Friday, October 22, 2010

Opinion: The Big Story of Stigma Behind NPR Firing of Juan Williams

Juan WilliamsImage by Fairfax County Public Library via Flickr

There is no need to repeat the recent media news of National Public Radio-NPR-firing political analyst Juan Williams for expressing a certain personal view about Muslim attire aboard airplanes (Muslim terrorists and planes being joined in the acts of 9/11). Mr. Williams expressed personal feelings that do not conform to the NPR image. The lack of conformity was the problem. Mr. Williams made it clear that he was speaking only of the iconic effect of Muslim garb plus airplanes, an effect that remains in the American experience. Nevertheless, he did not conform his reactions to the expressed ideals of NPR, it is now clear.

There is no need to put up a shield of words to defend Mr. Williams here, for Mr. Williams fights verbally very well. In fact, in the context of his remarks about airplanes and garb on Fox News, he said that his feelings are not directed toward all Muslims. The larger story that NPR exposed is its intolerance of Mr. Williams' personal expression, then exacerbated the situation by its leader's efforts to stigmatize Mr. Williams.

That is one part of the big story, that NPR leadership claims tolerance and yet  behaves intolerantly--grossly so. The other part of the big story here is that the leader of NPR used a tactic often used by those of extremist views, by any name, to put down anyone who does not agree: to stigmatize critics. When the leader of NPR referred to Mr. Williams taking up his views with "his psychiatrist or his publicist," she employed that tactic of stigmatization.
There is personal relief that the effort was seen for what it was, by all who still maintain, in the public forum, that every citizen of a free society has the right to express personal views. The intolerance of NPR management in this instance caused the closing, even the slamming, of their open door... on a respected journalist and commentator.

(c) Jean Purcell
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 18, 2010


Juxtaposed images of Superman and Clark KentImage via Wikipedia

If I did not live 45 minutes (in light traffic) from the nation's capital and did not read The Washington Post Metro section most days, would I pay much attention to public school kids' Education/College Prep/Future-building Superman of the book and movie, Waiting for Superman? This movie, a documentary, incites tons of anticipation. It starts this week across the country, and I can hardly wait to see it.

There are lots of discouraged kids all over this land. A man featured in the movie, who grew up in a struggling community, recently said on TV that he cried when his mom told him Superman was not real. He said his hopes for "getting out" were dashed. Maybe in thriving areas like Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs, most kids do not know that feeling. But, in neglected urban, rural, and suburban neighborhoods, there are many kids waiting for something to get them out. Even if they cannot name what or who it is, they are waiting for something that will happen, or someone that will come to save their day.

I don't want to bog down in the DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee's dealings with union leadership, but when teachers cannot pass basic proficiency tests in math, science, or English, then remediation or See Ya Later, Teacher seem obvious options to me. Kids, says Rhee, should come first, not last. Buildings need to be qualified, too, and Eastern High School and other deteriorating schools in DC will no longer languish in decay, thanks to restorations under her leadership, even though opposed.

Maybe like me, you cried over your school, too, although for reasons like these:  Those doggone mean teachers expected a lot from you; they fussed if you worked below par. They called your mama if you didn't show up one morning, or have your homework done; or, they had the school secretary put in a call. Some people, even parents, may have shaken their heads over the teachers' old cars or clothes. Most parents, however, praised those "horrible" or "unfair" teachers that pushed you to succeed and got low pay for giving their best. 

Well, thank goodness teachers make more money and get better benefits now. And thank goodness there are some really good teachers. Yet, somehow with progress in professional recognition, in too many places the kids got left behind. They grew up without good teachers, and their kids and now grand-kids got the same, and are trailing, too. Maybe not in your town or mine, but in lots and lots of places. Way too many places have mayors, councils, boards of education, superintendents/chancellors, principals, and/or teachers that do not love kids, trust kids, or respect the needs of all or enough. If they did, don't you think we'd hear less about education budgets and new theories and more about how every student from age six to 17 can read and write at first, third, and sixth grade levels? But that's not happening in too many places. This is not a new problem; it's been worsening for over 30 years. And the solutions are not mysteries that need  Sherlock Holmes to solve.

Apparently, too many of us who want kids to have excellent and devoted teachers have been hoping, voting, praying...or, have we been waiting for Superman to come to the rescue? Where is the Clark Kent among us? Is it Michelle Rhee, and others hoping to be like her? Is it us? I'm going to see the movie, in hope of answers. I opine that Waiting for Superman will give every viewer a lot of ideas, surprises, maybe a few shocks...and fresh thinking about kids first in public education.

(c)2010 Jean Purcell
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Need to be True: Opinion-Writing Tips

Official logo of the International Herald Trib...Image via Wikipedia
          The chief requirement of writing opinions is to make professional efforts to view and take into account facts, wherever they may lead. Not always easy, for each of us tends to disbelieve what we do not like and believe what favors our perspective. Every writer has personal history, influences, and philosophical leanings.  Great Editorials: Masterpieces of Opinion WritingThe main criticism of news reporting today is the joining of news with opinion, so that the reader may be influenced by another's viewpoint, thereby discouraged from one's own assessments, comparisons, and conclusions. Recently, I saw this happening on the front page of The Washington Post where one adjective, some could say "slur," turned what should have been straight reporting into a judgment intended to slant readers' views. The Washington Post has long been a leading US newspaper of international readership (see International Herald Tribune, the international newspaper in English, a combination of New York Times and Washington Post newspaper news and feature articles).

Opinion writing, in the best of news tradition, is limited to established pages or sections. Different opinions, viewpoints, and perspectives are the hallmark traits of the best news media, whether print, online, TV, and radio. Film writing also thrives, gaining professional respect, on perspectives that influence opinions, even, perhaps, changingMemoirs Of The Life And Times Of Daniel De Foe V1: Containing A Review Of His Writings And His Opinions (1830) them. Learn Opinion Writing Now Faster and Easier with Subliminal Programming CDOriginal Letters of John Locke, Algernon Sidney and Lord Shaftesbury; With an Analytical Sketch of the Writings and Opinions of Locke and Other

Fact- and truth-based opinion-writing is most likely flawed, in some sense of the personal biases of the writer. Yet, the truth helps, and the more known by the writer, the more reliable the open-minded opinion writer. Facts and truth should affect our perspectives, balanced alongside personal experiences and philosophical biases. Truth about situations in flux often must involve a process of discovery.  For this and other reasons, news media that give a range of views, even from competing perspectives of thoughtful writers, thrive.

Opinari, opinion's Latin  root, tells us that opinion is a matter of thought, reason, and belief, based on the fact, experience, and conclusions known to, available, and personal to us.

Enhanced by Zemanta