Listeners Voice On Education Coverage, Feminist Criticism

The Tell Me More audience reacts to the first installment of the program's education series, and one listener strongly disagrees with author Leonard Pitt's view that feminism has contributed to the absence of fathers in African-American communities.

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And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogsphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill our digital media guy is here with me as always, hey Lee what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel, well this week we kicked off a series of conversations we planned to have over the summer months on education. And on Tuesday we dedicated our entire program to exploring the charter school movement. Now as we reported nearly a third of K-12 students here in Washington, D.C. are enrolled in charter schools. And that's the largest percentage in the country. The Obama administration is taking steps to encourage states to expand the charter school option around the country but not everyone is on board with that idea. One of our guests, D.C. mom Iris Toyer, supporter of traditional schools.

Ms. IRIS TOYER: I think there is a tremendous amount of energy now around charters and much less around traditional public school. And that just can't be that all of the innovation is coming out of the chartering movement. You have high performing charters, those that are just like every other public school and then you have those that need to go away.

HILL: And Michel some of the listeners thought our coverage should have reflected more perspectives similar to that of Miss Toyer. Here's a note from listener Jerry(ph). I'm a fan of NPR but I've never been so angered by a presentation as the one I just heard about charter schools that amounted to one hour commercial with only one voice of a parent expressing any challenge to the cheerleading. Could you not have had one knowledgeable person who could address this issue with a different perspective?

MARTIN: Well, thanks Jerry for writing for although I am not sure you heard the entire program. There were a variety of perspectives presented in the hour, including a just released report that showed in many cases charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools. And there will be more to come, so please stay tuned. Lee, moving on. Sunday is Father's Day and we talked about how the commemorative day means different things to different people and especially what it means when fathers are absent. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. joined us and he talked about why he thinks fatherlessness is particularly prevalent among African-Americans. Let's listen.

Mr. LEONARD PITT's Jr. (Pulitzer Prize winning journalist): My personal theory is that it is an unintended and negative byproduct of the feminist revolution and the sexual revolution. I think that one of the things that happened out of the feminist revolution was that we were taught that men and women are equal, which of course they are, but I think a lot of us took from that the other message which is that men and women are the same. And I think that we have really bought into this myth in terms of the family, that if dad is not there, well, mom is just the same and there's nothing that kids that will miss if dad's not in the household.

MARTIN: Well that whole notion is being strongly debated on our blog. Here's Jennifer. She writes, as a feminist married to a wonderful man and father for many, many years now, I can assure you our shared feminism is what has strengthened our family and strengthens the families of our childrens' friends who also have working moms and dads with relatively equal roles in the family. Jennifer, we thank you for that, and thank you, Lee.

Mr. LEE: Thank you Michel.

MARTIN: And remember with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our web page. Go to npr.org, click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out. And you know what, happy Fathers Day.

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