A decision was made Friday that sparked the memory of a scene from the film Network.
The Department of Education’s new proposed standards were approved by the Arkansas Legislative Council in a 25-14 vote. The beef with the standards for myself, and many, many more in my profession, is that, once the standards are in place, Arkansas public schools will no longer be required to offer journalism as an elective.
Yes I was mad.
I watched, then tweeted a gif of the aforementioned scene from Network. I called the Arkansas Press Association seeking a roll call vote. I then tweeted my displeasure with the 25 and tagged the Department of Ed.
For the record, I’m still am mad.
Administrators routinely scream to high heaven whenever the legislature heaps on a requirement for which there isn’t additional funding, an unfunded mandate they call it. The reverse will happen here.
If schools are not forced to offer the course, they simply won’t. That will save money by allowing the journalism teacher to teach a different elective. The smaller the school district, the more likely it is the class won’t be offered. Does that include Booneville and or Magazine?
I’m confident in stating the Department of Education thinks offering journalism is a waste considering the current struggles of the print industry. I’m more than confident in saying that is a crock. And even if it weren’t, we did not seek their Dr. Kevorkian-like services.
According to a press release the APA sent out that caused the blood pressure to spike — each time the APA requested we journalism professionals reach out to Representatives and Senators on the committee, I did so — “Dr. Bruce Plopper, Journalism Professor Emeritus with UALR School of Mass Communication, was prepared to testify on behalf of APA to present a study proving students who take journalism classes perform better. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for public comment.”
The APA would like journalists to thank the 14 who stood up for free speech Friday. I’d rather yell how mad I am at the 25 who didn’t.
Is Arkansas the first state to do this? I don’t know, and really, I don’t care. Whether the Natural State be first, second, or 51st — Puerto Rico — the result is the same. You kill journalism in the schools, you kill school papers, then college papers — not unlike, say, football, the college version wouldn’t be all that much if you ended the high school game — and eventually, the rest of the papers starve or die through retirement.
Self-serving attitude? Darn right, but it’s not just mine, or anyone else in the business’, or even the next aspiring journalist’s who may never get a job that sparks my outrage. The loss reach further, miles and miles further. Ironically enough, I also retweeted a post from a journalism account last week which quoted a study in towns where newspapers had closed. They found that government spending always rises. Really, that should not be much of a surprise. When the parents of the party kids are out of town, there’s a party; when the watchdog is euthanize government officials will care less about how they spend your money.
Dr. Gil Fowler of Arkansas State University, said in a letter to legislators: Journalism and its appreciation and practice is one of the principles that allows our country to be a leader in the world and to have the freedoms of thought and expression that make us such a wonderful land. By not exposing our students to the importance and value of these principles and opportunities, we are relegating our future to those who control thought through power and finances. We must all understand the importance and value of this profession to our future.
Of course I also pondered, fondly, my own high school journalism days after the news broke. Back in the day at Booneville High School journalism was a 10-12 grade elective, unless you were fortunate enough to convince Rosemary Harris you could handle the responsibility as a freshman. I was one of those freshmen.