The Washington Post has taken a perfectly reasonable article on an important subject–the challenge of differentiating instruction for children of variable abilities–and ruined it by forcing it through through the tube of the standard-issue NCLB controversy. While it’s a good idea to use different method to teach diverse children, apparently all K-12 education stories in 2007 must be framed in exactly the same way. The article begins:
Some scholars are joining parent advocates in questioning whether the education law No Child Left Behind, with its goal of universal academic proficiency, has had the unintended consequence of diverting resources and attention from the gifted.
Once again we’re confronted with the bone-tired cliche of “unintended consequences,” the hook for at least 50% of all education policy stories ever written. They tried to do one thing, but then some other thing happened! Ooooh…interesting!
After the requisite quote from the advocate for gifted children saying exactly what you would expect an advocate to say, we get more detail about what “some scholars” are saying:
“We don’t find any evidence that the gifted kids are harmed,” said Chicago economist Derek A. Neal. “But they are certainly right, the gifted advocates, if they claim there is no evidence that No Child Left Behind is helping the gifted.”
Except that’s not what the advocates are saying. They’re saying, how to put this…oh right, they’re saying NCLB is “diverting resources and attention from the gifted.” Making things worse than however they were before NCLB, in other words.
I’m not debating the underlying issue here–heck, I hope NCLB is diverting resources and attention from the gifted to the non-gifted; if it’s not, it isn’t working very well. Resources and attention are limited and the low-performing children need them more.
But if you’re going to frame an article this way, you have to make sure that your lede, in addition to having a clear thesis and a connection to the events of the day, isn’t directly contradicted by the evidence you present to readers later in the piece.