Good get

Today’s Morning Edition embodied some of the positive trends I see in NPR reportage.

There are subject areas that demand constant coverage and attention as opposed to the “declare a crisis every ten years and forget about it” syndrome Mainstream Media is so often prey to.

American and global energy use and abuse certainly falls into this category, as does the problem of educating underprivileged legacy-challenged children.

A brief 27-second item foreshadows future dramatic oil price and pollution increases as Chinese are said to have a lust for just the kind of gas guzzlers that American car companies are desperate to supply.

A longer piece describes a Newt Gingrich-inspired program of rewarding poor urban kids with cash if they improve their grades. Of course this kind of idea is unpleasantly crass and serves as a sad commentary on a society that so often makes it impossible for public schools to do the job we ask of them. But at this point anything is worth trying. And who could really be against rewarding poor kids for academic performance? After all many of them already have after school jobs, legal or otherwise. Isn’t paying them to study in order to succeed in the long term a better option, at least in theory?

Wonderfully for the fatuous jerk-a-knee behind the newspaper comic “Mallard Fillmore” (doesn’t the title really say everything that needs to be said about it) reporter Odette Yousef manages to find a cartoonish academic, associate professor in educational policy Richard Lakes, who actually says the following:

“This message really reinforces that these low-income kids are destined to a life of wage-earning,” said Richard Lakes, associate professor in educational policy at Georgia State University, who called the program “morally bankrupt.”

“It reinforces that these children in particular are going to be servants of the middle and upper classes,” he said.

This is where the radio format really comes in handy. I probably would have believed that statement to be an invented Jayson Blair kind of quote by a made-up person if I hadn’t heard him with my own ears.

“A life of wage earning?” Really? And that’s a bad thing? Compared to what, exactly? Being an associate professor? I guess Georgia State pays Professor Lakes in magic beans and the laughter of children?

And in what world is paying kids to do better in school more likely to land them a wage-slave “career” than not paying them to make good grades.

This is the kind of mindless, aesthetic, pre-determined-by-politics response normally associated with the focus-grouped paranoid fantasies of Coulter, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

Professor Lakes has taught me something: previously I thought straw men only came to life in the Land of Oz.

One thought on “Good get

  1. Funny. Let me see if I can follow Prof. Lakes’ reasoning (assuming he is moderately happy with his career choice):
    Paying a professor to pursue the life of the mind and avoid needing to get a real job=good.
    Paying a student to pursue the life of the mind and avoid needing to get a real job=bad.

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