Well, a few days ago some folks were beefing about the fact that the college-admission SAT asked about reality TV in a prompt for an essay question on the test given earlier this month:
How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes? Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful?
Frankly, that's not nearly as outrageous as the 2006 global history New York State Regents exam which asked students to describe how Africa "benefited" from imperialism.
But is it fair to expect students to write about something they may not have been exposed to? Like the 2006 Regents third grade practice test which used the example of African-American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams to ask questions about tennis doubles and country clubs? Really, how can that be a biased question if Venus and Serena are examples?
Come on, folks. I don't like standardized tests, but even I think that SAT-taking students should be able to write a reasonable essay about reality TV based on that prompt. Unless they are Martian students, and then only if they don't have satellite TV.
In fact, education is getting to be more and more like reality TV all the time. A few years ago, no one talked about public schools. Now there are two-day Oprah shows about them. But can't we do even more to raise the profile of education on TV?
Some folks have already suggested Survivor: Teacher Edition, in which businessmen are dropped into a classroom for a year:
The business people will only have access to the public golf course on the weekends, but with their new salary, they may not be able to afford it. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to thirty minutes, which is not counted as part of the work day. The business people will be allowed to use a student restroom, as long as another survival candidate can supervise their class.
Here's one I like: Race to the Hoop.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan forces states to shoot for basketball points which can be exchanged for actual money, but only if the funds are spent on sports programs for charter schools, salaries for basketball coaches whose only previous experience is eating Wheaties, tests to help schools exclude shorter players from the team, and removing nets from hoops on urban playgrounds.
Here's another idea: Unamerican Idolator.
A panel of three judges -- Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and a designee from the Chicago Tribune editorial board -- will review the performances of everybody else, excoriating those who support the "status quo," want children to have to wait for better schools, hate innovation, don't believe in accountability, and are simply puppets for the all-powerful teachers' unions. You better believe it's a competition, baby. Just try to get any reasonable ideas past this group!
But I think the show we need right now is Rahm Emanuel as Da Bachelor: Chicago's mayor-elect chooses a new leader for the Chicago Public Schools. The contestants? How about:
Barbara Eason-Watkins: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, Barbara was passed over as CPS CEO in favor of the now-departed Ron Huberman. Barbara has extensive experience as a teacher, successful principal, and someone who has actually worked at the CPS central office without completely losing her integrity. Probably not a good fit for Rahm.
Paul Vallas: Is it time for the Vallas myth to come full circle? He was run out of Chicago and Philadelphia, and folks are none too happy with him in New Orleans these days. His plan to "fix" schools in Haiti seems to have hit a snag. Will Rahm choose Vallas in order to win the loyalty of the recycling crowd?
Wendy Kopp: The Teach for America founder may be the most adept at the kind of mind control that may be necessary to convince Rahm that Chicago schools will radically improve under their shared watch.
Josh and Jonah Edelman: Two for the price of one! Josh ran the CPS Renaissance 2010 program for Chicago until just recently, so he and Rahm will no doubt be simpatico. Jonah is a newer face on the Chicago scene. His Stand for Children group came into Illinois just before the November 2010 election and dropped more than half-a-million on state legislative races. Mmmmm. Money...
Cathie Black: If Rahm is looking for someone with absolutely no educational experience, New York City Schools Chancellor Black just might be the gal. Her 17% approval rating in NYC may put her back in the dating pool sooner rather than later.
John White: Another NYC bureaucrat NYC parents love to hate. At one meeting in 2009 he told the crowd that the 150 students signed up to enroll in a new charter school were the "jewels of the Department of Education." White used to run Teach for America Chicago. He's a graduate of what Catalyst calls "the prestigious Broad Superintendent's Academy," and what Parents Across America founding member Sharon Higgins, author of the blog The Broad Report, calls "billionaires and their henchmen." White's highest educational attainment is a bachelor's degree in English. Well, it's called "Da Bachelor," right?
Peter Gorman: Another Broad graduate. The Gorman-led Charlotte Mecklenburg school district was recently given a Broad prize by the Broad Foundation. My sources give him props for at least having some understanding of education, but say he's very close with Bill Gates, is pushing pay for performance hard, is very top-down, and is not much of a political leader, particularly when it comes to lower income and minority communities. Catalyst reports that Gorman's district is under investigation by the US Department of Education for possible civil rights violations in recent school closing processes. But Rahm might like him best of all.
Finally, maybe Rahm's really waiting for Superman -- another famous tights-wearer (Rahm's a former ballet student). Who knows? He might even let Rahm borrow his cape.