Update, I messed up on the links, the second was supposed to be to my class size posts - fixed now, sorry!
Grrr... On my way to Corvallis this morning I was listening to OPB when "Think Out Loud" came on with a show about class size. Fantastic, I thought. I was excited to hear what a dispassionate academic expert had to say about the evidence on class size as I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic these last few days and have had to read very carefully a vast array of very mixed results to discern what the evidence does and does not say about class size. It would have been very interesting to hear how someone who is unbiased and had been studying the issue for years distilled all of the research and explained it to the lay public. After all, this is what public radio is all about, right?
Um, no. Instead they did the lazy and entirely unhelpful thing of contacting advocacy groups on either side of the issue to give a quick sound bite: "class size is hugely important!"; "no it isn't!" This is standard practice on commercial TV and radio (turn on CNN, FOX, MSNBC at any time of the day or night and this is what you get) - although much more polite.
What makes me so incensed about this is that any listener who did not know much about the issue would not be helped at all by this program - which is just about everyone. The only thing this type of program does is reinforce preconceived notions whether they are right or wrong. If you think class size matters, I am sure you do even more after having listened because a person on the radio confirmed your belief. If you think it does not matter, ditto. So a huge chance was missed to contribute to the level of the discussion around this issue.
I think that, in general, OPB and NPR do a much better job than commercial broadcasters actually getting to the heart of issues, which is why I am an avid listener (and a contributor, defying all economic logic*). What makes for good irony is that the show ended early so OPB could appeal for donations and the main theme of the appeal is that OPB is unique and therefore different than other radio. Not this morning.
*Not really, but that is a whole other can of worms...