In recent years the schools have taken it on the chin. And the blows have come from sources as various as progressive columnist Molly Ivins and conservative cartoon character Mallard Filmore.
Back in November 1992, I wrote a tart editorial in response to some gratuitous school-bashing by Ivins that had appeared in the September/October 1992 issue of Mother Jones, and I mailed a copy to her. She never acknowledged my letter.
Thus I was not moved to respond last April, when comic commentator Mallard Filmore stated (through creator Bruce Tinsley): "It's predicted that by the time today's kids grow up they'll be paying 84 percent of their incomes in taxes!! Just think what fraction of their own money that will leave them with! Of course, contemporary education being what it is, they won't be able to figure that out, either."
But failing to respond to undue skepticism about public school performance is not merely counterproductive, Jack Jennings points out in this month's Kappan - it's downright dangerous, because it jeopardizes the very existence of public education in America. Jennings blames the public's skepticism in large measure on the news media, which cover the bad news about school performance and ignore the good - even in the comics.
Meanwhile, in this same Kappan, Gary Henry discusses the notion of community accountability, a strategy for school improvement that relies on an open flow of information between public school educators and the general public. The information that passes between them should cover both student performance and the context within which education occurs, Henry points out - and it should be widely and accurately reported to a variety of audiences. …