I’m a proud progressive who subscribes to Finley Peter Dunne’s view that the role of journalism is to, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’m also a lifelong reader of The Nation, but lately I wonder if they have their priorities mixed up.
Earlier this year, working as a consultant for Teach For America, an organization that recruits a diverse group of smart people to teach low-income children, I helped shape the response to an April story with which we respectfully disagreed. We engaged with the reporter and her editor directly. There was no character assassination and no hysterics. We simply put forward the evidence showing that TFA gets results. We invited corps members, alumni and others to share their views. And we moved on.
The Nation apparently hasn’t moved on. This week, under a dramatic headline, The Nation ran a 5,000-word piece from a Columbia University undergraduate about TFA’s communications response to the April story based on an internal memo that shows the kind of routine communications strategizing every major organization does in response to negative press. Why this is news escapes me, but it is increasingly clear from these two articles and the magazine’s recent education issue that The Nation has fully bought into a negative and misleading narrative around school reform.
Reform isn’t perfect but the system we are trying to improve is far from acceptable. Today, one of five kids doesn’t finish high school and just 40 percent of those who graduate are college-ready. Just one in ten low-income students earns a bachelor’s degree, compared to one in two middle-class kids. Reasonable people can disagree on the best way to move forward to improve the quality of our schools, but few can argue for standing still.
It is both baffling and disappointing that America’s oldest, continuously published weekly magazine—the self-described “flagship of the left”—is attacking efforts to help more of the “afflicted” join the “comfortable” by improving public education. If they want another point of view, Education Post is always here.