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.