Nan Austin: Explaining journalism to youngsters

Posted by Nan Austin on April 16, 2014 

What do reporters do? What do they study in school? Do you need a college degree to get a reporting job?

This month, I am spending time at career days, explaining journalism’s lofty aspirations, as well as the pound-the-pavement persistence needed. Groups of school kids assure me they can’t wait to become the next Lois Lane. Bob Woodward – who’s he?

Last week, I talked myself hoarse at Caswell Elementary in Ceres. Today, I’m manning a booth at Glick Middle School’s career fair. On April 30, I hope to be enthralling fourth-graders in the Martone Elementary cafeteria. In June, I dust off my academic bona fides and head to Waterford High for a summer school class.

In my days-done-in-a-blink race to meet deadlines and answer the ever-pouring torrent of emails and phone calls, I sometimes forget how alien my job seems to kids. I read, write and do math all day, by choice.

Caswell kids not only asked great questions, they took a turn at being journalists, taking videos and still shots with my phone.

“What do reporters do?” many asked. We simplify, I answered. It’s harder than it sounds.

“How much do you make?” was a popular question. Way less than the folks you see on TV news, I told them, but when you have the most interesting job around, life is good.

Core complaints

Last week, an anti-Common Core message took to the sky with a flyover of Shiloh, Paradise and Hart-Ransom schools. The plane’s banner read, “Stop Common Core.” Fliers arguing against the standards were handed out, with a form urging parents to opt out of math and English testing.

“We oppose the implementation of all Common Core standards,” said Andy Stein, one of the organizers. “They are not tested. Don’t use our kids to test this unknown curriculum.”

Actually, Common Core has been in place in many states for three years. California came in late because of budget problems.

The opt-out form is from the Pacific Justice Institute. It advises taking children out of state testing and – it appears to say – chapter tests and daily classroom assignments, as well. All English and math lessons in California teach Common Core standards, such as adding two-digit numbers and learning what a verb is.

“Fill the form out to indicate that you do not allow your child to take any Common Core formative tests during the school year or a summative Common Core or other standardized test over any subjects at the end of the school year,” it says.

A Carnegie Mellon University webpage on assessment basics calls formative tests low-stakes monitoring, such as “submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture.” Summative tests would cover a unit.

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