Saturday, December 24, 2005


Daily newspapers hold an honored place in American tradition as the principal forum for the public's conversation, but that seems to be changing. Americans today rate daily newspapers less "believable" than local and national television news, and a majority think newspaper reporters are out of touch with mainstream society.

This study, based on telephone surveys of education print reporters and analysis of 403 education-related articles published over eight months by four daily news publishers in Virginia, suggests the criticism may be warranted when it comes to daily newspaper coverage of elementary and secondary education.

Newspaper reporters unanimously agree that K-12 education is a complex issue, and nearly two-thirds (63%) say too little attention is paid to it. Most Americans would likely agree. Public education consistently ranks at or near the top of their domestic concerns, in part, because it is undergoing dynamic reform and innovation. Yet readers would have to look long and hard to find the larger education story in their daily newspapers:

Newspapers rely on the public school industry to set the education news agenda. Nearly two-thirds of journalists surveyed (63%) say the most common trigger for an education news story is "an announcement or press release by a federal, state, or local education agency." All journalists named federal and state Departments of Education, local public school boards and officials, teachers, and parents as sources used by their news organizations in the last six months. Half or fewer named public policy "think tanks" and independent research organizations as sources used during the same period (50% and 38%, respectively). Journalists cited the public school industry as their primary source of information on vouchers and tuition tax credits, despite that industry's open hostility to these innovations.

Newspapers' education news coverage is largely a conversation of, by, and for the public school industry. 65% of published articles related to topics of foremost interest to the public school industry, namely, public school funding, public school staffing, and public school wage and benefit proposals (261 of 403 articles).

Other topics of public interest received substantially less attention: 22% addressed student achievement/state Standards of Learning performance (88 articles);

7% discussed the federal No Child Left Behind Act (28 articles); 3% were related to miscellaneous matters such as school boundary proposals (14 articles); and

3% addressed public education reforms and innovations such as charter schools, home schooling, vouchers, and tuition tax credits (12 articles).

95% of all sources cited in all articles were government/public school-affiliated sources (1,364 of 1,438 sources); 5% were non-government/public school-affiliated sources (74).

Newspapers disenfranchise other constituencies with a stake in the public education service and an interest in reforms and innovations to deliver the service more cost-effectively and better.

Taxpayers who bear the cost of the public school service received scant attention from newspapers. In 261 public school funding-related articles, individual taxpayers were quoted six times (less than 1%) and taxpayer advocacy groups were never quoted.

Only two of the 403 articles addressed vouchers and tuition tax credits, two public education innovations favored by about half of all citizens and parents, according to state and national polls.



A federal judge ruled Tuesday that it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present ``intelligent design'' as an alternative to evolution because it is a religious viewpoint that he dismissed as a ``relabeling of creationism.'' In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, in a harshly worded opinion, rebuked an ``ill-informed faction'' on the Dover Area School District board for adopting a religiously motivated policy that violated the separation of church and state. The broad, precedent-setting and detailed 139-page opinion examined the scientific, religious and legal roots of the evolution debate. Jones concluded that the theory of evolution ``represents good science,'' and intelligent design does not.

Intelligent design holds that the theory first promulgated by Charles Darwin cannot explain the emergence of highly complex life forms. It implies the existence of an unidentified intelligent force or designer.

``In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question'' of whether intelligent design ``is science,'' Jones wrote in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District. ``We have concluded that it is not, and moreover'' that intelligent design ``cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.''

An appeal is unlikely given that eight of the nine board members who approved the policy that prompted the lawsuit were voted out in last month's election, and their replacements have said they do not support teaching of intelligent design in science class. Recently elected school board chair Bernadette Reinking said the new board was planning to take up the issue of intelligent design at its Jan. 3 meeting but will in all likelihood not appeal the case. ``I'm glad that it is finished,'' Reinking said. ``The board wanted some finality to this.''

Eleven parents in Dover, a growing suburb about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, sued their school board a year ago after it voted to have teachers read students a brief statement introducing intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class. The statement said there were ``gaps in the theory'' of evolution and that intelligent design was another explanation they should examine.


Students attack university journalism course

Scores of dissatisfied and angry students in the University of Queensland's journalism course have attacked the quality and standards of their program, according to a report in The Australian newspaper. The complaints are from both local and international students. UQ once laid claim to having the best journalism school in Australia, but standards appear to have plummeted since the former Department of Journalism was forced into a bitterly-opposed amalgamation with communication studies and public relations. It resulted in the departure of most senior journalism staff including the head of department and foundation professor, as well as revised courses and fewer practical assignments. The students have expressed their views on a dedicated blogspot site.

Meanwhile, the former Head of the UQ journalism school has struck out on his own and founded a private and now fully accredited Jschool of his own which is having great success at turning out students who are recognized for their skills. See here. Private enterprise beats insane bureaucracy again. Why the UQ powers that be decided they wanted to merge different departments into one super-Department remains something of a mystery. Some old-fashioned "big is better" thinking, apparently. The "small is beautiful" idea has been around for a long time now but has apparently not as yet reached the bureaucratized dinosaurs running UQ. If "big is better", how come General Motors is now on the verge of bankruptcy?


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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