Several days ago I posted a piece raising the question of whether people might be concerned about the impact on public education as the result of two emails I had received from John Merrow. There were several things wrong with that posting.
- There was really no reason whatsoever to include in the discussion the issue of the employment of John's wife.
- I failed to give John a chance to look at what I was proposing to post and thereby a given him a chance to correct any misperceptions or misinterpretations on my part, and to allow him to respond on his own behalf. John is quite accessible, as I have found in the past. I was irritated at a piece I thought not sufficiently critical of Paul Vallas, saw a mention of funding by the Broad Foundation (which I did not see among funders listed on website) and jumped to conclusions.
John contacted me after seeing the piece, & I decided I owed him a public apology.
I have a responsibility, given the reach of what I write on education, to ensure that I'm fair in what I post, & where possible to give people with whom I disagree a chance to respond.
Please continue below the fold to read John's letter to me, and more.
I have John's permission to post the text of his original email to me, and I have given him the courtesy of seeing this before I post it.Here is the text of the email, allowing John to speak for himself
Someone sent me the link to your post about my moving to NY, my wife's job, et cetera. I confess to being puzzled and a tad annoyed. Your disclaimers about your motives in raising the issue of our funding reminded me of Mark Antony's speech, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."
And one of your many responders added, "It is very reasonable to believe that because John Merrow makes his money from certain foundations, that they influence his thinking." Why is that 'reasonable,' in the absence of evidence or inquiry?
Find some examples of my tilting one way or another, and then take me to task. But another perspective might be to acknowledge that I have managed to produce serious in-depth coverage of American public education for 35 YEARS without EVER receiving a dime from PBS or NPR, except for in-kind contributions. During that time we have received two Peabody Awards, the George Polk Award, three or four Emmy nominations, 2 dozen awards from the Education Writers Association, four CINE Golden Eagles, and so on.
And what on earth does my wife's job have to do with my reporting? I dare say I have spent as much time in public schools than just about any reporter in the history of reporting. I have taught in four different venues: public high school, public junior high school, a HBCU, and a federal penitentiary. I was also a TA at Harvard when I was in graduate school there.
Me, I would prefer some shreds of evidence one way or the other, or maybe some lines of inquiry. A look at what I have reported on in 35 years of reporting for NPR and PBS might also have moved the conversation forward. You have over 1,000 segments to examine, many more if you count podcasts.
Or try reading a couple of chapters of Below C Level, my new book. (You are quoted in it, by the way)
We no longer receive support from the Broad Foundation and haven't for two years. I referenced that grant because it helped make it possible for us to follow Michelle Rhee in DC and Paul Vallas in New Orleans for 3 years.
Those who do support us are listed prominently on our web site.
Over the years I have turned down grants when the foundation involved attempted to add strings. Call me for details if you wish.
My practice has been to seek out foundations that have a general interest in advancing public education in our democracy OR those that support issues that we deem to be important.
Let me conclude by noting the following. I try to teach my students to own up to mistakes. I model that. I have never taught a class that has not heard m apologize multiple times. I am human. I make mistakes - of judgment, of interpretation, sometimes even of fact. I hold myself to a standard of accepting responsibility for my errors, and apologizing when I am wrong, in the same forum and fashion as when I made the incorrect or improper statement.
I have made similar apologies here and elsewhere in the blogosphere.
Because I am human, and because I sometimes write or post in too much haste, this may not be the last time I apologize. After this experience, I will attempt to exercise better judgment and take more care before I post something that potentially calls into question the character and integrity of someone else.