the biggest problem in education. It isn’t the budget, it’s the lack of practitioner knowledge.

The irony here is that the dismal state of education writing is evidenced by the lack of depth in education stories. Most education writers – yes, even some of the darlings at the EWA! – haven’t a clue about the curricula they write about. If you want surface-only, uncritical, simplistic coverage, pick up a newspaper and flip around until you find the education stories.

Now that I’m thinking of it, how would your local education reporter fare in the Third World Challenge? And would he/she report his results candidly in the local paper?

It’s the unique depth that I appreciate from the blogosphere – and it’s that depth I don’t get from the bulk of the education media. The content in the education blogosphere simply has more relevance both nationally and on your block than the weekly updates on bus fuel prices and lawsuits/bickering amongst school officials.

Solochek says:

“Could bloggers take up the slack as papers cut education reporters? Not unless the bloggers are education reporters themselves.”

I want to understand that line better than I do right now – I’ve got to be missing something – so if anyone, including Mr. Solochek, can elaborate,  it’s most welcome. He goes on:

“But more mainstream readers like the ones we write for want to know about the local schools and the state’s policy directives, and these reports don’t just materialize out of thin air. That’s what we as education reporters provide, and blog about.”

I’m a little puzzled. Help me understand?

UPDATE: 08.20.08, 6:23pm:

Still waiting… will anyone address this? If there’s something I don’t understand here, lay it out for me.

5 Responses to “Time to Quit Education Blogging! We’re Useless!”

  1. > If you want surface-only, uncritical, simplistic coverage, pick up a newspaper and flip around until you find the education stories.

    I actually agree with this. Education is just one of the topic areas the traditional media covers very poorly, focusing on the trivial and superficial while at the same time fostering an unrealistic ‘magic pill’ approach to policy and methodology.

  2. Attorney DC says:

    I agree with Stephen Downes’ comment above. Education is often covered not very well by the regular media, in my opinion.

    For instance, headlines in the Washington Post recently trumpted the success of Maryland in decreases the number of schools on the NCLB failing schools list. However, after reading the article, it turns out that while about 35 schools came off the failing list, about 28 new schools were added to it. The overall drop is “failing schools” was only on the magnitude of about 3% across the state. Is such a drop even statistically significant? Yet the Post headlines made it sound like huge strides were being made in student achievement across Maryland.

    And this doesn’t even get into the problems with comparing student performance of this year’s students to last year’s students. Apparently, Maryland adopted a new version of its test this year, so that it is possible that some of students who passed this year may not have passed the same test last year.

    Just goes to show: Main stream education reporters are not necessarily providing an objective and well-rounded picture of the state of education in America today.

  3. Stephen,

    The stories are largely useless to anyone involved in education, and tend to mislead those with a casual interest. These papers do a pretty good job covering the ins and outs of their local district, though.

    I think that the media’s lack of knowledge about the subjects they’re trying to cover is a high hurdle for them. I’m still waiting on a candid article about how an education reporter fared on the Third World Challenge.

  4. Attorney DC,

    We’ve got two real problems:

    1. Very little knowledge, which I’ve mentioned several times above;

    2. Very little available data/information. School districts and city/state ed depts. are notoriously rotten at keeping data themselves, let alone giving it out freely.

    So, we’ve got a situation where media write about things on which they have only a tenuous grasp [I'm speaking generally here], and about which they have little hard information. That’s a recipe for the type of muddy, meaningless journalism you described in the Washington Post’s article about Maryland schools.

  5. They will never release their data, 1. because it may convert into something bad for the school, or 2. no maybe just one, there are always skeletons in the closet and public schools have pretty big closets!


  1. Your Blog is a balancing Act | Searching Solutions - [...] Time to Quit Education Blogging! We’re Useless! [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>