Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Did you catch me on CNN?

One of the perils of working from home is that when a CNN producer asks you to come on air in two hours, chances are that your hair, not to mention your eyebrows, will be a hot mess. But hey, I welcome any chance to inject my form of reality into the education conversation.

The topic was merit pay, and the producer almost uninvited me when she learned during the pre-interview that I am not a full-on hater. I knew enough about Steve Perry, CNN’s education expert, to guess he’d be unequivocally PRO merit pay and I knew enough about cable news to figure they wanted me as the ANTI. I wonder if she read the headline on this op-ed but not the second sentence, where I say, “Teachers ought to be subject to some form of merit pay; it has always seemed silly to me that they are compensated mainly for the number of years they stick around.” I had already told my parents I was about to be on TV and had changed my clothes, so I explained to the producer what would be some differences between our points of view. Because if you don’t have sharp differences, you don’t have cable news.

So I went to the studio, and after the makeup artist penciled a half-inch onto the ends of my eyebrows, I sat down in front of the camera and prepared to be talked over. I thought CNN did a good job in a short time presenting contradictory research and suggesting there might be some subtleties involved, but I cannot say the same for Steve Perry. The teaser for the segment suggested Perry thought kids were unprepared for college because there is not ... merit pay. WOW. Awesome rhetoric! Right up there with Perry’s use of the word “communist”! I would have to see the clip to remember what exactly I said, and I know better than to watch myself on TV. The main thing I remember is that Perry—a get-tough principal who CNN put on (paid, I believe) retainer as their education expert after getting great response to a piece they ran on him—actually suggested that schools had been paying teachers based on touchy-feely measures.

DUDE, YOU WORK IN A SCHOOL. YOU KNOW THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. He also conflated merit pay with incentive pay to work in hard-to-staff areas. Of course, I had no way to correct him on air. Because, as my mother IM’d me, I “looked gorgeous and upset, but those [bleep]holes never let you talk.”


  1. My fervent hope is that someone will go into Steve Perry's school and give his students an open-ended essay test because I feel certain that he, and others like him, are not telling the whole story. What I remember most about one of his appearances is his remark that the school had no labs or "hands-on" experiences in science, but (something to the effect) "our teachers still find a way." Yeah, right.

  2. Linda, you did great, at least in terms of the conversation. Due to the quality of the clip I just watched, however, I'm unable to comment on the final state of your eyebrows.

    Todd Farley,
    "Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry"

  3. John Gibson, right-wing nutball commentator who wrote "The War Against Christmas," used to be my husband's colleague and a neighbor of ours. He was not a right-wing nutball -- he just plays one on TV.