In the past year, the national discussion on education has been elevated and informed by an anonymous blogger known as Eduwonkette. Her daily updated blog, hosted by Education Week, has heart, laugh-out-loud humor, and most importantly, relentless analysis of education data that is so often skewed, spun, or buried by political interests. She writes with unique accessibility about issues that are simultaneously contentious, confusing, and critical.
Let's put her work in perspective: In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has staked much of his legacy on claims of remarkable success in closing Gotham's achievement gap since assuming autocratic control of the city's public schools in 2002. Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein's reforms have certainly changed the landscape of New York City schools--but do they really reflect the revolutionary success that the multi-million dollar press office at the Department of Education proclaims? Should America adopt the New York miracle model, as Bloomberg seeks?
Enter Eduwonkette. Her thorough, adversarial reporting on Bloomberg-Klein's tenure has shaped the conversation about the sweeping reforms. Eduwonkette--pictured masked on her site in superhero spandex--has a penchant for mining buried data and unearthing nuggets of golden truth. She matters.
But who is this masked crusader roiling the halls of power? Who is this wild card who induces repeated, passive-aggressive fits from Department of Education spokesman David Cantor? Who is this target of the DOE's "Truth Squad" and subject of a reverent profile in the New York Sun?
Nobody knew. I guest-posted on her blog in January and still had no idea who she was. Some conjectured that she was Randi Weingarten, now president of the American Federation of Teachers (and addressing the DNC tonight). Others guessed she was eminent scholar and former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. At May's "Ed in '08 Blogger Summit" in Washington, a cloud of suspicion seemed to hover near every female blogger in the room. Is it her? Is Eduwonkette among us? (She wasn't.)
Last night, New York Magazine and Education Week revealed that Eduwonkette was voluntarily taking off the mask. She is Jennifer Jennings, a doctoral student in sociology at Columbia University.
"Wowsers!" is the response from the education community. I'm in awe, too. In New York City, the ultimate town of power players, a graduate student has consistently and importantly affected the discourse on the billionaire mayor's signature issue--and she'll continue to do so. Eduwonkette has earned some clout.
Perhaps blogging can be an extraordinary exercise in democratic power. Thank you Jennifer Jennings, and keep up the brilliant work!
Check out www.eduwonkette.com.
Dan Brown is a teacher and the author of The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle.
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