NPR tunes in to Steve Poizner


A reader pointed out that Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner continues to draw unflattering attention to “Mount Pleasant,” his autobiographical account– some might call it a novel –  of his year teaching a government course at an East San Jose high school.

The National Public Radio*** show This American Life devoted half of last week’s hour-long  show debunking  Poizner’s harsh characterizations of the students and the East San Jose neighborhood around the high school.  The show’s host, Ira Glass, flew into San Jose and interviewed neighbors, students and teachers along with checking into crime figures, dropout rates and Mount Pleasant test results.

It makes good radio;  This American Life usually does. Coming from Chicago and the urban East, Glass misunderstands the nature of California poverty, where extended families camp out in living rooms and rent out garages in well-kept and overpriced bungalows. Still,  credit Glass’ diligence.

But listen to the end, because he acknowledges that Poizner raises  larger issues about education in California’s high schools. While others at the school took umbrage at Poizner’s book, he interviews the school’s AP calculus teacher,  Sudhir Karandikar:

“The whole ducking bullets, and the kid’s going to hit him and his Lexus is going to get stolen, it was either a gross exaggerations for the sake of making a dramatic book or he just misread it. Let’s move on. We know he got the safety issue wrong. As far as academic performance of the school, he was dead on. Academically, I don’t find anything wrong in his conclusions or assessments of our school. Academically.”

Other teachers strongly disagree. As I said, it makes good radio. And, for all its faults, the book’s worth reading.

*** An alert reader reminds me the show, shown on NPR stations, is actually produced by Chicago Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International.


  1. Disclaimer that I heard only a snippet of the show and haven’t read the book, but are the issues Poizner raises specific to California high schools?

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  2. After listening to the NPR piece on Mt. Pleasant High, I agree that Steve Poizner not only got the characterization of the school wrong, but he still doesn’t get it! I base this upon first hand experience visiting Mt Pleasant and other high schools in the bay area for a robotics outreach activity.
    If he wanted to focus on improving California schools, I can direct him to places which are really in extreme need of improvement. Our schools are in need of reform, but Poizner is the last person I’d trust to get it done right.

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  3. Comments ignoring all that he exaggerated and/or got wrong, but applauding his drawing attention to the issues, completely miss the point about why this is a negative towards the man’s candidacy, to me. Why would your state want a man who blatantly exaggerated and exploited his brief stint at interacting with the lives of children to be a major state decision maker? It’s so cynical, exploitative, tone-deaf, and borderline “soft racist”, it disgusts me, and people say, “Oh, ignore that part – let’s applaud him for bringing up THE ISSUES.” I see no evidence that this man cares more about the issues than he cares about his own election.

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  4. Thanks for the heads up on Poizner. I now know for whom I WILL NOT VOTE. My seven children graduated from Mt. Pleasant. They are all successful and we have two Phds, Two Masters and four B A or B S degrees among them. Also, they experienced competent and caring teachers who emphasized citizenship, responsibility and community consciousness. When other schools in the area had rampant drug use, and fights and truancy, Mount Pleasant had much less. It was truly a cheap shot to convince the voter that he was an educator.

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