Our purity may not be helpful: How does our own flawless tribe cover public school topics?
A recent piece at The Atlantic provides a problematic example. We're going to spend the next few days looking at various aspects of this achingly pure piece of work.
Atlantic's report was written by Emily DeRuy, a youngish reporter who doesn't have an extensive background in public school reporting.
DeRuy graduated from UCSD in 2010; she got a master's in journalism from Stanford two years later. She became an education reporter for The National Journal last July, moved to The Atlantic early this year.
We assume her intentions are thoroughly good. We think her instincts are possibly unhelpful.
In her April 1 piece for The Atlantic, DeRuy is reporting on the latest new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins. Throughout the piece, her instincts are those of the deeply caring white liberal.
These headlines suggest a very familiar thesis, which could of course be justified in the instances under review:
White Teachers Expect Less Than Black Teachers From Black StudentsLow expectations from some white teachers might be holding black students back?
A new study suggests that low expectations from some teachers might engender low performance from students.
That's a very familiar thesis. Expressed in that equivocal way, it's almost certainly true.
That said, it's very unclear from DeRuy's report if the new Johns Hopkins study has found a circumstance in which this familiar old supposition really does obtain. In part, that's because of flaws with DeRuy's reporting. In part, it's because of the very shaky press release for the study, to which she provides this link.
Did this study uncover a circumstance in which white teachers, through their low expectations, were holding black students back? Unless you want to pay $20, the study itself isn't available. This leaves us with DeRuy's report about the study, and with that very unimpressive press release.
For today, we'll offer a general view. Fairly often, The Atlantic's work on public schools almost tends to be objectionable in a certain familiar old way.
A cynic would say that this magazine's work is designed to make white liberals feel morally pure, rather than to address the needs of actual low-income kids.
Our country is full of beautiful kids who deserve lots of help at school. Does this report address their needs? Or is it aimed at The Atlantic's readership, which may tend to be achingly pure?
We'll spend several days on aspects of DeRuy's report. To our ear, it's well-intentioned but underfed, lazy work.
Fellow superior beings, why not look at the tribe in the mirror this week? If our impression turns out to have merit, what might The Atlantic's report suggest about our own utterly flawless good and pure smart caring liberal tribe?
Full disclosure: According to The Atlantic, DeRuy's report "is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
Cynics, we're just saying! There's nothing to look at here!