Writing in American Journalism Review, Paul Fahri blisters his media colleagues for easily buying into education reforms “sweeping generalizations.” Fahri, a Washington Post reporter takes articular aim at CNN host and analyst, Fareed Zakaria. A foreign policy expert and member of the Council on Foreign Relations made the leap into domestic education policy with a CNN special titled, “Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education.” Zakaria has somehow has become an instant domestic education policy expert. Writes Fahri:
Zakaria’s take, however, may be a perfect distillation of much of what’s wrong with mainstream media coverage of education. The prevailing narrative – and let’s be wary of our own sweeping generalizations here – is that the nation’s educational system is in crisis, that schools are “failing,” that teachers aren’t up to the job and that America’s economic competitiveness is threatened as a result. Just plug the phrase “failing schools” into Nexis and you’ll get 544 hits in newspapers and wire stories for just one month, January 2012. Some of this reflects the institutionalization of the phrase under the No Child Left Behind Act, the landmark 2001 law that ties federal education funds to school performance on standardized tests (schools are deemed “failing” under various criteria of the law). But much of it reflects the general notion that American education, per Zakaria, is in steep decline. Only 20 years ago, the phrase was hardly uttered: “Failing schools” appeared just 13 times in mainstream news accounts in January of 1992, according to Nexis. (Neither Zakaria nor CNN would comment for this story.)
Lets turn to policy advocates now who drive their agenda using such “sweeping generalizations” as “failing schools.” The state director of California’s Democrats for Education Reform, Gloria Romero uses “failing schools” often and freely in her recent op-ed piece to push parent trigger. But Romero takes these predictable themes to target a specific audience: California’s Latinos. The former state senator who penned California’s parent trigger bill, Romero uses the occasion of the birthday and state holiday of Cesar Chavez to advance her brand of education reform.
Cesar Chavez believed in community organizing. He understood the power of education. Chavez’ dreams and concept of community organizing were encapsulated in a bold “parent trigger” law that was enacted right here in California.
Parents and students were given greater choice in public education, with “districts of choice” options and open enrollment opportunities for kids trapped in chronically failing schools. A firewall that stunted the use of teacher performance linked to student outcomes was abolished. Parents in Compton recently took up the first parent trigger action, only to be rebuffed by an anti-reform school board that used petty technicalities in the working parents’ petition to deny them their rights under the law. Collectively, what these empowerment laws signify is the opportunity for parents to fight for their children’s futures by not being trapped in a failing school simply because it is assigned to their zip code. These laws give parents the freedom to transcend borders in search of a more hopeful educational future for their children
Romero’s piece was published the day before in Spanish. The intention that including “Democrat” in the name of the organization Romero now flacks for is to sway groups like California’s Latinos into believing that only they have their best interests at heart. Romero unashamedly plays this identity card by invoking the name of a bold iconic leader like Chavez. Separating or dividing people is this manner is not new to her. Romero’s currently on the ground agitating for parent trigger proponents in Adlenato, all the while ignoring the other half of the parents – Latinos among them – whom oppose the charter school take-over she favors.