Opinion: No Greater Form of Advocacy: Jessica Grose Writes About America’s Teachers

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April 28, 2024

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(NEW YORK) – Jessica Grose’s New York Times opinion piece, “People Don’t Want to Be Teachers Anymore. Can you Blame Them?,” is woven with the fibers of advocacy and research. As an advocate, Grose shares her opinions in the article and takes readers on a fact-loaded journey, questioning and challenging the state of the U.S. education system. The marrying of her point of view on the challenges educators face from the long-standing teacher shortage in the U.S. and her use of research-based reporting solidifies the piece as advocacy journalism.

Grose’s work in this example is advocacy journalism because it shares a message important to the public and, more specifically, to people living in the U.S. Over 49 million students were enrolled in public K-12 schools in the fall of 2022, which indicates that the ongoing teacher shortage affects a significant number of families throughout the country. Parents, guardians, and caregivers can use the information in Grose’s piece to decide where and how children receive a formal education. Those working in or considering entering the field of education can use the information to guide their practice and career journey. The piece also sheds light on how students in K-12 settings are learning and educators are teaching — or attempting to do so.

But Grose’s piece is not just advocacy journalism — it also reflects ethical journalism. To start, it does not rely solely on her point of view. It is well-sourced, offering different perspectives: a current teacher, a former teacher who recently left the field, and college professors and leaders, including a Harvard researcher. The piece references an Annenberg Institute paper by professors Matthew Kraft and Melissa Arnold Lyon on the declining state of the teaching profession. That paper noted factors such as a lowered perception of teacher prestige and highlighted the declining number of people choosing the teaching profession.

To substantiate her perspective, Grose uses factual information to guide her argument. She offers the public specific instances where teachers were fired for sharing banned material with students. She also shares data on deadly violence in schools, another factor potentially contributing to a disparaging number of unfilled teaching positions across the country. In addition, Grose offers readers a look inside a system that affects much of the nation with a level of depth that is not always accessible to people who do not attend or work in the public school setting. The piece provides information to the public, a key component of ethical journalism.

While Grose’s position is very plainly stated throughout the piece and backed by research and expert sources, she also allows space for a different perspective. According to Chloe Makadam, a teacher that Grose referenced in the article, people are entering the teaching profession, and they are doing so after transitioning from previous careers. Grose also shares that Makadam chose the profession instead of entering a doctoral program and that the teacher expressed a passion for her role in education. While the piece in its entirety offers advocacy for educators and the education system in America due to the issues that teachers are facing, Grose’s choice to include Makadam’s perspective allows readers the experience of consuming multiple perspectives, which permits them to draw their own conclusions. Grose’s choice adds a semblance of hope, offers balance, and minimizes harm, following the guidance on ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Can we blame Grose for leading the piece with her opinion? Do her opinions make this less effective as a work of journalism? After reading the piece multiple times, I have concluded that it does not. A journalist doesn’t need to have years of experience with writing on a topic to produce an ethical opinion piece; however, I found that Grose had written about policy and family for major publications for 19 years at the time that the piece was published, offering readers the opinion of a writer who is well-informed on the subject matter. So, while Grose’s piece was not loaded with strategy or a guide for fixing America’s education system, it was most certainly effective advocacy journalism, speaking for students and teachers and shining a light on the entire K-12 education system.

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