Do you remember my post a few days ago about that Katy, Texas, public-classroom dispute between a teacher and a student named Jordan Wooley? That was the KHOU story about how this 12-year-old student -- on a critical-thinking test -- declined to give the correct answer, which was that "There is a God" was a statement of opinion, not fact.
This was the rare "culture wars" story of this kind in which journalists were able to do something other than quote angry parents, followed by silence from public-school officials or statements from their PR professionals stating that school officials are very sorry that parents have chosen to get upset about absolutely nothing.
In this case, they key was that young Wooley had a chance to stand up in public and speak her mind, in front of journalists and everybody else. That public forum seemed to push this story out of the usual news gridlock in which conservative media (and conservative activists with fundraising letters) quote the concerns of parents, while mainstream journalists (and liberal activists with fundraising letters) quote the views of school officials.
This leads us to the question on this week's Crossroads podcast: Why is it so hard for journalists to write stories in which voices on both sides are quoted, with respect, and allowed to dialogue about the alleged facts in these disputes? Click here to tune that in.
As I told host Todd Wilken, this KHOU story reminded me, in many ways, of the recent disputes here in Tennessee about class activities in which very young students are required to learn and even recite key elements of Muslim doctrine -- including the Shahadah, the prayer that someone recites in order to convert Islam.
As I noted in another recent post, most of the coverage I am seeing ignores the actual concerns of the parents and acts as if this is a dispute about studying the history of Islam, period. The key is the word "Shahadah." That term shows up in the "conservative" media reports, but not the mainstream stories.
But back to Houston. After I wrote my post about the KHOU report, The Houston Chronicle weighed in with an A1 story that (a) admitted that the conflict existed, (b) that there were clashes here in how two major forces in education view the word "fact" and (c) that these kinds of classroom conflicts are not going to go away.
Let's parse a bit of this Chronicle story: