Quotations out of context – why the unbiased and apathetic are the wisest


Well, here we are in the election season, 40 days out as I write this, and the local elections are getting some attention. It’s been difficult, what with the inability to door to door campaign and do little more than zoom conference calls to make ourselves available to potential voters.

Which is why events like the one hosted by Mount Cavalry Baptist and Lincoln Park Historical Society are critical for voters and candidates alike.

The event was 2 hours of rotating questions and answers which makes it difficult for reporters to synthesize. After all, what question is more important than the other in Montgomery County and how do you distill a 90-second response down to a simple sound bite and quote to run in the paper?

Whatever the reporter chooses to do, there’s going to be missing context.

So I offer this post not to pick on the reporter who covered the event, but to further elaborate on the point I was making so that my words…aren’t taken out of context.

Bethesda Magazine went with the handling of remote learning question first as their primary focus and headline. Their quote from my comments is absolutely accurate. It is a small miracle that a system as large as ours was able to transform almost overnight to accommodate our students for online learning. But what was missed was the other 88 seconds or so of my response.

It furthered this statement by pointing out that this was not a planned transition – this idea was not years in the making to create a cutting edge education system, it was a response to a crisis. So it’s not just difficult to criticize what is going on, it is counterproductive.

As I explained, I have a vast background in online content and delivery. I’ve designed online courses and programs at the high school and college level. I’ve trained online instructors and taught online courses. I noted in my answer that I can’t watch over my kids shoulders while they are in class, it’s physically painful. “I could spend 6 hours of time criticizing what is happening” but it’s not appropriate because it’s an emergency response to a crisis and, in that lens, it’s amazing that more hasn’t gone terribly wrong.

The second subject was on the boundary analysis and this seems to be where the reporter got a bit tired and wanted to finish up the article and hit a deadline. I may sound a bit harsh, but this was the article quote:

“Dasgupta advocated for routine, comprehensive boundary analyses, while Fryar and Solomon said MCPS should implement more school choice.”

Wow. No, that’s actually a mischaracterization of what I said by leaving out a critical word: public. In addition, that phrasing makes it seem that I am against a comprehensive boundary analyses

The argument from the author will be that the word ‘while’ used in this context is a subordinating conjunction that is used to identify a differing position. While technically correct, however, the word ‘while’ is commonly (or colloquially) used to state or point out an opposing position. As I did with that sentence.

So the reporters choice of phrasing gives the reader the impression that I am not in support of the boundary analysis when, in fact, I spent 70 of the 90 seconds advocating for it. The “public school choice” I discussed (very, very briefly) is a topic I have visited in blog posts and other forums to state that I believe in creating theme and magnet schools for public school choice.

There were multiple other questions asked and the video is well worth a viewing. As well as multiple forums coming up that will allow all the candidates to continue to answer questions.

It is vitally important that you use the articles as a springboard to watch the entire interviews, rather than as a destination for your information. Context is critical.