Say what, Kansas?

20 Oct

Like most posts on this blog, this one is a little dated. But it concerns something that hits really close to home. So I had to say something.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard the news that Kansas legislators were considering cutting vocational funding — $700,000 —  for traditional journalism classes in high schools. The curriculum would be passed along to already overworked art, technology and business teachers, many of whom frankly aren’t qualified to teach the subject.

It would kind of be like asking Dora the Explorer to teach you French. Close to what she knows, but definitely not the same.

This leaves countless high school publications — newspapers, magazines, yearbooks, websites, TV shows — at risk of simply falling by the wayside. Speaking from experience, I can say that it’s already hard enough to produce these publications even when students have entire class periods dedicated to that very purpose. Take away those class periods and those expert advisers and I’m not sure you’d be able to find enough time or manpower to get the job done.

So what’s the reasoning behind the proposed changes? Education officials argue that teaching traditional journalism and its skills will no longer lead to jobs in the real world.

Let’s dismantle this viewpoint, shall we?

Personally, I’m not sure if I would be so secure in my future plans right now if I hadn’t been exposed to journalism as a high schooler. Unlike many of my friends, I still have the same two majors that I entered college with two and a half years ago. In my mind, journalism has always seemed like  a degree that offers graduates a variety of solid career options.

Funny? Or increasingly reality for many students?

Sure, those career options aren’t as clear as they used to be. Being a journalist in the 21st Century demands a wider set of skills than it used to and jobs in the industry are incredibly unstable. But isn’t that true in most career fields? Our generation isn’t going to have the luxury of life-long jobs with one company, like our parents did. As the Internet and other technology continues to develop, almost every career field is going to operate radically differently than it did in the past. Hospitals without paper, completely digital record labels, genetically modified crops — it’s all changing.

In fact, if Kansas educators are going to demand that journalism courses teach students about digital media and information technology in order to stay relevant and on the budget, shouldn’t they be allocating more money to journalism programs? Software, computers, cameras — students need it all to keep up with today’s multimedia.

(True life, my laptop is my best friend.)

Plus, if we’re going to talk about relevance, what about people who graduate with degrees in English or American Studies? No offense, but that qualifies you to do absolutely nothing except go to grad school and immerse yourself in academia. Should we stop teaching English in our public schools? What about social studies? They certainly aren’t preparing students for fruitful careers.

In addition, journalism teaches students skills that can be used anywhere, in any job, at any time. Writing, grammar, research, persuasion, organization — I’ve learned them all as a journalist and I could apply them to any job I took on.


Looks like someone could've used an editor.

So, Kansas education officials, stop listening to all the media doom and gloom out there! Times are tough and times are changing. But journalism isn’t over and future high schoolers deserve the chance to learn it and learn it properly.

Here’s an interesting piece NPR did about j-schools. It ties in with the theme of this post, except at a college level.


3 Responses to “Say what, Kansas?”

  1. Terry Dahl October 23, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    I realize I don’t know you, but I just wanted to say I couldn’t agree more with this article. Even though I didn’t make a career out of journalism, I loved being involved with it when I was in high school.

    Also I wanted to get your feedback on if you think I should delete the blog I wrote back in August to the Kansan, see below. I have been catching some flack about it and wonder if I should take it off, especially if I ever go back into the job market and some employers might hold it aginst me. I don’t want to delete it, but maybe it would be a good idea to do so. I wish there was a way for someone on the Kansan to make it so I don’t have the ability to delete it myself. 🙂

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.


  2. Dana Meredith October 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm #


    I’m glad you enjoyed the post! It was a topic that I definitely felt very close to and I should have a followup piece within the next day or so.

    As for your blog, I see no reason why you should delete it if you don’t want to. Are you just getting ribbing for the subject matter? Or for something else? If you stand by what you wrote, then just ignore the naysayers. They’re probably just jealous! Plus, we always get a lot of commenters on the Kansan’s website who seem to have nothing better to do than say mean things about everything they read.

    Take care.


  3. Terry Dahl October 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Thank you Dana. I am catching flack by not being a fan of the school I attended. I actually like KSU, but I like KU so much more and they are a much better school overall.

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