October 2, 2009

Whitmire and Rotherham fall prey to faux-trend fallacy

If I were a union activist without an historical perspective, I'd say ouch with Richard Whitmire and Andy Rotherham's WSJ opinion piece proclaiming a trend in news reporting on education and teachers unions. Or, to put it another way, there's an op-ed in Rupert Murdoch's new plaything proclaiming that a dying industry is giving birth to another trendlet about something, and we should therefore pay enormous attention?

Pardon my skepticism, but since I cut my teeth on documenting how one issue became a visible, recognized social problem in the 1960s (and the broader historical picture thereof), I have at least a little background to comment. I'd be cautious of making much of a handful of stories in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post. Most of the issues Whitmire and Rotherham mention have had small blips of attention over the past few decades, and you would expect there to be such blips in any year simply by random chance, with the only question being what issues pop up on the collective radar screen of journalists. 

The bigger issues here are ... well, the bigger issues, or long-term trends in coverage. I'd wait a year or two to see if there is still a trend that anyone thinks is starting now.

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Posted in Education policy on October 2, 2009 8:29 AM |