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Missing Days

After not missing a day of posting since starting my blog, I missed two in a row. The short answer is that I've overcommitted myself and my blog (among other activities) suffered as a result. Hopefully things are calming down now and I'll go back to regular posting.

Two friends disagreed with my recent posts on NPR's interview with Reg Weaver, the incoming president of the National Education Association. One made the point that, as an elected official, Weaver was simply bridging from the question being asked to the question he wanted to answer. In other words, a hypothetical translated version of the interview might read:

NPR: Why shouldn't there be an alternative [to public schools]?

Reg Weaver: I don't want to talk about that. What I want to talk about is my organization's dislike of vouchers. The NEA is against vouchers.

NPR: Okay, what about testing? Is it the case that the National Education Association doesn't equate high test scores with, say, high standards of teaching?

Reg Weaver: I don't want to talk about that. What I want to talk about is increased funding, school security, teacher certification, and high technology. The NEA is for all those things.

I'm not sure I buy my friend's argument. Yes, bridging is a PR technique (I was taught it during a PR class at Adobe Systems many years ago), but Weaver wasn't just bridging -- he was making a direct link between vouchers and poor school performance:

Reg Weaver: What I am saying is that I want all schools to be as good as our best school.

NPR: Unfortunately, that hasn't happened...

Reg Weaver: But see, it hasn't happened because I think the voucher issiue is a divisive issue... (emphasis mine)

That's not bridging; that's asserting a causal link.

Another friend put forward the argument that the problem with vouchers is that they will tend to favor students whose parents take an active role in their education, while disfavoring students with disinterested and uninvolved parents. I'm not sure I buy this argument, either. Competition among schools should -- if properly implemented -- be expected to raise the quality of all schools, not just those favored by parents. The worst schools will be shut down or restarted from scratch, so both median and mean school quality should rise. Yes, students with involved parents will benefit more than others, but isn't this the case already?

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