Correcting my Kersten criticism

Well, as Tony Randall explained on the Odd Couple, “When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”

This morning, I noted a non-frothing exchange between Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel over Katherine Kersten’s attacks on the University of Minnesota School of Education. I assumed she hadn’t talked to her targets because there were no quotes from U officials in her original piece; and only a quote via Fox News in her second piece.

But I was wrong when I wrote Kersten was “unwilling to expose her thesis to doubters.” My apologies to her and you.

Kersten says she talked to three Education Department officials before the original piece: Dean Jean Quam, Associate Dean Mary Trettin and Michael Goh, a faculty member. According to U spokesperson Dan Wolter, the officials told Kersten “that no college policy or curriculum plan now requires — or will require — students to subscribe to a particular ideology.”

The weird thing — and I’ll admit, it contributed to my stupid assumption — is that the U’s position wasn’t in Kersten’s first piece. Simple fairness says you include their contention, even to bat it down.

Given her conversations, it’s also that much weirder that in her follow-up column, Kersten included a second-hand U statement (via Fox), rather than use her own interviews. But even if readers didn’t get both sides, Kersten did talk to her targets, and next time, I will too.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 12/17/2009 - 12:35 pm.

    Is this now to be considered a “Mea Culpa With a Click?” 🙂

    The YouTube clip from the Odd Couple is priceless. Thank you for being a stand-up guy and adding a laugh to my day!

  2. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 12/17/2009 - 12:36 pm.

    So not forgiving your assumption, Kersten talked to the University of Minnesota staff, who basically told her the opposite of what she wrote, but she didn’t include that in her column.

    I won’t assume, then, that she left that out because it negated her bad journalism of avoiding contrary information when trying to make a point out of thin air.

  3. Submitted by Paul Scott on 12/17/2009 - 12:41 pm.

    Yes but if you are to follow her example, you would be better next time to call her up for her side of the story, then decline to print it.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/17/2009 - 01:52 pm.

    I appreciate your integrity but why are you treating Kersten like a journalist?

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/17/2009 - 02:17 pm.

    “I appreciate your integrity but why are you treating Kersten like a journalist?”

    Right, because if you avert your eyes from the thoughts of people you don’t agree with, it’s as if they never wrote it and if you give them a derogatory tag, it cheapens their point of view.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 12/17/2009 - 02:53 pm.

    There are two sides to this story:


    “The University of Minnesota should be ashamed to pretend that these plans are only about helping future teachers learn about other cultures,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “In reality, this program would scrutinize the thoughts, values, attitudes, and beliefs of prospective teachers and demand conformity or else require ‘remedial’ re-education. By the plain language of the program, anyone who doesn’t conform will be considered unqualified to be a teacher.”

    The proposal, from the college’s Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, would require that each teacher recognize how minority students suffer from “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.” Education students would be made to “discover their own privilege, oppression, or marginalization”; “develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity”; and “recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism … but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation.”

    A great university is about the free interchange of ideas and academic freedom. This matter has come to the attention of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee at the University of Minnesota. I hope there is wide disclosure and discussion of the College of Education and Human Developments TERI plans.

    It is about time. The excuse that this is just brainstorming doesn’t wash.

  7. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 12/17/2009 - 03:45 pm.

    This just points out the shallowness of Kersten’s writing: She never points out that her targets might have a point – even when she talks to them! You’ve extended a courtesy and bigness of thought to her that she violates with every column.

  8. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 12/17/2009 - 04:31 pm.

    You seem to be doing a lot of “assuming” in your blogging. But i guess that’s one of the differences between a reporter and a blogger.

  9. Submitted by John Autey on 12/17/2009 - 04:38 pm.

    That anyone considers Kersten a serious journalist surprises me more than anything she actually says or writes. There are many thoughtful and diligent conservative commentators, Kersten is not one of them.

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/17/2009 - 10:57 pm.

    So, if I understand it, the distinction is this:

    You assumed that Kersten was dishonest in that she never talked to the other side. Instead, she talked to the other side, but neglected to print that side. Its just a different kind of dishonesty.

    The sad part is that you are so unfailingly honest that you have written a correction over this very minor point, while Kersten, who has little regard for truth or fairness in her own work, would never dream of doing the same kind of thing no matter how wrong she might be.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/18/2009 - 08:25 am.

    //You assumed that Kersten was dishonest…

    It’s not an assumption. Kersten’s own writing reveals her dishonesty. Kersten is not a stupid person, and she interviewed primary sources. Nevertheless she portrayed an ongoing discussion about social reality and an attempt to appreciate diversity in student populations as “indoctrination”. Kersten is culture war propagandist, propaganda is dishonest almost by definition.

    Bauer’s mistake was technical, his mistaken assumption (according to him) was that Kersten hadn’t interviewed anyone at the U. since she didn’t mention such discussion in her piece. If Bauer assumed Kersten was dishonest, that was clearly a correct assumption, she was, and probably will be again. As far as I can tell Bauer is far more concerned about Kersten’s integrity than she is.

  12. Submitted by Ambrose Charpentier on 12/18/2009 - 09:06 am.

    Kersten is intentionally dishonest with her readers at every opportunity. For her the ends (conservative rule) justify the means (lying, defaming, disrespecting). Sadly, I fear her most serious dishonesty is with herself. She cannot face her own pain and misanthropy and so she lashes out at imagined enemies (liberals, people who care about others who are different from themselves). This woman needs help, not more forums for her hateful mutterings.

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