Opinion
Education Opinion

How to Mold Public Opinion Against Public Schools

By Walt Gardner — August 03, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Two of the most effective tools of propagandists are to tell a big lie so often that it is accepted as undeniable truth, and to create a scapegoat for the anger and frustration that the public feels. An op-ed by Ted Nugent published on Jul. 29 in the Washington Times is a page torn from the textbook used in Propaganda 101 (“NEA - master of disaster”).

Nugent starts out by declaring that public schools in America are a “complete and total disaster.” As a writer, I take great pains in the choice of my words. I assumed that other writers who are published in newspapers and magazines would do the same. Obviously, Nugent does not. The truth is that public schools in this country range in quality from excellent to execrable. Nugent, however, places all of them in the latter group. Let’s see why he is wrong.

The results of the Program for International Student Assessment showed that our students actually placed No. 1 when they were compared with students at schools abroad having similar poverty rates. To wit: schools in the U.S. with less than a 10 percent poverty rate posted a score of 551. Finland, which is widely acknowledged to have the world’s best schools, came in No. 2 at 536. Even when the poverty rate was as high as 24.9 percent, the U.S. held its top-rated position with a score of 527.

If this evidence were not enough, Nugent conveniently overlooks Newsweek’s annual list of “America’s Best High Schools.” It identified 1,600 schools based on the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school each year divided by the number of graduating seniors. Admittedly, 1,600 high schools is a fraction of the 25,000 public high schools in the country. But it hardly warrants omission, thereby impugning Nugent’s claim of “total and complete disaster.”

Nugent then sets up the National Education Association as the scapegoat for the failures of American schools. He says that the NEA “couldn’t give a damn about children, and the test scores prove it.” Once again, the truth is different. As I wrote on Aug. 1 (“Teacher Tenure Must Be Earned”), union members overwhelmingly support the removal of ineffective teachers from the classroom regardless of seniority because they know how harmful such teachers are to student learning. A survey by the National Center for Education Information found that this belief was held by nearly all teachers, whether certified through traditional or alternative routes.

I have great respect for education commentators whose views differ from mine as long as they provide data to support their beliefs. As one wag put it: In God we trust; all others bring evidence.” Nugent clearly does not fall into either category.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP