The pundits, politicians and philanthropists’ stories and storylines dominate the media. When an Arne Duncan or Bill Gates speak, the people listen and accept what they say as true, whether their statements are true or not. They and ideologically driven and funded commentators and think tanks receive a disproportionate share of the media attention. In one 2007 study, advocacy oriented think tank studies were 14 to 16 times more likely to be mentioned in Education Week, the New York Times and the Washington Post than non-advocacy academic studies (Yettick, 2011).
A recent example is a “study” being conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality and the US News and World Report to rank teacher education programs in the United States. It is very long on ideology and very short on scientific methodology and validity. Programs that conform to their ideological formulas will be rated well and those who do not will be considered as weak or failing. It is a formula that is being used with increasing vigor and success across the United States on all levels of education. Measure schools and the students on what you value and pronounce those who do meet your ideological standards as deficient.
Educators have been disenfranchised from the discussion on the very thing in which they have invested their hearts, minds and souls, and in which they are the experts. We have seen similar attacks on such things as the teaching of evolution, where ideologues push their beliefs and values on others in disregard of the evidence and experts in the field. Schools and teachers that do not teach what and how they like are declared as violators of their duties. Likewise, reformers who are not educators have created their own attacks in support of their ideologies, and seek to silence and discredit concerned and committed educators who stand up to present or defend their versions of reason and truth.
Part of the problem is that there is does not seem to be significant discussion between the conflicting parties. If these parties do not accept the other’s points of view, they discount them and refuse to consider them. Instead, of using their energy to constructively investigate the truth without bias, they use their energy to destroy the other’s ideas while clinging evermore tenaciously to their own. Why not consult those involved with education about reform proposals? Why not involve them in the fact-finding and decision-making?