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Pedagogy Or Politics -- What Makes A “Real” Education Story?

By Alexander Russo — March 16, 2007 1 min read

A week after the fact, Richard Lee Colvin finally posts something about Reading First (here). Really getting into the blogging spirit, he mocks my (admitted) over-enthusiasm for the RF story and (mysteriously) my Beltway credentials, and then lectures us about whole language, the National Reading Panel, etc.

He cites the pros and cons of whole language, debunks the notion that RF is as prescriptive as some see it to be, and yet is delightfully polite in refusing to name Diana Jean Schemo, the NYT reporter who wrote the story he’s criticizing (below right).

Clearly, Colvin could have written this story much better than anyone.

Where I have real issue with Colvin, though, is this notion that Schemo’s story needed to be more about classroom instruction, to appeal to narrow reader interests (specifically to “parents of children learning to read”), and to be less about the politics of the situation.

Ideally, the story could have been about all these things, of course, and to be sure Schemo seems to have gotten some things wrong, but people read stories that don’t involve them directly all the time, and in this case the scandal and the politics are the story. Nobody would be reading it -- or assigning it -- without them. And that’s OK.

In my mind, at least, education reporters need to understand the non-instructional issues (power, politics, money, ideology) in order to have any chance of understanding what they’re observing in schools and classrooms and finding real avenues to change.

Previous posts: Colvin Joins The Blogosphere: A Hearty Welcome & Some Unsolicited Advice, Journalism Guru Richard Lee Colvin On The HotSeat, Education Writers: Who’s Who -- And Where Are They Now?

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