A Surplus of FORMER Teachers

“I’m curious to know how many of us around this table have been school teachers.”

When that question was asked at a recent dinner party, of the twelve people at the table, seven of us–including my wife and me–raised their hands. We twelve certainly did not represent a cross-section of America.  Ten of us were over 70 years old, the other two in their mid-30’s.  All were college graduates, and most had earned advanced degrees.  

But still, seven out of twelve of us used to be schoolteachers!

Actually, I was not surprised, because whenever I have asked that question, at least half in every group said that they had taught school at some point. Turnover is a huge problem in public education, with a reported 40-50% of new teachers leaving the field sometime in their first five years on the job.

American society is full of former teachers because teaching has a far higher turnover than traditional occupations like law, engineering, medicine, architecture, and accounting.  As the Learning Policy Institute noted five years ago, “The teaching workforce continues to be a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year—the majority of them before retirement age.”  According to Penn professor Richard Ingersoll, “Even nurses tend to stick around longer, and the only fields with higher quit rates are prison guards, child care workers, and secretaries.”

Ingersoll is himself a former public school teacher. “One of the big reasons I quit was sort of intangible but very real,” Ingersoll told me. “It’s just a lack of respect. Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”

When a persistent but solvable problem like ‘teacher churn’ is allowed to fester, it’s always instructive to ask “Who benefits from not solving the problem”?  I explored that in my 2017 book, “Addicted to Reform.” Here’s what I found :  

So, who benefits when schools have to find replacements for so many teachers every year?  The obvious answer would seem to be school boards (and taxpayers), because green teachers are cheaper than white-haired veterans.  Payments into retirement plans are lower, because those dollars are a function of salaries, and new teachers earn less.

But if school boards help new teachers succeed by mentoring them as they learn classroom management and other tricks of the trade, then churn is not a way to save money.  However, my experience as a reporter has been that many, perhaps most, school systems are content to let new teachers ‘sink or swim’ on their own.

I nominate schools and colleges of education as the primary beneficiaries of churn.  After all, someone has to train the replacements.  Consider one state, Illinois: Its institutions of higher education recently graduated over 43,000 education majors, presumably the majority of them trained to be teachers. The largest producer of teachers, Illinois State University, has more than 5000 would-be teachers enrolled, and its website reports that one of four new teachers hired in Illinois between 2008-2011 was an ISU graduate.  Illinois K-12 schools employ about 145,000 teachers. If 20% leave in a given year, that creates 29,000 vacancies–I.E., jobs for 29,000 replacements.  If only 10% opt out, the K-12 schools would still need 14,500 trained replacements.

But if only 5% of Illinois’ teachers left every year, there would be just 7,250 job openings for the state’s 43,000 graduates who majored in education.  So is it in the interest of Illinois higher education and its teacher-training institutions to help make teaching a job that more people want to keep?  Or do they benefit from the churn because it means their classrooms are full and their professors occupied?

As the lawyers say, asked and answered.

Our pool of ‘former teachers’ is growing larger and larger, unfortunately.  “Exhausted and underpaid” teachers are leaving in greater numbers this year because of COVID-19 and its ramifications.  A shortage of teachers in the US was already a growing problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in high poverty schools. The shortage has worsened during the pandemic. Some schools have closed when too many teaching positions could not be filled, while others grapple with higher than normal teacher vacancies, leaving the remaining teachers overworked.

In Florida, teacher vacancies this year increased by more than 67% compared with August 2020, and a 38.7% increase from August 2019.

When teachers suddenly resign or contract COVID-19, administrators must find substitutes, and that’s become a real problem“They are called upon to teach in schools where children are likely still unvaccinated and might not be required to wear masks. In some cases, they’re filling in for teachers who are quarantining at home after being exposed to COVID-19. And many substitute teachers are in an age group that is more vulnerable to the disease.  ‘A number of our substitute teachers are retired educators, and in many cases, they simply are not willing to risk the COVID challenges to come to work,’ (Superintendent Michelle) Reid says.”

Making teaching more attractive and more remunerative are essential steps. That will attract better candidates, but we won’t be out of the woods unless we change aspects of the teacher’s job that are belittling and sometimes humiliating.  Teachers can’t make or take a phone call when they need to, or use the bathroom when nature calls.  Rarely do they get to watch their colleagues at work and then share reactions and ideas, which is something most professionals take for granted.  

All that has to change, but, unfortunately, none of this seems to be a priority of the U.S. Department of Education or the political leadership in any state that I am familiar with.  Instead, public education’s opponents are using COVID-19 as cover for their efforts to fund religious education, create private school vouchers, expand for-profit virtual charter schools, and allow parents to deduct school tuition from their taxes, all strategies to defund public education.

Today’s political climate is making matters much worse for teachers.  Many public schools and their school boards have become flash points for the anti-vaccination, anti-masking crowd, making teachers feel even more stressed.  We should expect the exodus to continue until our political leaders develop the courage to take strong action to defend public education.  

I should end with my own question: Where is Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, on the serious challenges facing public education? COVID-19 notwithstanding, Dr. Cardona started off in a sweet spot. He replaced the absolute worst U.S. Secretary of Education imaginable, a woman who worked overtime to undercut public schools. Replacing Betsy DeVos was like being hired by Brinks to replace a guy who drove around with the back door of the armored car wide open and money spilling out onto the street. Just close the damn back door, and you’re off to a great start!

An abundance of good will greeted the new Secretary. And we anticipated some obvious first steps, akin to closing that armored car door. But all I hear is silence……

The Lives We Lost

Public education’s losses in 2021 were staggering. COVID killed more than 1,000 educators nationwide.  Here’s a report from one state, Kentucky.  

Many thousands more left public education rather than continue working in situations that threatened their lives. One in four American teachers reported considering leaving their job by the end of the last academic year, in a survey taken in January and February by the Rand Corp., a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. That’s “more than in a typical pre-pandemic year and at a higher rate than employed adults nationally,” the report explained.  Pre-pandemic surveys found that one in six teachers were considering leaving the field. 

I could not find reliable data on the number of students who succumbed to COVID nor information about children left without parents because of the pandemic, but there were far too many stories like this one about 10-year-old Teresa Sperry, a 5th grader in Suffolk, Virginia,  

COVID also caused a spike in suicides among the young.

And in 2021 we also lost these nine men and women, all of whom cared deeply about America’s youth and public education:  

First, the Teachers We Lost:

There may be people who weren’t charmed by Vartan Gregorian or awed by his accomplishments, but I’ve never met any. He was quite simply one of the most remarkable people I have ever known: Generous, smart, hard-working, tireless, ethically upright, funny, and more. Vartan improved everything he touched. He saved the New York Public Library, built Brown University into an intellectual jewel, and led Carnegie Corporation of New York, a major foundation, in new and challenging directions. As the New York Times put it, he was “A brilliant historian and educator, he led Brown University and the Carnegie Corporation, but his crowning achievement was the revival of the New York Public Library.”

I hope you will take the time to read his obituaries here, here, here, and here, but in case you don’t have the time, here’s a paragraph from one of them: Dr. Gregorian was a fighter: proud, shrewd, charming, a brilliant historian and educator who rose from humble origins to speak seven languages, win sheaves of honors and be offered the presidencies of Columbia University and the Universities of Michigan and Miami. He accepted the presidency of Brown University (1989-1997), transforming it into one of the Ivy League’s hottest schools, and since then had been president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a major benefactor of education.

That’s from The Times. Here’s a bit from the Wall Street Journal: With help from new friends including Brooke Astor and David Rockefeller, he raised $327 million from public and private sources. He discovered that New Yorkers would compete to pay large sums for the honor of sitting next to authors at library events. That helped pay for humidity controls to protect books, scrubbing of blackened facades and restoration of elegant rooms that had been chopped up into cubicles.

A Stanford graduate, he was also an inspiring teacher (at San Francisco State University; UCLA; the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania).  Vartan was also a thoughtful and graceful writer.  I treasure a signed copy of his very readable autobiography, “The Road to Home: My Life and Times.” 

Vartan Gregorian died in New York City in April.  He was 87.

I wish I had known bell hooks, who was only 69 when she died in December.  She was a groundbreaking author, educator, and activist; her analyses of the intertwining of race, gender, economics and politics helped shape academic and popular debates over the past 40 years.  What a loss, but what a life she led…..

James Loewen, the historian who wrote “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Sundown Towns,” died in August after a long struggle with bladder cancer.  Jim, only 79 when he died, made every day count. You can read about his life and accomplishments here

Here’s one critical piece of his biography, from Wikipedia: Loewen attended Carleton College. In 1963, as a junior, he spent a semester in Mississippi, an experience in a different culture that led to his questioning what he had been taught about United States history. He was intrigued by learning about the unique place of nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants and their descendants in Mississippi culture, commonly thought of as biracial. Loewen went on to earn a PhD in sociology from Harvard University based on his research on Chinese Americans in Mississippi. (And he returned to teach at Tougaloo, an HBCU.)

Never a shrinking violet, Jim regularly circulated information about his speaking engagement to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. He used this to pull in more invitations because he was determined to spread his message: that America needed to stop lying to itself about its own history, particularly when it comes to race and racism.  I wish I could remember when Jim and I first met, but somehow we began corresponding fairly regularly. When he discovered that I had grown up in Darien, Connecticut, he loved reminding me that Darien was the quintessential Sundown Town, a place where Black people were not allowed after dark.  When I protested that we lived on a working farm of 23 acres and had Black and Russian families living with us at, Jim would let up….but only slightly.  

One quick story: The year I turned 70 I began commemorating my birthday by biking my age. Then, in 1977 I asked readers of this blog to donate (at least) $77 to their favorite charity–if I made it.  As it happened, Jim was in New York and we met for lunch a few days before my June 14th birthday.  He knew about the challenge and said, with some fanfare, that if I did make it, he would donate $77,000 in my honor!  

I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t….

Sure enough, he donated $77,000 to Tougaloo College, the HBCU in Mississippi where Jim had taught.  

(It didn’t diminish my gratitude or pleasure when Jim told me that he gave Tougaloo $100,000 every year, part of his royalties from “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”)

If you haven’t read “Sundown Towns” or “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” please do. And The New Press has also issued a version of the latter aimed at younger readers.

Shirley McBay, who in 1966 became “the first Black person to receive a doctorate from the University of Georgia, and who went on to be a leading voice for diversity in science and math education, died on Nov. 27 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 86.”  Please read her obituary in the New York Times.

People in the world of education knew Robert Moses because of The Algebra Project, which he started in the 1980’s to teach struggling high school and middle school students mathematics, but Bob Moses was much more than an inspiring educator.  He was a Rhodes Scholar, a MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Award winner, and a Civil Rights leader who was arrested in Mississippi for helping Blacks register to vote, all before starting The Algebra Project.

I deeply regret that I never reported on The Algebra Project or met Dr. Moses, who was ‘press shy,’ as this elegant PBS obituary put it. 

Moses was born in Harlem, New York, on January 23, 1935, two months after a race riot left three dead and injured 60 in the neighborhood. His grandfather, William Henry Moses, has been a prominent Southern Baptist preacher and a supporter of Marcus Garvey, a Black nationalist leader at the turn of the century.

But like many black families, the Moses family moved north from the South during the Great Migration. Once in Harlem, his family sold milk from a Black-owned cooperative to help supplement the household income, according to “Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots,” by Laura Visser-Maessen.

While attending Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, he became a Rhodes Scholar and was deeply influenced by the work of French philosopher Albert Camus and his ideas of rationality and moral purity for social change. Moses then took part in a Quaker-sponsored trip to Europe and solidified his beliefs that change came from the bottom up before earning a master’s in philosophy at Harvard University.

Moses didn’t spend much time in the Deep South until he went on a recruiting trip in 1960 to “see the movement for myself.” He sought out the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta but found little activity in the office and soon turned his attention to SNCC.

“I was taught about the denial of the right to vote behind the Iron Curtain in Europe,” Moses later said. “I never knew that there was (the) denial of the right to vote behind a Cotton Curtain here in the United States.”

The young civil rights advocate tried to register Blacks to vote in Mississippi’s rural Amite County where he was beaten and arrested. When he tried to file charges against a white assailant, an all-white jury acquitted the man and a judge provided protection to Moses to the county line so he could leave.

He later helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to challenge the all-white Democratic delegation from Mississippi. But President Lyndon Johnson prevented the group of rebel Democrats from voting in the convention and instead let Jim Crow southerners remain, drawing national attention.

Disillusioned with white liberal reaction to the civil rights movement, Moses soon began taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War then cut off all relationships with whites, even former SNCC members.

Moses worked as a teacher in Tanzania, Africa, returned to Harvard to earn a doctorate in philosophy and taught high school math in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Later in life, the press-shy Moses started his “second chapter in civil rights work” by founding in 1982 the Algebra Project.”

Moses believed that math literacy was ‘the next phase’ of the struggle for civil rights.  “Education is still basically Jim Crow as far as the kids who are in the bottom economic strata of the country,” he said in 2013. Moses believed that algebra in particular was a critical “gatekeeper” subject because mastering it was necessary in order for middle school students to advance in math, technology, and science; college was out of reach without it. 

By design, The Algebra Project takes students who score the lowest on state math tests and aims to prepare them for college level math by the end of high school by doubling up on math courses for the four years of high school. Participants have consistently scored better on state exams than non-participants, often by wide margins. 

Dr. Moses died in July. He was 86. 

If you’re a reader and have children or grandchildren, books published by Scholastic are probably an important part of your life.  For this you can thank Richard Robinson, who took over Scholastic, his father’s magazine company, and transformed it into a children’s book publishing giant.  Think “Harry Potter,” the “Hunger Games” Trilogy, “The Magic School Bus,”  “Goosebumps,” “Captain Underpants,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “The Baby-Sitters Club,”to name a few.  

Robinson, who told the New York Times that  he considered reading a civil right, prided himself in “reviving books and promoting narrative storytelling as a muscular rival to video games in the competition for children’s attention.”

“Publishing the ‘Harry Potter’ books has changed the company and made it more visible,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “But what everybody feels the most about Harry Potter is that it brought kids to the reading process who had never been readers.”

He was fun to be around, quick to grin, and full of good stories.  He taught public school early in his career, served as head of the Association of American Publishers, and led the capital campaign for the Manhattan Children’s Museum. 

Dick Robinson died in June in Chilmark, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard, of an apparent heart attack. Off island, he lived in Greenwich Village. He was 84. 

Next, the Advocates:

Eli Broad was best known for his devotion to the arts and to the city of Los Angeles.  Although public education was just one of Broad’s many interests, the billionaire committed a great deal of energy and money to it. In 2002 he created the Broad Prize ($500,000 in college scholarships) for the year’s most outstanding urban school district. The Prize was awarded with great fanfare at a gala event in either Washington, DC, or New York City for 13 years, and, like the Oscars or football’s Heisman Trophy, the finalists all showed up. Then–roll of drums–the envelope was opened.  

However, the Prize eventually lost momentum, largely because not enough urban districts were actually showing improvement, something I wrote about in “Addicted to Reform.”  

When Mr. Broad concluded that prizes weren’t going to change urban education, he suspended the annual award and put his energy and money into charter schools.  This made him even more controversial, a status that did not seem to concern the combative billionaire. I was among the critics.  Even so, I was seated with the Broads at a dinner and tried to persuade Eli and his wife, Edith, that the term ‘charter school’ had become meaningless because many state laws allowed grifters and con artists to open charter schools and (legally) rob public treasuries blind, but the Broads weren’t having any of it. 

Eli Broad died in Los Angeles in April. He was 87.

​​Denis Doyle died at eighty-one on December 2 in Los Angeles, his home in recent years. I was privileged to know Denis during my years in Washington. He was smart, funny, curious, and generous.  Checker Finn published a warm tribute recently, and I hope you will take a few minutes to read it.  You can find it here.

Denis was more than willing to take on education’s sacred cows, as he did in 2004 when he asked the question “Where do public school teachers send their own children?”

His research proved what a lot of people suspected: “Across the states, 12.2 percent of all families (urban, rural, and suburban) send their children to private schools —a figure that roughly corresponds to perennial and well-known data on the proportion of U.S. children enrolled in private schools. But urban public school teachers send their children to private schools at a rate of 21.5 percent, nearly double the national rate of private-school attendance. Urban public school teachers are also more likely to send their children to private school than are urban families in general (21.5 vs. 17.5 percent).” 

George M. Strickler Jr. was a civil rights attorney who fought to desegregate Southern schools in the 1960s and was pushed out of his University of Mississippi teaching job amid uproar over his work on behalf of Black clients. He died September 2 at the age of 80.

In addition to the loss of so many dedicated individuals, 2021 was a year of lost opportunities for public education. Most school systems and teachers were unprepared for a year of virtual teaching.  And most school boards were ill equipped to do anything except try to ‘get back to normal.’ Although every crisis is also an opportunity, school boards are historically reactive and status quo oriented, and that is beyond unfortunate.  

If ever a time called for ‘thinking outside the box,’ it was 2021 (and 2020 of course).  If you want to go deeper into the issue of missed opportunities, see here and here and here.

While we mourn the losses of 2021, please keep in mind the heroes of 2022, the men and women who teach and work with our children. They need our support.

My White Privilege

“Walt, I think you missed our turn.  Weren’t we supposed to turn left back there?”

“Shoot, you’re right. I’ll find a place to turn around”

“Well, there’s no traffic. Just make a quick U-turn, and we won’t be late.”

“I’ll find a good place to turn around, up ahead.”

“Walt, there’s no traffic. It’s safe to do a U-turn here.”

“I’ve got this, John.”

I remember being frustrated by Walt’s response.  Why drive on?  Why not just make a U-turn?  Had I been behind the wheel, I would have slowed down, pulled way over to the right, and then swung the car around for a U-turn.  Maybe it would have required another stop-and-start, but the road was clear, so who cared about making an illegal U-turn?

As I remember, Walt drove on for another half-mile or so until we came to an intersection, where he turned his car around and headed back to our destination, a restaurant.

Some background: It was 1969.  Walt and his wife, Lillian, were our backyard neighbors on the campus of Virginia State College, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University).  Walt was head football coach and a Professor in the Department of Physical Education, and I was an English Instructor.  Our wives bonded first, sharing the highs and lows of new babies, both about 18 months old. And, conveniently, one of their other children was old enough to babysit, meaning we could have a night off.  

Oh, and Walt and Lillian were/are African Americans, we were/are White.

I’m pretty sure it was rare for a White couple and an African American couple to socialize in public in Southside Virginia back then, but I don’t recall being uncomfortable, probably because I had spent my entire life–29 years–swimming in a sea of whiteness and was–to put it kindly–blissfully unaware.

In fact, I might never have given that driving incident another thought if I hadn’t missed a turn seven or eight years later, the way Walt did that night in 1969.  I was with National Public Radio at the time, driving to interview teachers and students at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school on a Navajo reservation in Arizona.  When I realized my mistake, I did what I had wanted Walt to do: I checked to make sure the road was clear, slowed down, pulled way over to the right, and swung the car around for a U-turn.  

No big deal, right?  But then I heard a siren and saw flashing lights.  A cop pulled me over.  

But still no big deal, because I assumed the cop would understand and cut me some slack.  And so when he approached my window, I smiled and explained why I had made that turn, something about being late for interviews with Navajo teachers and students.  I figured he would appreciate my dilemma and let me off with a warning. However, he didn’t smile back, just said, “You’re on our land, White man, and you have to follow our rules.” And he wrote me a ticket.

This may be hard for you to believe, but my mind immediately flashed back to that evening in Virginia, and I suddenly understood why Walt, a Black American, had refused to make an illegal U-turn. For the first time in my life I had a glimmer of understanding what life must be like for non-White Americans.  True, I had spent two years as a minority on a Black campus, but that experience hadn’t punctured my ingrained sense of White privilege. 

Because of my own illegal U-turn and the subsequent traffic ticket, I thought that I had put two and two together. For years I believed that Walt hadn’t made that illegal U-turn because he was afraid of getting a traffic ticket.

Then a White cop in Minneapolis casually murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020.  On video.  Knowing he was being videotaped, the murderer displayed indifference, even contempt, for more than 9 minutes while Mr. Floyd struggled to breathe and eventually died.  And his fellow cops stood by and did nothing.

Only then did I grasp the awful truth that, if Walt had been pulled over for making an illegal U-turn back in 1969, the consequences could have been far worse than a traffic ticket.  

I am not clueless; I know about–and am outraged by–the idea that “Driving While Black” is justification for police intervention, but knowing something intellectually and even emotionally is vastly different from actually feeling it in your bones.  

For many White theater-goers, Christopher Demos-Brown’s powerful 2018 play “American Son” made real the awful terror that ensues when skin color determines treatment.  The entire play takes place in a police station, where an African American mother is trying to get the police to help her find her teenage son.  He was driving the family car, on which he had put–in an act of youthful defiance–a bumper sticker that proclaimed “SHOOT THE POLICE” with a (small) image of a camera, not a gun.  It’s gut-wrenching because at that moment we know that the young man will be shot and killed by a policeman.  

“American Son” is not about White privilege. Its subject is being Black in an America where the inescapable companions of White privilege are hostility or indifference to those who aren’t White.  

I am not claiming to have been ‘transformed’ by my insight. I remain the product of all of my experiences, not just those two U-turns, one taken and one not taken.  However, I do understand that White privilege is pernicious, and, while it’s not the equivalent of White racism or White supremacy, it’s in that neighborhood.  

Unfortunately, White privilege isn’t disappearing. In fact, in our current political climate, it seems that a growing number of White Americans are openly embracing not just White privilege but White supremacy.  Former President Donald Trump has brought out the worst in many of his followers by making it acceptable to ‘say the quiet part out loud.’ Trump and his enablers have endorsed and even celebrated being openly vulgar, selfish, clannish, parochial, violent, and racist.  

We seem to be getting further and further away from Dr. King’s dream that someday we will be judged by the content of our character, and not by the color of our skin.  

We are a divided country, a long way from being the best we can be.  Can we reverse directions and treat others–whatever they may look like and whatever they happen to believe–as we wish to be treated?  Generosity toward all begins with listening to those around us, especially those we disagree with.  

Do We Really Need a Department of Education?

“Don’t you agree that it’s time to get rid of the Department of Education?”  My good friend Joe asked me that question at the end of an evening recently. Before I could answer, he added, “The Department has been around for about 45 years, and public schools have just gotten worse and worse.”

I should mention that Joe is a hard-core Republican, deeply conservative but not a Trumpian. We argue politics from time to time, and I figured he was just jerking my chain, giving me something to stew about until we saw each other again.

His strategy worked.  I did spend some time thinking about how I would convince my friend that the Department was essential.  This turned out to be far more difficult than I expected.

Some background information may be helpful.  Because ‘education’ is not mentioned in our Constitution, it is therefore the responsibility of the sovereign states, according to the Tenth Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 

That has not kept Washington from getting involved in higher education, however.  For example, during our Civil War, the Morrill Act of 1862 created the Land Grant Colleges and Universities, and the second Morrill Act (1890) essentially guaranteed the survival of HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, by prohibiting discrimination. The GI Bill enabled millions of veterans to get an education, creating our middle class. Later, Pell Grants opened up colleges to millions of low income students. 

But K-12 education has been a different kettle of fish, a hands-off situation for the federal government.  However, after the Russians launched Sputnik, the first space satellite, in October, 1957,  President Eisenhower and the Congress felt they had to improve American public education. The result was NDEA, and the D is noteworthy. It stands for DEFENSE, which is to say that, in 1958, the only way President Eisenhower could persuade Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act was to maintain that improving education would defend us against godless Communism!

Now the door was ajar, and Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, pushed it open–but only in support of specific groups of children: either the poor or the disadvantaged.  His ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is with us today (although its name has been changed several times).

1975 saw the passage of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, another federal law targeting a specific category of children.  This law is, I believe, the only federal legislation whose signing was not photographed!  That’s right. President Gerald Ford, a Republican, was so opposed to the law that he flat out refused to allow photographers to record his signing the bill (which had passed with veto-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress). The new law, known as PL 94-142, required schools to educate all disabled children in the ‘least restrictive environment’ but provided less than 40% of the money. This created an ‘unfunded mandate,’ which President Ford correctly predicted would unbalance local school budgets, make states resent ‘federal interference,’ and create tensions between groups.  

Jimmy Carter ran (against Ford) on a pledge to teachers and their unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, to put Education into the Presidential Cabinet, and he delivered on that promise.  The Department of Education was created in 1979, and President Carter persuaded a Federal District Court judge, Shirley Hufstedler, to leave the court and become its first Secretary.  

The Department’s own website adds this interesting tidbit: “Although the Department is a relative newcomer among Cabinet-level agencies, its origins goes back to 1867, when President Andrew Johnson signed legislation creating the first Department of Education. Its main purpose was to collect information and statistics about the nation’s schools. However, due to concern that the Department would exercise too much control over local schools, the new Department was demoted to an Office of Education in 1868.”  

Just as a Democrat created the federal Department, Democrats generally spearheaded efforts to get involved in public education, but they were not making rules for all schools or all children.  Republicans did that!  

While Democrats got their noses well into the tent, a Republican President pushed over the tent completely– albeit with the help of liberal Democrats.  George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law mandated that all schools and all identifiable subgroups of students had to make ‘Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)’ or face severe sanctions, which included firing all the teachers and closing schools.  Under this sweeping law, every school district that accepted any federal education money (and all did) was accountable to Washington.

For eight years schools struggled to adapt.  Because AYP was determined by how many kids got over the test score bar in English and Math, testing and test prep became the order of the day.  Most public schools cut art, music, and other ‘non-essential’ classes. They eliminated programs for gifted children, because they got over the bar easily; at the same time schools paid minimal attention to kids who were really struggling, reasoning that no amount of help would get them over the bar–so why bother at all!  Some schools eliminated physical education and recess.  

And because of the pressure to raise test scores, quite a few schools and teachers cheated, big time, with Atlanta and Washington, DC under Michelle Rhee being the poster children!  

For many, the lesson of NCLB was clear: Washington couldn’t and shouldn’t run public education! But, unfortunately, the incoming Obama Administration came to the opposite conclusion. It doubled down by creating what Education Secretary Arne Duncan called “The Race to the Top.”  

Moreover, because of ‘The Great Recession’ and the subsequent Congressional bailout, Secretary Duncan found himself with a huge pot of money, $100 billion, with virtually no strings attached. The 9th U.S. Secretary of Education had far more ‘free money’ than his eight predecessors combined!

Desperate for money, all 50 states and 14,000 school districts were willing to do whatever Secretary Duncan wanted.  He had a tabula rasa. He might have decided to reward those who embraced more art, music, and science; or  project-based and inquiry-based learning, or career and vocational education.  Because his mother was a prominent early childhood educator and because he himself worked in her center, reasonable people expected him to reward districts and states that embraced early learning and all-day kindergarten.

He did none of these things.  He established what he called “Four Pillars,” two of which led to more testing and the evaluation of teachers based almost entirely on student test scores.  Another “Pillar” led directly to the expansion of the Charter School movement, despite a paucity of evidence that Charter Schools produced better results than traditional public schools. 

(One “Pillar”–the demand for coherent data systems–made sense to most observers, because states and districts used wildly different ways of counting graduation rates, dropout rates and just about everything else, making comparisons almost impossible.)

Perhaps because Secretary Duncan was an outstanding college basketball player, he made “Race to the Top”  an open competition.  Whoever wanted the money had to compete for it: write an elaborate proposal and then come to Washington to defend it. Money would be parceled out in competitive rounds, with lots of fanfare.  In an interview for The NewsHour, he told me that whoever wanted the money had to do what he said.

Duncan ruled for nearly eight years (giving way to John King in the waning months of the Obama Administration), but the backlash in Congress was severe.  “Who does Duncan think he is? “The Nation’s School Superintendent?” And so when it was time to reauthorize the original ESEA, now known as No Child Left Behind, Congress clamped down on Duncan and his successors. The Every Child Succeeds Act specifically restricts the authority of the Secretary over public schools.

But for all his misguided priorities, Arne Duncan was a believer in, and supporter of, public schools.  What would happen if someone who was downright hostile to schools became Secretary of Education?

Enter Betsy DeVos, a born-again Christian with an unmatched zeal for private religious education.  The 11th U.S. Secretary of Education went about dismantling the Department, rescinding Obama-era orders and declining to enforce rules protecting disadvantaged students, those who were being discriminated against, and victims of sexual assault. With student debt ballooning, particularly among students at for-profit colleges, the Secretary opted to put the proverbial fox in the henhouse: She chose a top executive from a for-profit chain to run that division. On her way out, DeVos urged her Department’s career staff how to approach the incoming Biden Administration, “Be the resistance.”

DeVos is gone, replaced by a 46-year-old career educator with deep roots in public schools, Dr.Miguel Cardona.  

So do we need a United States Department of Education?  And if we do, what should its mission be?  And what should it NOT be doing?

If it were up to me, I would get the Department out of the business of evaluating schools and school districts.  No Child Left Behind and its successors have been a disaster. Evaluation of students should be up to school districts, and judgements about school districts should be left to their states. None of that is Washington’s business…and it’s certainly not Washington’s area of expertise.

We have a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The so-called “Nation’s Report Card” samples judiciously and reports the results by grade levels and in subject areas….and that’s enough.

However, we do need a strong Department of Education to protect the civil rights of students, with particular focus on those who have historically been shortchanged.  The Department should be in the business of leveling the playing field with dollars, persuasion, and litigation when necessary. And it should also return to its oldest federal function–good statistics–because there is a dearth of basic information. It should also assume a modern function–reliable professional research. Research matters because state and local education authorities do very little, and private research funding is limited and often strongly politicized.  (The latter suggestion comes from the invaluable Gary Orfield.)

Finally, the Secretary of Education must use his or her Bully Pulpit to remind Americans that a strong public education system and a well-educated citizenry are essential to our nation’s survival.

I believe that President Eisenhower got it right: Education is National Defense. And President Carter also got it right: Education deserves a seat at the table.

What do you think?

COVID FATIGUE & OUTRAGE FATIGUE

Recently my neighbor Barry asked me how I was doing. Sighing, I responded, “I think I have Covid Fatigue. The months and months of confinement, uncertainty, bad news, and fear have worn me down, and I don’t have much energy or enthusiasm,” I told him. 

“It might not be Covid,” Barry said.  “Maybe you’re like me and have Outrage Fatigue.”  Because so many bad things are happening every day, he said, he and his wife were shutting out the news as much as they could, to keep from shutting down completely.

Barry is not a doctor, but I think he diagnosed my problem perfectly: I have both Covid Fatigue AND Outrage Fatigue.  And perhaps some of you suffer from this dual affliction as well.

Covid Fatigue is easy to define and understand, because we have been locked down for nearly 20 months.  Ennui is the most common sign.

As for Outrage Fatigue, I suspect that it is confined to active Democrats, Independents, and old style (I.E., Pre-Trump) Republicans.  To figure out if you are suffering from it, just ask yourself how you respond to any of these news stories:

The rising death toll among the vaccinated; 

Covid’s disparate impact on the poor and minorities; 

Republican-led efforts to restrict the votes of people of color;

Anti-vaxxers;

The media’s distorted coverage of anti-vaxxers;

Governor Ron DeSantis’ insistence on keeping Florida ‘open;’ 

The Texas abortion law; 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Hoem’s sending her state’s National Guard to monitor the Texas/Mexico border; 

Florida Senator Mario Rubio’s daily Biblical platitudes; 

Maine Senator Susan Collins’ regular expressions of ‘concern;’ 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to negotiate with Democrats on anything; 

The GOP’s refusal to condemn the January 6th insurrection; 

Or anything coming from Trump or his sons.  

If your internal temperature rises and your dander is up and you have to force yourself to calm down, you already have Outrage Fatigue, or soon will.

The outrageous ones have a distinct advantage, because they are focused on making us angry and impotent. They know how to push our buttons. They have been doing it long enough to put us on the sidelines. Because these are largely single-issue folks, they don’t get tired. They wake up every day pumped to defend the January 6th insurrectionists, or to protest mask mandates, or to work to suppress Democratic votes, or whatever their cause happens to be.

Unfortunately, most of us care about ALL of these issues.  And because most of us have a limited capacity for outrage, that’s putting our country at risk, as I see it. We care, and right now it hurts to care–but if we shut down and let the outrage triumph, we stand to lose our country to these quasi- or neo- or actual fascists.

Turning off the news may work for my neighbor, but if we all were to adopt that strategy, the bad guys would win.  I think we have to pick our issues, focus on two or three, and trust that others on our side will take care of the rest.

I hope some of you will decide to focus on what’s happening in public education, because public schools are in the eye of this hurricane we are experiencing and their survival is threatened.  Radical conservatives have always hated the notion of public education, and COVID-19 has offered them numerous opportunities to undercut the enterprise.

For example, Republican legislators in most states have introduced some form of voucher/tax credit, ostensibly to give public dollars to parents to spend on education as they see fit.  Of course, the amount isn’t enough to cover private school tuition, so the benefit would go to families whose children are already in private school and to families who can almost afford it already. Left behind would be the poor and those with disabling conditions, IE, the children who are most expensive to educate.  Many scholars and observers have raised concerns over the equity impacts of pandemic-era private schooling trends, with the situation in San Francisco providing a stark example: A year after schools first closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the one-third of students in the city enrolled in private school—disproportionately high-income or white, or both—by and large have the option to attend school in-person full-time. Meanwhile, public school students—disproportionately low-income or students of color, or both—remain in full-time online instruction.”

Organized rabble-rousers are focusing on School Boards that are considering mask mandates, often attending and disrupting meetings and threatening violence. Here’s one example from California.   US school board meetings have become battlegrounds for culture wars this year as schools debated how to resume in-person classes amid the pandemic. Parents have disrupted meetings, refused to wear masks and threatened school board members. A school board in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that was considering a temporary mask mandate cancelled its meeting last week after a crowd of 200 protesters surrounded the building, banged on doors and shouted at police.” 

Here’s another example from North Carolina.  Here’s another, from Florida.  

This situation has gotten so bad that the National School Boards Association has asked President Biden to intervene“America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” reads the letter signed by NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

Teachers are horribly stressed, as are parents.  Kids need to be with each other–that’s a critical part of growing up–but they need to feel and be safe.

So, if you want to control your own Outrage Fatigue and at the same time be a force for good, please support your local public school system.  A national organization that is trying to coordinate supporters is the Network for Public Education, a non-profit entity. 

Thanks, and stay safe…but also stay active!

My Advice to Angry Trump Supporters

Danger is all around you from Democrats, but you can prevent disaster, both personal and national, by taking four simple steps.  Prevention is the best measure in these dangerous times, and these four steps will insulate your mind and heart from dangerous ideas and values and keep your body free from dangerous air.

  1. Prevent mind pollution.  Watch only Fox, OAN, and NewsMax television and listen only to Rush Limbaugh’s old radio programs.  Most of you do this already, but this one step is not sufficient.  You must follow the other three steps to save yourself and our country.
  1. Prevent lung pollution: Because there are more of ‘them’ than there are of you, it is literally impossible to avoid breathing the air that they breathe, except in the sanctity of your own home.  So in order to prevent your lungs from being polluted, always wear a mask whenever you venture outside.  (Some of you, no doubt, wear hoods on special evenings when your secret society meets, but occasional hood wear is not sufficient protection).
  1. Prevent  heart and soul pollution:  Join the right kind of Christian Church.  While some Christian Churches open their doors to immigrants and people with conflicting values, you can avoid them by doing a little bit of research.  Being among real Christians will keep your heart pure.
  1. Prevent body pollution:  This may seem counter-intuitive, but in order to keep your vital bodily fluids from being corrupted by the China virus that Democrats call COVID-19, you must get vaccinated.  

These four simple steps will protect your heart, your soul, your lungs, your vital bodily fluids, and your mind from Democrats, liberals, progressives, and others who don’t understand what it means to be a real American.

God Bless You All….

“Tucker Carlson Has Blood On His Hands”

Some people–quite a few, actually–are saying that Tucker Carlson has blood on his hands because his words have led directly to COVID-19 deaths. Well, I am here to vigorously defend the Fox News personality against that accusation.  How on earth could anyone prove that Mr. Carlson’s words, however inflammatory and false they might be, could have led directly to deaths from COVID-19?  That’s tantamount to calling Mr. Carlson a murderer!

In defending Mr. Carlson against accusation of manslaughter/murder, let me first stipulate five facts that I believe we can all agree on: 

1) Mr. Carlson is a vainglorious twit;  

2) He is a self-centered manipulator with a near-total disregard for the truth;

3) He knowingly broadcasts misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19;

4) He regularly provides a platform for charlatans peddling false and sometimes dangerous ‘cures’ for the disease; and

5)  He is a spoiled rich kid who has never worked at a real job for a single day but who is, no doubt, “laughing all the way to the bank” with the money he rakes in.

Nonetheless, none of this makes him a murderer.  To prove that assertion, you would have to find someone who died from COVID and convincingly link his or  her behavior to Mr. Carlson’s statements.  

I have been examining death reports and looking for links to Mr. Carlson, seeking to determine whether his fans are dying of COVID at a greater rate than among the general population. Are his fans less likely to be vaccinated, and can that be attributed to Mr. Carlson?

Take, for example, Leonard Vole of Laughton, Tennessee, who almost literally worshipped the ground Mr. Carlson walks on.  He watched the show religiously, taping every segment so he could watch them again during the day.  He steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, citing ‘evidence’ provided by Mr. Carlson and some of his guests.  And he also bought every book mentioned by Mr. Carlson, especially those written by the TV personality.  

Mr. Vole died of COVID-19 last month, but is that enough to bring charges against Mr. Carlson…and convict him?

Not even close.  Mr. Vole’s wife will testify that, while her husband bought the books, he could not read them because he was illiterate.  And Mr. Vole’s friends at Charlie’s Bar in downtown Laughton will swear that Lennie told them that he relied on other sources, including Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and former President Trump as support for his decision not to get vaccinated.

It should be obvious by now that Mr. Carlson need not fear indictment for murder or even manslaughter simply for spreading lies, distortions, and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic,, and so he is free to keep lying, night after night, to the American public, because that’s just talk….

Now as for Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, that’s a different kettle of fish….

ANOTHER NATIONAL EMERGENCY: NOT ENOUGH BIKE HELMETS

Is your home town or city suffering from a critical shortage of bike helmets, a situation that is nothing short of life-threatening. We live on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, and we are desperately in need of bike helmets.  According to my own painstaking research, approximately 47.6% of on-island bike riders have not been able to buy, rent, or otherwise obtain bike helmets  and thus are forced to ride with their heads unprotected.  

In hard numbers, Martha’s Vineyard needs as many as 5,000 bike helmets for adults and children because that’s how many bikers are riding around with their heads unprotected. If–as I suspect–there’s a national shortage of these life-saving devices, then the US could possibly have as many helmetless riders as we do unvaccinated citizens.  That would be 93,000,000 people….and perhaps there’s a significant overlap among the two groups.  

How can I be sure that people riding without a helmet here on the Vineyard aren’t just being cavalier?  Well, for one thing, no one willingly rides without a helmet, because that’s risking a serious and possibly life-altering brain injury. Riding without wearing a bike helmet is something only willfully ignorant or desperately poor people do, and because Martha’s Vineyard attracts well-educated, financially secure people, we can reasonably assume that everyone would be wearing helmets if only they were available.

It’s heart-wrenching to see entire families riding around the Vineyard without helmets.  Sure, they are smiling bravely, putting on a good show of enjoying themselves, but it’s clear to me that they know they’re risking serious head injuries.  I am pretty sure that I’ve seen helmetless riders cycling with their fingers crossed, and I can easily imagine the adults lying awake at night worrying about the next day’s bike ride.

It’s particularly poignant to see cycling families where the children are wearing helmets while the parents are not. How Mom and Dad must have anguished about that decision.  Imagine their conversation after the children have gone to sleep:

DAD “Dear, we can afford only two helmets.  If the kids wear them and we have an accident, who will take care of them while we recover from our brain injuries–if in fact we recover at all?”  

MOM: “But if we wear helmets and the kids get badly injured, we’ll never forgive ourselves.”

DAD: “We can’t cancel biking because we promised the kids.”

MOM: “We have to protect our children.  So let’s give them the helmets. We must just smile and pretend nothing is wrong.’

This desperate crisis can can be solved here on the Vineyard (and perhaps in your community) in three ways: 

1) Cooperative helmet-sharing in which the ‘haves’ willingly loan their helmets to the helmet-poor on alternating days of the week.  We can create a Facebook page, and those who have helmets to share can list their names and town of residence.  And shame on any helmet-rich individuals who refuse to share!

2) A Steamship Authority surcharge of at least $5 per bike on all bikes arriving on ferries, even those on bike racks; and 

3) An EZ Pass toll system for those using our bike paths.  Toll booths can be set up at popular bike path junctions and on the roads to charge $10 for a day of biking. The booths can be manned by summer workers, and Dukes County can issue the EZ passes.

Steps 2 and 3 should raise enough money to have helmets shipped from helmet-rich countries like Portugal and Ecuador, while helmet-sharing, if we all pitch in, should see us through the crisis. 

One piece of contradictory evidence is troubling me: All the bike shops on the Vineyard say they have plenty of bike helmets in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and that suggests that perhaps the riders who are going helmetless are not desperate. Perhaps they are either willfully ignorant or desperately poor.

And they all seem to be pretty well-dressed.  Hmmmm…..

Thank You, Tucker Carlson

I am coming out of retirement to help Tucker Carlson save American public education, our children, and, by extension, our way of life.  But this is not about me; it’s about the brilliant campaign created by America’s premier ‘uber journalist,’ Tucker Carlson of Fox.  (I put ‘journalist’ in quotes not to disparage Mr. Carlson but to indicate that he stands head and shoulders above his pedestrian counterparts.)

Mr. Carlson has recognized that the greatest threat to America’s future is NOT climate change, the rich-poor wealth gap, Russian cyber warfare, or China. No, the greatest danger to our way of life is Critical Race Theory, which simply cannot be allowed to be taught in our schools.

Mr. Carlson’s solution is nothing short of brilliant: Cameras in every public school classroom so that teachers who try to subvert our youth by filling their heads with dangerous ideas can be identified, publicly shamed, and fired.

There are nay-sayers, of course: Short-sighted critics who maintain that cameras are an invasion of privacy. And some studies indicate that academic achievement suffers when everyone is under surveillance, but Mr. Carlson is not swayed; he keeps his eye on the prize: protecting young minds from getting in the habit of asking questions or even expressing doubts.

Putting cameras (and microphones) in every classroom will be expensive.  The U.S. has about 100,000 public schools, and, while some have only 10-15 classrooms, most of our 25,000 high schools probably have 100 or more classrooms. My best guess is that we have, in total, about 3,000,000 classrooms.

Because the typical American public school is at least 50 years old, wiring them will add to the cost.  For example, my old high school, P.D. Schreiber HS in Port Washington, NY, has 99 classrooms, including the gym spaces. When I taught there in the mid-60’s, the school was already 10 years old.  Face it, wiring a school that was built in 1953 for cameras and sound might require some serious (and expensive) work, just to get it ready for the high-tech equipment.

It will cost somewhere between $1,000 and $3,500 to install one camera in a classroom; microphones will be extra, of course, and full surveillance will probably require at least two cameras per classroom.  With discount pricing for large purchases, we should be able to bring the full price of fully equipping one classroom down to $4,000, for a grand total of more than $12,000,000,000.

Every school will also need a large room full of monitors and DVR’s, to watch and record all the goings-on.  Let’s say it’s about $100 for an adequate monitor and $200 for a DVR that can record 10 classrooms at once. Again factoring in discount pricing, that will cost somewhere between $160,000,000 and $200,000,000.

One minor downside: We will probably have to buy the cameras, microphones, and DVRs from Chinese, Tiawanese, or Swiss companies, because American companies missed the boat when it came to creating effective security systems.

But even if more than $13 billion leaves our shores without benefiting the American economy, Mr. Carlson’s plan will still create prosperity because it’s going to create several million jobs–the men and women who will spend their days watching our teachers, taking careful notes, and, inevitably, bearing witness against those teachers who are polluting the minds of our children.

I hope Mr. Carlson will support giving employment preference to devoted viewers of the Fox channel, because their antennae will be sensitive to what matters.  They will be able to spot “Critical Race Theory” easily, because Mr. Carlson and his colleagues have educated them.

We will need to hire at least a million of these “Watchers” at a cost of roughly $40,000 per year, for a total of $4,000,000,000.  This will be an annual expense

Let me be blunt about what’s at stake: If you are not willing to spend more than $17,000,000,000 to save our nation from subversion, I think you should leave the country now.

Because I believe I can help Mr. Carlson save America, I am coming out of retirement.  I have created an on-line training program for “Watchers,” which provides basic training in recognizing the educational subversion known as Critical Race Theory.

Those who enroll will learn in a few short lessons how to spot the seven signs of probable CRT.  Just to tease you (and hopefully persuade you to sign on), one CRT-associated behavior to be on the lookout for is Enthusiasm--Students raising their hands, talking excitedly, and even expressing happiness.  That alone isn’t definitive proof of CRT, but it constitutes ‘probable cause,’ in my experience.

I am calling the program, which costs only $100 per adult learner, the “Critical Race Aggressive Pedagogy Trap,” or “CRAP TRAP.”  You can sign up here, or you can meet me on the corner of Morse and Fuller Streets and hand me the cash.

One unexpected benefit of Mr. Carlson’s inspired campaign to save America will be a surge in  popularity for Mr. Carlson himself.  He needs the boost because he has been losing viewers recently to COVID.  These unfortunate now-dead viewers, known colloquially as “Tucker’s Suckers,” refused to get vaccinated, contracted COVID, and died. 

Apparently all those who died had received bad advice about vaccination from unidentified trusted sources.  

Journalistic Integrity, Thy Name is FOX!

The George Foster Peabody Award is broadcasting’s highest honor, and so, when the Peabody Committee announced the creation of a Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity, I naturally assumed that it would go to either Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham, the shining lights of the Fox Television empire.  The only challenge for the Peabody Judges would be to choose among the three. 

I suspect that most of you had the same thoughts.

After all, integrity is a straightforward concept. The dictionary defines it as “The quality or state of being complete or undivided.”  I ask you, who better fills that bill than Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham?   To say that the trio may not technically be ‘journalists’ is nit-picking of the worst order.  After all, millions of Americans turn to them for advice on what to believe.  And they deliver a world-view that is also a rallying cry that tells them they are not alone.  

Again, integrity means structural consistency that can be relied on.  Imagine, if you will, a building that lacks structural integrity. Parts of it could collapse at any time.  Most of us want the same in our journalists, and the Fox trio provides exactly that: no ambiguity, no gray areas, and no contradictions.  Like their spiritual father Rush Limbaugh, they help their loyal viewers navigate a complex world by bringing clarity and eliminating nuance.  That’s award-winning journalism!!

Integrity also means incorruptibility, and any objective observer of the Fox trio must acknowledge that their presentations are never corrupted or even influenced by anything outside their own reality.  Or by facts.

For example, Tucker Carlson is unwavering in his assertions that immigrants and the Black Lives Matter movement pose a threat to America. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, Carlson has maintained his integrity.  

Sean Hannity is also a pillar of integrity and consistency, telling his devoted followers that the January 6th insurrection was staged by anti-fascists with the covert assistance of the FBI, even though there’s no evidence to support him.

And Laura Ingraham is their match for incorruptibility.  She asserts with unwavering certainty and near monotonous regularity that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen from Donald J. Trump, ignoring the 60+ lawsuits that went against Trump and strong evidence that the election was the most secure in our nation’s history. 

That is integrity, structural consistency, and incorruptibility.  No silly arguments, no wishy-washy “On the one hand/on the other hand”’ garbage, and no confusing back-and-forth debating with people who might disagree with them.  

I can only assume that the Peabody judges could not bear to choose among Ingraham, Carlson, and Hannity and opted for a compromise.  As you probably know, they gave the coveted Peabody Award for Journalistic Integrity to Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour.

Frankly, I don’t get it.  Woodruff is anything but unwavering. If anything, I would say that she is consistently wobbly.  For example, she regularly gives air-time to people with opposing viewpoints and lets them argue, and she never steps in to tell us who is right. In fact, that seems to be a fetish of hers.   

Worse yet–unlike Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham–Woodruff never tells us how she feels about the issues.  I have been watching the PBS NewsHour for decades and still have no idea of her politics.  

What kind of journalism is that?  How on earth are we to proceed without direction?