Jon Stewart & School Reform Dialogue

It’s hard to believe that February break is halfway done.  Fortunately, it gives me a chance to write.

I had the pleasure of getting to see a taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last Thursday with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as guest.  In a Q&A before the show, I asked Stewart “if, as a teacher, I would be grinding my teeth in anger during the interview with Duncan,” and expressed my interest in hearing an honest conversation about education policy, rather than just a set of talking points.

Overall, Stewart made a valiant effort at trying to make this happen.  Stewart made the point very eloquently that the rhetoric that comes from the administration does not resonate with teachers, because it doesn’t match what we see on the ground day-to-day.   Unfortunately, time and time again Duncan reverted to his script…talking points about increasing standards, fostering ingenuity in education, recruiting teachers, and spending billions of dollars.

Stewart should be commended for trying to have a real dialogue with Duncan.  Unfortunately, he knew at the end of the interview that he had not succeeded and he apologized to the audience afterward for it.

P.S. The teacher Stewart refers to in the audience is indeed me, but for the record, I did not curse like a sailor…or maybe I did…it sounds cooler that way…

Here’s a link to the most interesting part of the interview


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2 Responses to Jon Stewart & School Reform Dialogue

  1. jkua says:

    That’s neat that you got to have some input on the show! I agree in that I often wish that Stewart would ask harder-hitting questions. He’s regularly gets big non-entertainment guests on and he really needs to corner them on issues, especially ones he rails about in his other segments. The problem is that Stewart perpetually falls back to “I’m just a comedian – I’m only here to entertain,” which is a nice safe area for him.

    The truth is, he’s blown way past that line a long time ago and it behooves him to do more, not less. He’s influential enough that I don’t think people can afford to blow off an interview request from him – even if he’s asked them tough questions in the past.

    That said – I don’t entirely blame Duncan. He’s a man working within political and time/term constraints and in an election year, he’s going to focus on the little things they’re working on/have done. If anyone told me they had a good plan for fixing education in this country, I’d say they were insane for broadcasting it. I think any path to education reform is going to require a major shift in the nation’s thinking about the entire system and that even you had a good long-term plan, your political opponents are just pick some aspect of it to reframe as something to fire up their base and go on the talking head shows to drown out any reasonable discussion.

    Maybe that’s too cynical, but it seems very difficult to get any national discussion going that doesn’t focus on some irrelevancy.

    • mcarlberg says:

      I completely agree with you that Stewart is way too comfortable hiding behind “I’m just a comedian.” You might find the following article by Kirsten’s mom interesting: When Stewart goes beyond the role of comedian and asks tough questions of his guests, he often seems like the one of the best journalists on TV.

      I share your cynicism in many ways. It frustrates me that politicians for a multitude of reasons aren’t willing to have the long, complicated discussion that education warrants. One of my goals for my students is for them to develop the ability to analyze and synthesize arguments. I just wish we could ask as much from our politicians in the conversation around education, one of the most complicated policy areas of our time.

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