December 09, 2004

Coming Or Going?

This is a tale of two people, telling two stories.

One of the people is in both stories.

Do the stories add up? You be the judge.

Nick Coleman, November 14:

How did we get to the point in Minnesota that we have a school in a minority neighborhood of our capital city where there aren't enough books? If you don't find that situation outrageous, you are part of the problem.
Coleman, December 4:
Last Tuesday, after announcing another massive state deficit, Gov. Tim Pawlenty continued to cling to his no-new-taxes pledge he made to the Tax Evaders League (they call themselves the Taxpayers League) like a pilot clutching the stick on a plane whose wings have been shot off. Some had hoped that after two years as governor Pawlenty might have become big enough to say he won't stand idly by while the schools go down.

Nope. He is standing by. Idly.

The school raiders who want to move public education dollars away from "government schools" to privately run schools are grinning.

Zelma Wiley, the principal of the school that is the subject of both of Coleman's columns, in the PiPres:
Earlier this year, our school launched a drive to collect books for students to borrow, take home or keep. Our students love to read. Unfortunately, many don't have access to books at home (95 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch). Our goal was to satiate our students' hunger for books at home and supplement the great work being done by teachers and community partners in our classrooms.

Each day, our talented staff works hard to help all of our students reach their individual potential. In addition, we are blessed to have incredible support from community members, including 300 volunteers who consistently tutor our students.

If Mr. Westover and Mr. Stern had visited our school, they would have seen our hard work paying off. They would have seen that all of our classrooms have the textbooks they need. They would have seen that we know with precision how every dollar we receive is being spent to help our students learn. And they would have seen students from diverse backgrounds improving and achieving.

But they never bothered to drop by our school.

Indeed, Ms. Wiley, they did not. In fact, given the limitations on schedules and distances, it's a safe bet to say that nearly nobody in the Twin Cities did.

But I have.

My daughter went to kindergarten at Maxfield, eight years ago. The experience was...all right. Not the worst I've had with my kids at the Saint Paul Public Schools. Not so good that I didn't find another place for my son, two years later.

But that's not the point. While most of the people in the Twin Cities - and, more importantly, most of the readers of the Star/Tribune - didn't visit Maxfield, they rely on those in the media who do visit your school to tell an accurate story when they do.

Saint Paul from Fraters asks the question we all need to ask:

So which is it? Either "we don't have enough books" or "all of our classrooms have the textbooks they need." Either our schools are burning or they're working for the students, community, and state. These extremes are far enough apart to prevent even a serial fabricator like Nick Coleman to claim they're both correct.

Two possibilities exist for these dual interpretations of reality. Principal Zelma Wiley of Maxfield Elementary is blatantly lying in one of her statements. And if so, we need to know, was she lying then, or is she lying now?

The other possibility is simply that Nick Coleman got the reporting horrendously wrong in his column. Twice. Wrong facts, wrong quotes, wrong conclusions. And now he's using this to self-righteously bludgeon the body politic for increased taxes on the people. Despicable. And if Coleman is at fault in this case, remember, it's not the first time he's done this. (Recall this whopper of incompetent reporting regarding the Minneapolis Police Department).

Who's right and who's wrong? Wiley or Coleman?

Who, indeed?

We spend a lot of money on education in Saint Paul - nearly $10,000 per student. Is it not being spent on the children? That's the story Nick Coleman wants you to believe; heartless conservatives ripping the books from the shelves of underserved, primarily-minority schools; the "Tax-Evaders League" (question to David Strom; have you ever evaded paying your taxes? Do you perhaps have a defamation suit here?) running roughshod over the futures of the children!.

But then, according to Ms. Wiley herself, things at Maxfield are doing OK; the book drive was apparently planned - the sort of things schools have always done to stretch their money.

Which is it?

As Saint points out:

(Actually, Coleman's wrong either way. Either he's making up facts to fit his conclusions, or he's naively accepting whatever a public official is telling him and irresponsibly running with it).

We, as news consumers, can't say what the truth is. It's up to our media institutions, those that are publishing these contrary views of reality, to sort this one out.

So what is Nick Coleman - a liar, or a lousy reporter?

(And didn't he call bloggers both of those?)

Curious? Maybe the Strib would like to know. Ask them

Posted by Mitch at December 9, 2004 04:13 AM | TrackBack

you misspelled The Chyllldrun

Posted by: Eliza-beta at December 9, 2004 06:36 AM

My goodness, is St. Paul really spending $10,000 per student a year? Tell ya' what. Randomly select 20 students, pay me a $180,000 salary, with a 10k relocation expense account, and I'll do a superior job of educating them on any topic up to advanced calculus (actually, I'd be superior at that to, but wouldn't be pleased with the quality of my service), while saving 10k in expenses.

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