While journalist Nichole Dobo has not corresponded with me since I posted Dear Journalists Covering Education, Let Me Explain, Dobo has posted a Tweet I believe deserves additional consideration:

Dobo’s insistence that her professionalism be respected (which I support fully) raises a key aspect of my concern for how journalists tend to cover education.

Like Dobo, Stephen Sawchuk, a top education journalist for Education Week, bristled at being criticized for education coverage, characterizing the challenges as “pretty offensive.”

Here, then, I am being sincere when I ask: How is the constant and unwarranted drumbeat about “bad teachers,” “failing schools,” and “education crisis” treating educators as professionals? How is the overwhelming lack of seeking teachers and educators as sources in education journalism treating educators as professionals?

Shouldn’t teachers treat journalists as professionals and journalists treat teachers as professionals? Doesn’t our democracy need the professionalism of both journalists and educators?

I taught high school English for about two decades in a rural South Carolina public school, including several years when I also had achieved my doctorate in education while remaining a high school teacher.

During those years, the best I could manage in many efforts to reach into the media were a few letters to the editor.

Once I was in higher education, however, I was given access to Op-Eds as well as frequent interviews by TV and print journalists.

What message does that send?

For both educators and journalists, demanding our professionalism be respected and having good intentions are not enough if we are not extending that same level of respect into the areas we claim to have those good intentions.

To be perfectly honest, education journalism has significantly failed to extend respect to educators—for decades.

The entire accountability era is built on the premise that schools are not effective because teachers simply do not try hard enough, that education lacks the proper incentives (usually negative) to demand the hard work needed for schools to excel.

The “bad teacher” mantra that has risen during the Obama presidency, and the increase of calls for and uses of value-added methods (VAM) to evaluate teachers both further de-professionalize and demonize teachers—and the great majority of education journalism has embraced, not refuted, these.

And as I have already noted, the favorite meme of education journalism remains (for over 150 years) that education is in crisis.

How would journalists feel if “journalism is in crisis” was the primary and initial given about their field, for a century and a half? [1] Does that honor your professionalism? Especially if you have little or no power over your field, especially if your voice is nearly muted from the discussion?

Today, in 2016, the imbalance of treating professionals as professionals tips against journalists covering education.

What does it say to teachers when mainstream education journalists are quoting one think tank leader with no experience in education (and a degree in a field that is not education) more than all the quoting of classroom teachers combined?

You may be offended by this, but I offer it because I respect the field of journalism and agree journalists should be afforded the highest respect as professionals: Journalists covering education have not treated my profession, education, as a profession.

Of all professions, however, I believe educators and journalists need each other, need both to be honored professions.

I eagerly await journalists covering education to join educators in that solidarity.

See Also

Flunking the Test, Paul Farhi

[1] Please note how many journalists respond when a lowly blogger simply challenges them based on evidence and my own expertise in both fields.