Roland Martin thinks he’s a teacher, a common problem in education

I got into my first “Twitter fight” with, of all people, former CNN contributor and host of News One Now Roland Martin. Up until now, I only really knew about his ascot that Jon Stewart made famous. I don’t follow him on Twitter, but as someone in education who likes to stay plugged in, I do follow Michelle Rhee. She retweeted the following tweet by Mr. Martin:


To which I responded with “@rolandsmartin Do you have a background in education?” He didn’t like that. He immediately fired off about 4 tweets in defense, starting with :

photo 2 (1)

But then came my favorite:

photo 1 (1)

Full disclosure, I probably deserved this last one. I egged him on a tad with a poor analogy of sitting on a healthcare committee because my son goes to a doctor. Honestly, I think it’s great that he is involved in education, and Students First surely needs many voices. However, his attitude–dare I say “arrogant”–is another example of how our education system is being run by those with the biggest mouth and/or the most money. And what’s worse is that they all use the same reasoning as Mr. Martin: I went to school, so I know what I’m talking about. This thinking not only demoralizes an already declining profession, but it makes it more difficult for research-based approaches to find their way into the classroom.

Teaching is both an art and a science, and really only those who have been a teacher understand this concept. There is a lot of research that needs to be balanced with practical knowledge, and there are plenty of practices that need to be checked by research. What tends to happen when we have those who do not teach, or who have never taught, weigh in on education reform is that they more often than not scream the latest buzz words that sound good. High standards, cultural literacy, charter schools, text-dependent questions, Common Core, critical thinking–these are the latest talking points that make people feel like they care about education, so people like Mr. Martin get behind the machines that are pushing these ideals without really knowing where it’s headed. I know the destination is well-intentioned, but let’s have the researchers and teachers figure this out, not billionaires and media pundits.

We have a whole list of major players in k-12 education who have never seen the inside of a k-12 classroom as a teacher: Bill Gates, David Coleman, and even our US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to name a few. I certainly wouldn’t put Martin’s role with Students First on the same playing field as these guys, but I do think that his know-it-all demeanor on twitter speaks to the bigger issue. Just like those influential in education who lack the experience, Roland Martin is another neoliberal who knows as much about education from being a student as I know about fixing my car from driving it (a better analogy than my one on healthcare).

Oddly, I started my teaching career at a charter school in Houston, TX, close to where Mr. Martin went to high school. I surely admire his accomplishments, and I’m proud to see a fellow Texan on the main stage. I don’t mind that he shares his opinions, and I would hope that he is a part of his nieces’ education. But I’d ask that he reconsider his expertise, and show more respect for those out on the front line. More important, he needs to remember that his way of thinking is the status quo, and one that has proven to fail our children.


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