SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Milton Berle Out Of Context

Monday, August 23, 2010

Milton Berle Out Of Context

I had a brief conversation tonight with Jason Felch of the Los Angeles Times about the damning article he co-wrote judging teachers with that value added testing stuff on August 15.

The conversation was brief, but I did bring up some points in which Jason was good enough to answer. One point I brought up, in which I wrote about last week, was the observations of classroom teachers reported in the Times.
On this day, Aguilar had invited a student to the board to divide two fractions — a topic on the upcoming state exam.

John Smith, speaking in a slow cadence, he led his class in reciting a problem aloud twice. He then called on a student slouched in the back. The boy got the answer wrong. "Not so much," Smith said dryly.
Several sentences on what was observed in a classroom. But there is a hitch. What context are these lesson being done? What was the question John Smith asked? The answer he received? Slow cadence? Why was this mentioned? Why was the teacher talking in a slow cadence?

As far as Mr Aguilar, what were the fractions involved? What was the context of the lesson? Was this being done in isolation?

Many pertinent questions I feel. And these I brought up to Jason, that without context we one can not make proper judgement.

He agreed. But what was telling was what he said next. "We have only so much space to tell a story. The story was long enough already at two hundred inches. Mist storied are 20 inches. We just couldn't add the context."

I explained to Jason that the implication, the way in which it was written, especially about John Smith the story will be misconstrued by those reading it. That without the facts, how can one make a proper inference to what truly happens, or happened in these two classes.

For example, we can use what Missy Natalie Ravitz wrote in the Huffington Post August 6 taking Diane Ravitch's words out of context. That is an example. Or, better yet, let's play make-believe.

Say one day Joel Klein is amongst friends ruminating about his days watching TV as a child in the projects. He tells one of his friends that he had met Milton Berle. Can happen. I met him in 1980 at Grossingers in Liberty NY. So Joel is there and he shares with his friends that Uncle Miltie told him that, "Sure, I enjoy wearing women's dresses." Yes, I am getting to a point.

So isn't it possible, theoretical that one can say Joel Klein said once, "I enjoy wearing women's dresses"? Now Joel Klein did not actually say that he enjoys it, Milton Berle said it. But, Joel Klein did utter those five words. But without giving the context in which those five words were used, Joel Klein would come across as some cross dresser (though there is nothing wrong with that!).

When writing a story this damning, this explosive, we here at SBSB feel that the Los Angeles Times and Jason Felch should have gone above and beyond to make sure that everything was reported in context.

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