CNN: Secretary Duncan Right to Celebrate Katrina

At the end of January, Obama education secretary Arne Duncan told a cable news show (TV One‘s Washington Watch, 1/31/10), “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.” In reporting on Duncan’s remarks, the January 30 Washington Post apparently couldn’t find anyone to challenge the notion that Katrina was a good thing.

CNN aired a segment the same day featuring guests Roland Martin, a CNN regular and the host of Washington Watch, theprogram where Duncan made the remarks in question; and CNN education contributor Steve Perry, a magnet school founder, champion of vouchers and all-around public school critic.

Martin applauded the progress New Orleans public schools have made, citing improving test scores. But Perry, who said he agreed with Duncan, went much further, sounding frankly unhinged as he actually lamented that there could not be more Katrinas for the sake of U.S. education: “I’m saying that we can’t have a Katrina in all of the 50 states.”

Nowhere in the CNN segment or the Washington Post report was there anyone to challenge Duncan’s remarks or to explain that the reason New Orleans test scores have increased is that post-Katrina rebuilding has largely driven out the poor and black populations who had been so poorly served by the city’s schools pre-Katrina.

All in all, it was education coverage designed to make you dumber.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.