Opinion
Federal Opinion

Obama and The Annenberg Challenge -- Is EdWeek Reaching?

By Alexander Russo — March 07, 2007 1 min read

There’s lots of interesting stuff in David Hoff’s EdWeek profile of Barack Obama and his education background (Obama’s Annenberg Stint Informs White House Bid), but the Obama-Annnenberg connection seems like a reach.

UPDATED SEE BELOWFirst and foremost is the notion that Obama “led” the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in any meaningful way. “As a private citizen, he led Chicago’s portion of the Annenberg Challenge school reform initiative financed by the late philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg—an experience that shaped Mr. Obama’s perspective on the critical importance of principals and teachers.”

If he did, it’s news to me and a lot of folks in Chicago. I wrote a long report about the CAC in 2001 (From Frontline Leader to Rearguard Action PDF) that failed to unearth Obama’s name as anyone of any influence -- and never came across his name in an education context in the following six years during which I wrote a book about school reform in Chicago. Obama gets barely a mention in the Chicago Catalyst magazine, which goes back further and deeper than I do.

I don’t mind Hoff and EdWeek delving into Obama’s education history, and he’s clear in other places that Obama’s involvement in education is thin, but the Annenberg angle seems like a reach and I’m surprised none of the folks Hoff talked to told him so.

UPDATE: A couple of folks have pointed out that the claims about Obama’s involvement in the Annenberg Challenge are from Obama’s book and staff as much as from the article, and that they are not new. I’m also told that there is a somewhat parallel dispute about how much Obama actually led the way as a community organizer working on asbestos issues in Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens housing project.

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