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Saturday, February 11, 2012

GoodSpin: The Basic Rules of Public School Hype

The secret of success is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake those, you've got it made. -- Groucho Marx
Because public educators must deal not only with their students and colleagues, but also with parents, reporters and assorted busy-bodies, in other words, with the wishful thinking, the ill-informed and the near-delusional, they, the educators, tend to adapt that maxim so eloquently articulated by Thumper's mother in the movie, Bambi: "If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all." In the name of motivation, tact or good publicity, we become casual liars.

There is, in addition, an aspect of advertising culture that has been picked up by the hyperbolists of American public education: the reversal rule, parts A and B
The Reversal Rule, part A is this: if it's true but unpleasant, treat it as false. Better yet, don't even mention it.

The Reversal Rule, part B: if it's false but pleasant, say it anyway.
Thus rather than recognize the ancient maxim, "Impossibility negates obligation," we are encumbered with "All children can learn!" or "No child left behind!" The santimoniousness of this blather is supposed to make us forget, perhaps, that the concerned public servants who have foisted off over-exacting special education legislation on the schools are the very ones who have reneged on their promises for adequate resources.

To examine these issues further, see What Works? Under What Conditions? And Who Really Cares?

-- EGR