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Stephen Colbert to Campbell Brown: ‘Why are we blaming the teachers? Maybe it’s the dumb kids.’

Colbert (Mark Wilson / The Washington Post)
Colbert (Mark Wilson / The Washington Post)

Stephen Colbert welcomed Campbell Brown to “The Colbert Report” (see video below) on Thursday night to talk about her support for a lawsuit just filed in New York that seeks to eliminate tenure and other job protections for teachers. The Comedy Central host didn’t give the former CNN anchor turned anti-union activist a free pass, asking her some questions that Brown critics had tweeted to Colbert to ask. Such as where her new anti-teachers union advocacy group gets its funding (she refused to answer) and why she is blaming teachers for poor student performance (“maybe it’s the dumb kids”).

The questions were better than the answers.

When Colbert asked Brown who is funding her new Partnership for Educational Justice, she said she wouldn’t reveal her donors. Why? Because, she said, she thought it was important to give anonymity to donors so that they wouldn’t become “a target” of people who were protesting her appearance outside the studios before the show. “They are going to go after people who are funding us,” she said.

When she complained that the protesters were trying to “silence the debate,” Colbert asked her if she was trying to silence the protesters.

When Colbert referred to the lawsuit as Brown’s, she demurred, saying that her group wasn’t filing the lawsuit but that seven parents were and that a law firm had agreed to represent them for free. Later, Brown inadvertently revealed the truth when she told Colbert that she wanted to recognize some of “our plaintiffs” in the audience.

When Brown said parents should be an important part of the education debate (why she thinks they aren’t is a question), Colbert asked her, “I would love my kids not to be taught evolution… Could I get a teacher fired?”

When Brown declared that 91 percent of teachers in New York were rated effective but that most students in the state couldn’t read and write proficiently, Colbert asked her: “Why are we blaming the teachers? Maybe it’s the dumb kids. Have you thought about that?” While he was being funny, the issue of how much to “blame” teachers for students’ poor performance is central and one that Brown has consistently ignored in interviews.

And when the audience clapped for something Brown said, Colbert responded, “They are going to clap because you are playing the good-for-child card.” Which, of course, she was.

Here’s the video:


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · August 1, 2014

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