Monday, January 19, 2009

How a Lie Begins

On this, the day our nation commemorates the birth of Martin Luther King, we can reflect on some changes for the better that have taken place in our country. But certainly teachers, regularly vilified for the unforgivable offense of accepting pay for teaching children, know that a lot of things have stayed the same.

Thus, after a few less-covered but false press reports, the weasels at Fox News spread a story about how Barack Obama's inaugaration would cost over three times that of GW Bush. O's ceremony is estimated at 150-160 million, but GW's at a mere 42. The Obama figure included security and transportation costs incurred by the federal government and DC, but the Bush figure did not. When the costs are added to GW's figures, his inaugaration cost 157 million, almost exactly what will be spent for tomorrow's ceremony.

This story was then picked up by MSNBC, and who knows how many lazy journalists will go with this, without a whit of due diligence? This is precisely what demagogues like Joel Klein count on, as they traipse about the world pushing "reforms" that hurt working people but fail to help the overwhelming majority of schoolchildren. Sure, it looks great when you give a few charter schools reasonable class sizes and decent facilities--but the lie only works if you can get the media to thoroughly ignore the conditions in typical schools. Sure, when you cherry-pick the kids who take a few dumbed-down tests it looks like you're doing a great job. But only if you ignore the NAEP exams, the ones you have no control over.

I don't suppose we'll see merit pay for journalists who report the truth anytime soon. But those who don't are not journalists at all, and ought to find work more suited to their talents. Perhaps they could sell bizarre cooking utensils on infomercials.
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