Yesterday afternoon I watched the Teacher Town Hall* that was the kick-off event for Education Nation, NBC’s self-congratulatory, week-long look at education on their news shows, quasi-news shows (ie. Dateline), and talking heads cable channels.

This is not a summary of the two hours (minus an odd assortment of ads), just a short collection of observations.  If you saw the program and came away with something different, please leave a comment.

Although Brian Williams, the moderator, claimed several times that Education Nation was all about “the future of American education”, this town hall was very much about the status quo.  Any changes being advocated, by either the people interviewed on-stage or those who got a few seconds on mic from the audience, were minimal at best.

I didn’t hear much about student learning, which is supposed to be the core purpose of school.  And on those few occasions when the subject of learning did come up, it was always in terms of standardized tests.  Unfortunately, even many teachers are associating genuine learning with test scores.

On the other hand, almost all the teachers who spoke from the audience seemed very proud of their work and of their particular schools and students. Almost defensive.

Maybe not almost.  Many speakers talked about the profession being “under attack”, “under siege”, and about their work “in the trenches”. It’s rather depressing to hear people discussing teaching in terms of war.

And Williams seemed to take great pleasure in keeping the waters churning.  It quickly became clear that he and the producers were far more interested in the conflict that is the staple of what passes for news reporting these days than they were in a serious discussion of education issues.

Lots of talk about unions and tenure, although those who blame either for not being able to fire bad teachers don’t understand the system.  In the super large districts, it’s the general bureaucracy that is the biggest impediment to making corrections – of any kind.

The online discussion, using CoverIt Live, was worthless.  Besides being too many people contributing comments, some of them short essays, making it very hard to follow, it was also clear that the posts were being filtered. The criteria for which were allowed through wasn’t so clear.

Finally, did you know the event was taking place on the skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza in New York? It was impossible to miss that fact since Williams told the audience about it after Every. Single. Commercial. Break.

So, with the obigitory airing of teacher opinion out of the way – on a football Sunday afternoon – the rest of Education Nation can begin in prime time.

Bring on the expert panel!


*Don’t look for a transcript, recording, or other accounting of the two hours at that link. But you can still enter the sweepstakes! They’ve posted the video, but a searchable transcript would also be nice. And you can still enter the sweepstakes. :-)