It is a sign of the times that the truth-tellers of the new millennium are comedians rather than journalists. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and now John Oliver are the most trusted news sources for Millennials, so they should be at least somewhat accountable for showing us reality.
So here’s a little reality for John Oliver, who devoted 18 tedious minutes to attacking something that protects students at risk from being neglected, ignored and condemned to second-class citizenship. While there has been some progress over the last decade, it’s not nearly enough:
- There are more than 1,000 high schools in America that graduate less than 60 percent of their students. About one in five kids each year drop out.
- There are no states where the graduation rate for African-American, Hispanic or economically disadvantaged students is above 90 percent, but 10 states where that is true for white students.
- Achievement gaps between African-American, Latino and low income kids compared to white kids are depressingly large.
- Less than 10 percent of low-income kids earn a four-year college degree compared to about 50 percent of kids from high income families.
We know these things because we force the educational bureaucracy to test kids, publish results and take action. Until we demanded real accountability, many states, with a few exceptions, simply ignored these kids.
Today, teachers unions, and their mostly white middle-class allies, have an organized, well-funded effort underway to retreat from accountability and evade any responsibility for educating disadvantaged children. Their strategy is clear:
- Deny the public the data that shows which schools, teachers and students are struggling.
- Blame the parents for being poor.
- Deny those parents an opportunity to enroll their kids in schools of choice, some of which are doing a much better job preparing their kids for college and for life.
- And endlessly and relentlessly demand more resources without any real responsibility for spending wisely and getting results.
If modern journalism had a patron saint, it would probably be H.L. Mencken, who often said, “It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
John Oliver’s facile mockery of standardized testing does not put him on the side of disadvantaged children afflicted by underperforming schools. Instead, John Oliver sides with the comfortable bureaucrats, self-serving union leaders, and the complacent middle class that abdicates any responsibility for extending the American Dream beyond their own insular worlds.
Not much to laugh about.