Magazines: Last Week's Problematic New Yorker Parent Opt Out Story
I and others have written about it a ton. The more the merrier.
But last week's piece (The Defiant Parents) in the New Yorker didn't seem like the magazine's best effort.
In fact, it seemed pretty lazy.
Of course, reasonable people can disagree about the merits of opting out or the best way to cover the story,and it's only a blog post online rather than a full feature article.
But I have to admit I was pretty disappointed -- their stuff is usually very good.
Take a look at the specifics below and let me know what you think.
For starters, the writer (Rebecca Mead) is a parent at one of the schools involved where educators are encouraging opts outs this spring. That's fine, but maybe for a personal essay rather than a journalistic piece.
Most of the ground being covered -- middle-class parents and progressive educators being uncomfortable with testing -- is familiar and narrowly constructed and super vague at key points:
The opt out movement is described as "bourgeoning" but not quantified beyond that.
Low pass rates on new state tests are presented as evidence that low-income families are being "demoralized" but there aren't any low-income families presented who are opting out.
The use of outside "corporate" vendors to develop the tests is presented as if the writer thinks pencils and textbooks and tablets used in schools only come from nonprofits or public agencies.
The amount of testing -- a little over an hour a day for a week -- is presented as if it's an enormous amount of time without any clear rationale.
For me, any self-respecting opt out story has to indicate the size of the movement (or that the number is unknown over might be very small), give readers context on why annual testing exists, and (particularly in this case) back up claims that testing is hurting low-income families in particular. But that's just me.
Image via the New Yorker.