Education Correspondent John Merrow Signs Off From the ‘PBS NewsHour’

By Mark Walsh — October 16, 2015 2 min read
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Longtime education correspondent John Merrow signed off from public television Thursday with a conversation on the “PBS NewsHour” with anchor Judy Woodruff.

“It’s an amazing journey, John Merrow,” Woodruff told him. “You have done so many extraordinary reports for the NewsHour.”

“There have been so many milestones along the way,” said Merrow, citing the passage of the first federal education law in 1975, the school reform movement that began with 1983’s “A Nation at Risk” report, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as three running stories.

Merrow, 74, retired this past summer from his Learning Matters production company after smoothing the transition for Education Week to take it over. The unit is now known as Education Week Video, and this week a joint partnership was announced with the “NewsHour” to continue providing education reports to the PBS show.

“Although John is retiring, the ‘NewsHour’'s coverage of education issues continues, of course,” anchor Hari Sreenivasan said on Thursday’s show. “John’s colleagues at Learning Matters have joined Education Week and will bring regular reports from the nation’s classrooms and communities on important issues from kindergarten up through higher education.”

Merrow told Woodruff about some of his most memorable stories over the years, such as following five first-year teachers for a whole year for a 2000 ‘NewsHour’ report, and in-depth coverage of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“What should the focus be for the future?” Woodruff asked him. “I mean, as you go off to do other projects, what should parents, what should the priority be now?”

“I think there are two terms that are floating around,” Merrow said. “One is called blended learning, which is excellent teachers using technology. And the other is what they call deeper learning, which is really digging deeply into things.”

“Today’s kids are growing up in a sea of 24/7,” he said. “But it’s information, not knowledge. So, schools need to be teaching kids how to ask questions. How do you figure out what’s true? Instead, too many of our schools get kids regurgitating. So what we have to do is get away from regurgitation. It’s Aristotle. We are what we repeatedly do.

“If we repeatedly fill in bubbles, that is not much of a preparation for the future,” Merrow concluded. “Kids need to be taught not to be cynical, but to be skeptical, to look for evidence. They need to be taught to be good journalists.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.