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August 04, 2012

Why Publishers Don't Fact-Check Books

Shorter: Because it's really expensive. Why Publishers Don't Fact-Check Books | The Passive Voice
In the light of recent events, some people have been asking why publishers don’t fact-check books. It’s a reasonable question. Earlier this week, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pulled the book Imagine from the shelves after learning that the author had fabricated some of the quotations. . . . . Fact-checking is an arduous, labor-intensive process. A good fact-checker will verify every quotation and paraphrase by calling the person who was interviewed. He or she will ask to see the source for every assertion, requiring the writer to provide a reference. My drafts are filled with footnotes citing refereed journal articles, interview notes, and reputable websites. The factchecker will examine every single one of them. . . . . But this is why I respect magazines like Wired so much. When I read a Wired story, I know that every single sentence has been examined by at least four people: the editor, the factchecker, the top editor, and the writer. . . . . There is simply no way a publishing house can fully fact-check even a short book. It would need an army of fact-checkers, and the cost would be enormous. A good editor will flag implausible claims. A copyeditor will flag typos. But detailed, sentence-level scrutiny simply isn’t possible.

August 02, 2012

Online charter schools are great at making profits, terrible at educating people

School's Out
Technological advancements are intrinsically connected to the future of education. While most schools work to include technology in the classroom, many prominent figures are looking into ways to improve education systems by removing the classroom via technology. During the past year, many of these figures — people like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — have been trying to push more students into e-schools, schools that that can be attended by anyone from a computer at home. Some Ohio districts have followed suit, and enrollment in e-schools has steadily grown since 2005. Even Cincinnati Public Schools opened its own e-school for the 2011-2012 school year. But Internet-based education might not be matching up to the hype. On July 12, the FBI, IRS and U.S. Department of Education raided the offices of the largest e-school in Pennsylvania. Seven days earlier, a Pennsylvania e-school surrendered its charter after the state filed a lawsuit. Last year, two nonpartisan organizations — Innovation Ohio and Education Sector — each launched their own investigations into e-schools, and the findings were fairly negative. Now education experts are speaking out against Ohio’s e-schools. Diane Ravitch, an education historian working at New York University and the Brookings Institute, is one such critic. “The for-profit e-schools are a sham and a fraud against children,” Ravitch wrote in an email to CityBeat. “They don’t provide a good education and they rip off taxpayers. The only reason they exist is because of campaign contributions to politicians.” Ravitch’s claim is supported by a 2011 report by Innovation Ohio on Ohio’s biggest e-schools, which concluded fundraising, not good academic results, is keeping e-schools alive. . . .