Why @CNN’s ‘#InsideMan on Education’ Worries Me: Part 1

Let me start with the things I appreciate about the recent episode of CNN’s Inside Man:

  • I appreciate they made education a topic of conversation to the general public
  • I also generally appreciate Morgan Spurlock’s work, he attempts to challenge perception of issues even when they feel uncomfortable
  • I appreciate any school, anywhere, trying to do the best they can in the best ways they know how (and hope they grow when presented with other, even more effective means)
graphic from CNN’s Facebook page
  • I think the biggest thing I appreciate, though, is that CNN–whether planned or by coincidence–took on an outsiders view of education throughout the entire episode. I don’t love that specifically. What I do find valuable, however, is that it helped me see our profession through fresh eyes. “Oh, this is what they think of us,” I thought at many times. Or, “YIKES! THIS is what they think of us?!” at others.

Here is the first of two big worries that have stuck with me since this show, I will write about the second tomorrow because it feels too large to share a post with anything else.

FINLAND VS. US: Round #275

The episode begins with the tired premiss that the US is lagging behind other countries in performance. A point that has largely been proven false. I wrote about this in my SMARTBlog on Education guest post, Fairytales of Data. And sent this one, out of a shower of tweets about it, while watching the episode live:

The fact is that the rise of “Finland” (with no offense to Finland, you are doing many things right) was based on one international test, the PISA 2009, that the Stanford study found the have faulty results. Furthermore, there is this point:

Which I wrote more extensively about in my post on this blog, Education’s Own 47%.

What worries me is not just that CNN didn’t do their homework. What worries me is that there is public perception that our education system is failing in a way it isn’t. Our larger failure is poverty and the lack of access. I worry that if we don’t tell the true facts the solutions will continue to be clouded by other, less pressing, concerns.

You DO win points for trying, however.

The premise of every episode of Inside Man is that Spurlock fully enters the world he is studying. This I admire, many politicians, pundits, policy makers, and journalists tell us what we need to do to “fix” education (see point one), but few actually step into classrooms.  While I think his final analysis was a bit nearsighted (after one lesson on one day at a school in New York he said students “got it” and their required written responses were the proof), the fact that he rolled up his sleeves and gave it a whirl is just what we need more education reform leaders to do.

For understanding of recent educational history and citing of facts: F

For effort: B+

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