Conservative Media Take On TFA Alumnus Deray McKesson*

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Conservative media are going pretty hard at TFA alumnus Deray McKesson (top left) these days, including both a Fox News segment (Sean Hannity and guest accuse activist Deray McKesson of being a ‘race pimp’) and a Michelle Malkin* rant in the NY Post (The militant takeover of the ‘Teach for America’ corps).

The gist of both pieces is that McKesson and others like him are pushing too hard, too fast, are illegitimate or anti-law enforcement in their efforts. 

On Fox News,Hannity and conservative radio host Kevin Jackson questioned McKesson’s role in publicizing protests and tried to undercut his legitimacy by portraying him as a professional protestor. (McKesson asks if the questions he’s getting would be asked of someone who’s not a person of color.) 

In the NY Post, Malkin takes a somewhat different approach. She’s no less critical of McKesson, but her focus is on his connection to TFA: “TFA’s most infamous public faces don’t even pretend to be interested in students’ academic achievement. It’s all about race, tweets and marching on the streets.”

If the video above doesn’t load properly, you can watch it at RawStory. Salon and Medialite also posted it.

Conservative media doing what it does isn’t anything new. But TFA has been the subject of a series of critiques from the left, and so this critique from the right must be a welcome change.  It’s also a chance for TFA and other reform groups to see the power (and peril) of pushing hard on social justice issues. 

As I’ve noted several times in the past, reform advocates have generally been slow and tentative in embracing social justice issues. It’s nothing new for the AFT’s Randi Weingarten to show up at a protest or get herself arrested, but it’s newsworthy when Arne Duncan shows up at a protest.

It’s nothing new for reform critics to bring up race and class issues when debating education, but reformers have generally avoided these kinds of harsh attacks on the system and their opponents.

From a media perspective, it’s clearly time for more coverage from education reporters of social justice angles on education, including more about Deray and others like him who — whether pro-reform or not — are pushing hard on issues like immigration, school discipline, and segregation.  (NPR’s Anya Kamenetz profiled another activist here.) This is where the story is. Education reporters shouldn’t want to be left out.

Related posts: Stories I’d Like To See: The Rise & Evolution of DeRay McKesson 

*Correction: The original version of this post attributed the NY Post story to Megan McCardle, not Michelle Malkin.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.