Crisis in national security? If we follow the lead of NBC and their Education Nation and other media outlets’ education coverage, their coverage of the “National Security” crisis might look like this:
We would put together a panel to discuss national security “in depth.” The panel would consist of college professors and online university presidents that have studied national security and toured military and other “security” bases, and business people (1 or 2 of them would be billionaires) and a lawyer or two that have very strong opinions about national security and may have visited military bases, a few members of at least fairly extremist US militia groups and a politician or 2 also with strong opinions not considered seriously by the military people actually running national security. In addition only one of the panelists can have as much as 3 years experience in the military or other actual national security service and the experience must have happened more than 5 to10 years ago. Almost all the panelists should have similar opinions and attitudes that mostly run counter to what the actual experts believe. The host should likewise have little to no experience in national security and ask almost no follow-up questions, mainly because they don’t know or understand the background or issues involved. (I’d add the US Secretary of Defense as part of this group, but it is too unrealistic to place them here, wish that was true of the US Secretary of Education … but I digress)
In the audience you can have generals and other high ranking military folks and national security experts with 10 to 30 or more years current experience, but they only get to make a few short comments or ask a few short questions from the audience with no chance for follow-up no matter how poorly their question is answered or taken out of context or they are belittled (knowingly or unknowingly) by the panelist answering or commenting on their question. Now advertise this panel as a broad ranging, in-depth, expert discussion on national security issues that face our nation
Next, decide as a public service, to put together a week or more of these panels to discuss this vital topic (“National Security Nation”, perhaps), and set the panels up pretty much just like the description above except a few times include one panelist that represents a national security think tank that is only considered a barely adequate expert in the field by the people they represent, and that hasn’t worked directly in the field for 10 or more years outside of the think tank. In addition do one-on-one interviews with some of the most controversial panelists where they say what they want and even belittle the actual experts and their ideas like it is common knowledge with no follow-up questions from the host (who is really the celebrity reporter or anchor, not a national security or even military reporter that might know enough to ask follow-up questions).
Now be shocked, shocked! that the actual national security experts are mad as hell that they are continually ignored and that only these controversial opinions are given voice and weight. In addition they are angry at uncritically being labelled as against what is best for our country’s national security and only care about keeping their jobs and pay when most have given their whole professional lives to national security. Add news anchors and reporters that aid in spreading this perception (knowingly or unknowingly – not sure which is worse) by constantly repeating it or allowing others to repeat it unquestioningly like it was common knowledge. And perhaps most vexing, when pushed condescendingly mention how they are sure “Most” national security experts are great at their jobs and are probably the most cherished and valuable members of society (just not worthy of of having a voice in their area of expertise apparently).
Can you imagine any news organization having even one panel exactly as I described above being promoted as an “in-depth” and “broad-based” discussion about national security? Well apparently that is OK when education is discussed “in-depth.” To be fair there have been a few (very few) well done discussions lately, but we shouldn’t even have ONE like I described above. I’m hoping that we are turning the corner in this one-sided “debate” about education, it will be interesting to see what transpires.
How could we make the discussion about education valuable? Who should “be at the table” when education topics are discussed?
Learning is messy!