Michael Mazenko vs. Sean Hannity
Michael Mazenko is a new entry into the educational blogosphere, and I, for one, welcome him. In a comment on a recent post of mine, Michael mentioned that he had written an editorial piece defending public education in the Denver Post. The piece was titled, "The Mis-education of Sean Hannity." I checked it out, and I thought it was excellent. Here is part of what Michael had to say:
"The government has ruined the education system."
Sean Hannity made this claim during a series of rants the other day as he argued down another liberal who was foolish enough to call in and debate him.
Ruined? The system may be troubled, inconsistent, inefficient, faltering, even damaged - but ruined? I have to disagree, and it's not just because I'm a teacher. As for the government being responsible, I was surprised by Sean's focus, as he usually blames the teachers and the unions.
The word "ruined" implies that at one time it was in good, even excellent, condition, but it no longer has any redeeming qualities. Both aspects of that assertion are flawed. In regards to past success, remember that Rudolph Flesch wrote "Why Johnny Can't Read" in 1955. Additionally, Harvard researcher Dianne Ravitch has documented the perpetual ups and downs of public education in "Left Back: a Century of Failed Public School Reform." Certainly, many schools in America have problems, and far too many inadequately educate their students. But ruined? No redeeming qualities? To quote Bill O'Reilly, "that's ridiculous."
There are countless examples of excellent public schools that are accomplishing more today with their students than I ever could have fathomed as a student twenty years ago - about the same time as the publication of that dire education warning "A Nation at Risk." I know this because I teach at one. Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado, is regularly ranked as one the top high schools in the nation. Cherry Creek has an incredibly successful student population. Its large percentage of students in Advanced Placement classes, for which many departments have pass rates on the national exam of 90% or more, regularly accomplish tasks I didn't see until graduate school. Sean might want to take a look at the AP Calculus or European History exams before he decides that the system is in a state of "ruin." Another example - a couple years ago two students at Cherry Creek were featured on ABC News for their work on a new treatment for muscular dystrophy. Their education is hardly in a state of "ruin."
I have to admit that part of the reason that I was so eager to check out Michael's article was that I can't stand Sean Hannity. When his face appears on the tube, I almost trip over myself in my hurry to get to the remote so I can switch channels. I wasn't at all surprised to see what he had said about public education, but one of the reasons I can't stand him is because I honestly believe that people like him are the ones who are putting our "nation at risk."
When I say "people like him," I'm not just talking about conservative blowhards--I'm talking about their liberal counterparts as well. Our country is becoming more and more split along partisan lines, and as a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to govern. In order for our system to work, people with different views need to find common ground and work together. Compromise is a necessity. Right now we have issues that absolutely must be addressed, and they must be addressed now. We have to do something about social security. We have to do something about Medicare. We have to do something about immigration. We have to do something about our dependence on foreign oil. But talk-show ideologues like Hannity have turned the saying "Come, let us reason together," into "Come, let us scream at each other," and unfortunately they have done nothing but grow in popularity. I'm sure the dollars are rolling in for Sean Hannity because of what he does. But will either McCain or Obama be able to govern when one of them becomes president a few months from now? Quite frankly, in large part thanks to the growing list of blowhards like Hannity, I think the odds are against both of them.