In case you didn’t know already, I’m not a professional writer. Maybe it’s obvious, I don’t know. Nevertheless, here’s a little inside baseball. I don’t get any credit for any of the education blogging or posting that I do. I don’t get any credit for editorials or anything else. As a faculty member in the so-called Ivory Tower, all of this stuff is lumped into what’s called “service.” So, according to the laws of promotion and tenure, I am serving the community at large with my Interweb contributions. I apparently serve my community with my awesome knowledge in a myriad of other ways, like sitting on committees, reviewing proposals, and other miscellany. All of this writing, all the connections I make, does not amount to a hill of beans unless it contributes to better teaching or some kind of scholarly venture. Nevermind that online, and NOT in academic journals, is where all the action is in education reform.
But I always laugh when the assumption is, right out of graduate school, that we need to write. Write, write, write, so much writing, so little time. And our advisors and mentors actually convince us, without any formal training, that we can actually write, and write well. We complain about all the writing that we have to do and then brag about the new book chapter we’re going to write as a result of a conference brainstorming session over crappy finger foods and cheap red wine. Part of the problem here is that many of us did not receive formal training in good writing, despite the pressures to write so much. Sure, we’ve been counseled on academic writing and the formula of the academic article. But not on making education writing accessible, readable, and interesting. That comes with talent that some have and some don’t.
This is where the education-journo comes in. They know how to write, they’re trained to access information. Empower them with a little knowledge about a subject, say education, let them observe a few classrooms, follow people around, and boom, you have an education “expert” who can write and effectively communicate ideas. Take Richard Whitmire. Here, again, he gets it all wrong. He has his journalistic pulse on a very narrow stream in the overall conversation on education. He then assumes that it’s an entire one half of the reform story, with the other half uninterested in reform, which is patently untrue. We, as educators, have a real problem when it comes to messaging. I’m doing my best, but I’m only one person. What to do?