It can be tough to be an education reporter. School board meetings drag on for hours. School officials and teachers often deflect questions and talk only through district spokespeople. Education policies are densely written and everchanging. Researchers produce reams of data analysis, which you have to dissect and comprehend on deadline.
But the beat also offers a chance to get inside the world of kids in a way no other beat does. In the end, the best school reporting — like the best teaching — is student-centered. The most memorable stories I’ve done or read delve into the lives of children, or examine education and social issues through the prism of their eyes.
This Los Angeles Times column by Bill Plaschke (a sports columnist, not an education writer) is a wonderful example of that type of coverage. Plaschke tells a nuanced, heartbreaking story of a Latino high school football player’s failed attempt to save the life of a classmate.
The player, Jorge Garcia, was the only student who tried to help Cindi Santana when she was attacked in the school courtyard, allegedly by a former boyfriend. Santana later died from her stab wounds. Now, Garcia, who was also injured, is coping with the fallout.
“People say I did a great thing, but I take no pride in it … I keep thinking over and over again, could I have done more?” he told Plaschke.
The column refrains from painting Garcia as a perfect hero, or simplifying the world in which he lives. It touches on issues seen in almost every high school around the country — teen domestic violence, bullying, struggling students who find their way through sports, and the rocky road of adolescence — with nary a statistic or think tank report.