We live in a time when it is perfectly acceptable to shape the news instead of simply report it. I know the realities of the time in which we live; talking heads and entire staffs of "think tanks" operating with an agenda. My problem is not with the media, the think tanks, or the "staff" editorials which seem to be all the rage in the information age, but with today's consumers of information. As consumers we have gotten so wrapped up in this "fast food" world of neatly packaged, instantaneous information we don't even recognize that our ability to decide for ourselves has been stolen from us - we don't even get to think about what we are being told because think tanks, talking heads, and editorial staffs are there to tell us how we should feel or what we should think. Here are some examples and my thoughts on some recent events in Oklahoma.
- Sexual Assault Protest at Norman - The Oklahoma media reported this story as if a Norman High School student was going around assaulting girls in the hallways and then his friends were harassing the girl for going to the police to report the crime. Never mind the incident happened during the summer and the school took every action allowed to them by law in removing the alleged rapist from attending school. The media formed the story to make it look like the school was turning a blind eye to the safety and security of female students instead of reporting the delay in prosecution within our legal system or the limits the law places on schools when these situations arrive.
- Superintendent elect Joy Hofmeister's education survey - The Daily Oklahoman editorial staff slams Hofmeister for seeking input on educational issues. This just shows how far education and teachers have fallen from grace in today's society. If you want to fix a bridge, shouldn't you seek input from bridge builders? If you want to design a better airplane, shouldn't you seek input from pilots, aerospace engineers, and people who travel on airplanes? If you want to improve education, you would think it would reasonable to talk to teachers, counselors, principals, parents, and STUDENTS. Apparently not. The DOK just trashed the effort based solely on the fact teachers were included in the survey. The DOK hates teachers and educators so much it tries to convince its readership the people who know education the best can't be trusted to be included in the planning of better education. If you wanted a legit criticism of the survey, it would be the limited number of student responses. In Oklahoma we have internet and computer labs in every school in the state; why didn't schools take 10 minutes out of the day to allow students an opportunity to respond? I'm guilty too. If Mrs. Hofmeister wants to open up her survey again, I think every student should get to answer it. I promise the students in my school will.
- The think tank OCPA decries the education spending policy in Oklahoma. OCPA, a conservative think tank, uses an effective infographic to convince its members of all the fraud and tax money waste going on in public schools. They use the Federal, state, and local average of dollars per pupil spent ($8494) to grossly exaggerate the money not being spent in the classroom. If you believe their example, students in Oklahoma must be taught in an open field without a building, heat, light, books, desks, chairs, paper, libraries, cafeteria, food, or a bus since the OCPA didn't calculate any money for these necessities. Because the OCPA uses Federal money, I hope none of the students in their example have a learning disability, is gifted, has any parents, needs to talk to a counselor, or wants to eat anything while they are at school. Because the OCPA uses state monies, the open field must have Wi-Fi so the kids can take state required exams on their personal computers because the OCPA didn't calculate any money for that. Not to mention the requirements for RSA Reading, Art, Physical Education, and Foreign Language. So if you believe the OCPA numbers to be accurate, we have a group of students who live close enough to a public park where they walk to school every day carrying their breakfast and lunch in a backpack with their laptop computer. Their classroom teacher is a Special Education teacher who is highly qualified in Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Physical Education, Gifted Education, and Art. Furthermore, the teacher must be the counselor, test coordinator, and be responsible for all the paperwork required of both the Feds and the State of Oklahoma.
To be fair, pro education organizations can be just as guilty. OEA zealously advocates for all teachers, even those who need to find another profession. The Huffington Post, CCOSA, OSSBA, OKpolicy.org, and others use information that is beneficial to them and their specific cause. However, most of the time these groups do not over sensationalize the story to try to sell you on a point of view. Do we need to improve education? Yes. Do we need to look at ways to eliminate waste in our schools? Yes. Should we reduce the number of schools in Oklahoma, increase the number of days taught, should we get more money into our classrooms, and do we need to look at the factors causing a teacher shortage in our great state? These are serious questions educational stakeholders will have to decide. Wouldn't it be in the best interest of the students if the consumers of education policy actually took the time to gather all the facts and decide for themselves? Our future depends upon it.