A recent decision by the Kansas Department of Education would have William Allen White rolling in his grave.
The department plans on cutting the career and technology education funding, which helps subsidize the technical side of publications, including cameras and software, for journalism classes in 2012. The reason? The state has decided that journalism is no longer a viable career and does not prepare students for “high demand,” “high skill” and “high wage” jobs. Apparently those are the standards of success in Kansas.
So why should you care?
These high school journalism classes feed collegiate programs across the state, which in turn produce practicing journalists who help inform the electorate.
As someone who took journalism classes at a high school with a strong program, this course of events is especially troubling for me, as I’ve seen how the skills students learn in journalism courses often go beyond the classroom.
Mary Anne McCloud and Erica Rickard, my journalism teachers at Newton High School, taught courses that focused on critical thinking, interpersonal communications, writing and working with the latest design software, while encouraging students to create a product that examined the world around them.
White would be disturbed by KSDE’s move because he was a proponent of journalism education – even the J-School at the University of Kansas is named after him. White, who won two Pulitzer Prizes, knew the value of journalism ina democracy and stood up to the Ku Klux Klan in the pages of the Emporia Gazette during the racist ‘20s.
Journalism serves as a pillar of a democracy, a watchdog of the government that, at the local level, can connect our communities and at the state and national levels, give us perspective on our society.
Aren’t you tired of those pundits on the national networks? That’s not real journalism. But if we teach our youth the fundamentals of journalism and its importance in a society, we might be able to win back an honest media.
Thomas Jefferson said it best:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
I’m starting to agree. Perhaps the Kansas Department of Education should focus its efforts on making better citizens, not just better employees.