Readers question/react to recent columns

Two recent columns produced vigorous, helpful responses.  Whether agreeing, disagreeing or pointing to problems, you help me learn.

A column criticizing the Oscars produced the most reaction:  Fifteen people agreed, one disagreed, and some asked for help.  Unfortunately, in urging people to contact Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I provided the wrong email.  I apologize. The correct address is

While agreeing that some of the Oscar host’s jokes were “tasteless,” “J” felt, “Overall… the show was pretty well produced…. I am enough of a Libertarian to worry about having people telling me what’s offensive and what isn’t.”

However, Joy wrote, “What a flop…  (While) Movies can inspire, entertain and encourage our youth, what the Oscar night taught youth was how disrespectful, cruel, and overall STUPID, adults can be.” Two people used the word “appalling.”   Charles responded, “What a disastrous presentation.  I don’t know what or who will get through to the Academy about this, but there should be an avalanche.”    Laura wrote that the host’s “’trying to pass arrogance off as charm’ shtick was boring and infuriating.’”

Another person educated me, pointing out that the Oscars “In Memoriam” section didn’t note the passing of Lupe Ontiveros.  She was in more than 150 movies, television and stage shows.

People also responded to last week’s column about a book encouraging greater trust for teachers.  Many reacted like John, who wrote, “Definitely the way to go. Sure, some such experiments will fail, but we can learn from those, too, and figure out how to reinvigorate the educational system in the process.”

Education activist/writer Andy Rotherham felt that I had not reported accurately on the MetLife Survey of teachers and principals. I wrote that the most recent study found “growing percentages of teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs.”  Rotherham is right, for several reasons.

The percentage of teachers reporting that they are “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied,” with their “job as a teacher in the public schools” declined from 18 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2012.   Small print on page 45 of the 2012 report reveals that the conclusion was based in part on a reduction in the last year of teachers reporting they are “very satisfied.”  That percentage declined from 44 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2011.

Dr. Dana Markow, vice president of Youth and Education Research, Harris Interactive, told me “The top end of the scale is a more sensitive measure of changes over time.”   However, the actual percentages of teachers saying they were dissatisfied declined in the last two years.

Second, as Rotherham noted, MetLife used two different, similar but not identical questions over the last 25 years. Some years, including 2011 and 2012, the question was: ” All in all, how satisfied would you say you are with your job as a teacher in the public schools?” In other years, MetLife asked, “All in all, how satisfied would you say you are with teaching as a career?”

I contacted University of Minnesota Professor Karen Seashore, an award-winning researcher.  She responded in part, that “one question would elicit teachers’ sense of dedication to the ideal of teaching children; another question suggests a focus on the current job…they are likely to provoke a similar response (but) there is a problem”.

I agree. The MetLife summary is misleading.

Meanwhile your responses are valuable.  Thanks!

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change.  Reactions welcome,