Friday, April 22, 2011

Information matters

Don't you get tired of being treated like an idiot?
If you are one of the few remaining readers of the local daily newspaper published in the mornings (always referred to by one leading politician years ago as "The Morning Mistake"), that is how you are treated.
Just one example: local schools.
Not only in the news columns but also in the opinion columns, readers constantly are harangued about the supposed problem of "school funding."
It is too little, they say.
But are you ever told (a) how much it is, (b) how much it has changed or (c) why it matters?

Herewith, information that is relevant.

School spending

What this shows, obviously, is that spending is higher than it was five years ago, although down from 2008.
Rational human beings, however, would be more interested in knowing whether children are learning more or less.
That information is more difficult to find. The Web pages of the government school system contain data, but most of it is not current and there does not seem to be any that shows year to year progress.
Competent journalists, however, easily could unearth the information -- if their intent was to inform rather than proselytize.
One thing you can count on is that the politicians who run the government schools will assure you that the schools are improving under their watchful eyes.
They expect that you will not ask how that is possible if the amount of money thrown at the system is the only factor involved.
If it should turn out that children are learning less, and they attempt to attribute that to lack of funding, the relevant question would be: How would greater funding improved learning?
Ask them to cite the research showing any correlation between school spending and student achievement.
Good luck getting an answer. Don't bother to look for it in the newspaper.
Mark Twain said, "If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed." Until newspapers begin fulfilling their responsibility to inform the public, that will continue to be true, and they will continue to lose readers.

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