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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.