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.