September 4th, 2008
Message from Ron Thorpe, Vice President and Director of the Educational Resources Center at Thirteen/WNET

Ron Thorpe, Vice President and Director of the Educational Resources Center at Thirteen/WNET

Welcome to the Web site for “WHERE WE STAND: America’s Schools in the 21st Century.” This 60-minute broadcast, available here in five segments (along with considerable additional footage, reporting and education news. is not aimed at condemning America’s schools or suggesting that they are getting worse. Rather, we wanted to alert the nation to the fact that other countries are investing heavily in their schools and getting better results, and that life in this new century is demanding much from schools and society. Not long ago, such a shift might not have mattered much, but in the “flat world” of the 21st Century our children and our country will be competing on a global stage that is very different. Will we be ready? Will our children be ready? Or will this generation of youth be – as some people have suggested – the first in our nation’s history to experience a lower standard of living than their parents?

The program’s title comes in part from a show CBS aired in January 1958, also titled “Where We Stand.” With that program, CBS made history – using television for the first time to inform and rally the nation. Focused on Russia’s launch of Sputnik in late 1957, the program featured a young Walter Cronkite, and from that point on not only did the country actively follow the “race for space” on television – they followed it on CBS with Cronkrite – all the way until Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.

Of course, the world and especially communication media are different today. With the economy, the environment, energy, and international unrest at the top of most political agendas, many Americans don’t see the needs of our schools in the same way they saw the threat posed by Sputnik. Yet, in the end our success in meeting all current and future challenges is ultimately tied to the success of our education system and how well we develop the most important resource of all: the talent of individuals.

Visitors to this site also will be interested to know that there is a robust national outreach effort happening in the weeks following this broadcast. In more than 40 states, public television stations, in partnership with the Public Education Network, the Learning First Alliance, and others will be using this program to get the nation talking about education and “where we stand.”

My thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for making the broadcast possible, and to PBS for designating it for common carriage, which means that the program airs on all 355 public television member stations nationwide. It’s the gold standard! It’s also a strong statement of how much PBS cares about teachers, students, and their parents.

I’m also grateful to Judy Woodruff, whose career as a broadcast journalist for CNN, NBC, and PBS has been second-to-none. She’s one of the hardest working people in the business, but somehow she still found time to help us with this show. Her interest in WHERE WE STAND was at least in part tied to the work she did creating the series GENERATION NEXT, an honest and bold conversation with our country’s young people, and an effort that will continue to inform all of us in the years ahead.

Finally, I want to thank producer/director/writer Rebecca Haggerty, who worked tirelessly and with great insight on this program. She cares deeply about the issues presented here, and it was a great joy to work with her and her team – especially Molly Knight Raskin and Lisa Gray (who also are the creators of this Web site) – and to learn from them. If this program speaks to you, if it succeeds in any way, it’s largely because of them and the expert guidance we all got from our station President Neal Shapiro – who served as Executive-In-Charge – and my talented colleague Stephen Segaller, Vice President for National Programming.

We hope you enjoy the program and the Web site, and we look forward to your feedback.


Ronald Thorpe
Executive Producer: WHERE WE STAND
Vice President and Director of Education, Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21


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