A Conversation with Some LAT Bloggers
We thought it might be fun to take a few moments to chat with the people behind "School Me," Bob Sipchen and Janine Kahn. They were kind enough to submit to a Sister City interview.
How did the "School Me" blog get started?
Bob: I’d been thinking about a column on education, written on a laptop from the field, for years. Janet Clayton, who runs the California section, asked me to do it and the web component fell into place naturally.
Whose idea was the predict-o-meter?
Janine: Bob's the brains of that operation. But the bouncing arrows and bipolar mayor pictures are mine.
Bob: I love those bouncing arrows! Sometimes I get mesmerized and stare at them for hours. Oddly, I often hear a little voice saying: “Send Janine your credit card numbers.”
What's the most pressing issue facing education in Los Angeles?
Bob: I don’t want to segregate a single issue from the complex knot of interrelated issues. The obvious big question is, how do we make sure all Southern California’s (and America’s ) young people have the knowledge and skills to create successful, productive lives at a time when the rest of the world’s getting smarter and smarter.
School Me isn’t just about LAUSD or even public schools, and I think it would be a mistake to ignore the issues facing privileged kids at Westridge or Harvard Westlake to focus solely on the poor, disadvantaged students who are dropping out at tragic rates from certain public schools. We do, however, need to make sure the bad schools get good fast.
Do you think the average citizen has a realistic view of LA's education system and its current state?
Janine: The average citizen has probably encountered LA's education system firsthand, so I'm guessing they have an idea or two.
Bob: How do we define average? If you mean ‘majority,’ then I agree with Janine. I think the bigger question is: “Do the region’s elites, the people who get things done and who, by and large send their kids to private schools, understand their vital stake in the children who can’t afford that option?
Who is the most interesting character in Los Angeles politics today?
Janine: Probably the mayor. He has his fingers in so many pies and a highly caffeinated schedule.
Bob: My restraining order limits me to scrutinizing matters of education. Fortunately, that’s where all the great politics is going on right now. Shakespeare couldn’t ask for a better cast. The mayor-who-would-be-governor, the former governor who butts heads with the mayor, the cocky union boss, the board members the union-elected-and-then-betrayed, the billionaire buttinskys. It’s wonderful.
What's the hippest place in LA to hang out?
Janine: No idea. Last I checked, rookie webhead journalists weren’t exactly “hip.”
Bob: Hang out at School Me. It’s not all that hip, but if you stare at those bouncing arrows long enough you’ll understand the secrets of the universe.