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    Who They Gonna Call? Bias at the New York Times on Education Reform

    by Susan Ohanian

    On Sept. 6, 1871, The New York Times published Karl Marx's obituary, even though Marx was very much alive at that time--and didn't die for another eleven years. Whether it was obstinacy or wishful thinking, the Times never ran a correction on this item. In more recent times, educators who wondered if they'd live long enough to see a correction on Times fly-by-night education reform claims found small hope in this New York Times official Correction, March 2, 2013:

    An article on Friday about New York City's estimate that it will cost about $56 million to buy new textbooks and other materials to help city public school students meet rigorous Common Core academic standards misidentified the classes in New York State that will take standardized tests in April based on the new standards. It is third through eighth graders, not kindergartners through eighth grade.

    Certainly, this glitch doesn't compare with other Times bloopers that have made it to the Corrections page:

    * Walter Cronkite did not storm the D-Day beaches but covered the landing from a warplane

    * Congressional candidate Alexander Sacks said "Communist fronts," not "Communist faggots"

    * In "Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard" a spy from an atheist organization fell into a vat of broth, not a monkey or Sampath in the form of a guava.

    * An article about drilling for oil off the coast of Angola erroneously reported a story about cows falling from planes, as an example of risks in any engineering endeavor. No cows, smuggled or otherwise, ever fell from a plane into a Japanese fishing rig.

    Other corrections have involved misidentifying someone's My Little Pony character, clarifying just when Gore Vidal had sex with his longtime live-in companion, situating Bermuda in the Caribbean, mistaking longitude for latitude, putting the picture of the wrong catcher in Yogi Berra's obituary, offering illumination on whether Ahmed Abu Khattala drank a strawberry frappe or mango juice at a luxury hotel, correcting the age of Melania Krauss [Trump] when she posed for a picture in Talk magazine: "She was 29, not 26, making her almost a quarter-century younger than her future husband, not more than a quarter-century younger."

    And so on.

    Considering all the Times' misstatements on Common Core since the June 3, 2010 announcement of the release of the standards, the glitch about K-3 is indeed very small potatoes. But correction of small detail is a critical Times strategy, such repairs serving as opportunistic sly boots, offering reassurance to readers that the paper is meticulous about facts. Get the small trappings right and then maybe nobody will notice the deliberate, obfuscating curtains of distortion and duplicity shrouding what matters. As Renata Adler points out, "the policy of Corrections is a form simultaneously of consolidation of power and of hiding. . . . It is a form of Fundamentalism, it protects the ideology." With New York Times Common Core coverage, what travels as News is corporate Verdict.

    The fact that in Times education coverage, public relations crackerjacks are much more likely to be quoted than pedagogy experts sits in sharp contrast to news presented by the science staff when writing about medical research. Health and science writer (and part of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize team) Pam Belluck explains:

    Once we decide it's worth doing a story, there are several next steps. Besides doing a detailed reading of the study, examining related cancer research and interviewing the researchers and unconnected experts, I'm always interested in talking with real people with relevant experiences.

    That last sentence cuts to the core of the problem with the Times coverage of education in general and the Common Core in particular:

    * Interviewing researchers

    * Interviewing unconnected experts

    * Talking with real people with relevant experiences

    This has not happened in Common Core coverage.

    Let's start with the June 2010 article announcing release of the Common Core. . . .

    Read the rest of the article here.

    Promote it on Twitter and other social media.

    — Susan Ohanian
    November 03, 2015

    Index of Common Core [sic] Standards

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