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Fred M. Hechinger was education editor of The New York Times, an author of several books and an advocate for public education. The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media continues his efforts to produce and promote high-quality education coverage.
Hechinger was born in Germany in 1920 and came to the U.S. in 1936. He completed his bachelor’s degree at The City College of New York and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He began his career in journalism as a foreign correspondent, covering Europe and the Middle East for the Overseas News Agency before joining The Herald Tribune in 1950 as education editor. In 1959, he began writing for The New York Times.
“During his vigorous tenure at The Times, Fred Hechinger was the voice of wisdom, reason and conscience in the often-volatile world of education,” said Arthur Gelb, who was Mr. Hechinger’s managing editor at The New York Times. “His influence extended beyond his many articles and books, for he also served informally as a trusted adviser to public school chancellors, as well as deans and presidents of our leading universities.”
In his final “About Education” column, Hechinger looked back on his long career in education journalism:
My report of 31 years ago might suggest that little has changed. Americans have landed on the moon, but schools are still mired in earthbound problems, such as mastery of math and science. Junior high schools still await reform.
Some things have grown worse – poverty, disintegrating families, drugs, violence.
…Bad news must be reported. But the three decades since my first column have also seen good news, and I enjoyed writing about it.
…The best news always came from classrooms where children learned and enjoyed it: 6-year-olds huddled in “editorial conference” before writing their stories; a high school student, who had never read a book for pleasure, discovering “Catcher in the Rye” and asking if there were more books for him to take home.
But after leaving such good news classrooms, I would think about hundreds of thousands of youngsters who are never allowed to taste such pleasures. Should I have ignored the bad news – about a system that deprives the many of joy reserved for the few?
I tried to celebrate the islands of excellence, but I could not overlook the sea of neglect and apathy that threatened to wash over them.
Hechinger died in 1995. Teachers College President Arthur Levine established the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media a year later, calling Fred Hechinger “one of the most influential voices in education journalism in the past half century.”
Hechinger’s two sons are both journalists. John Hechinger is a reporter for Bloomberg News and Paul Hechinger is a veteran of broadcast and online journalism, who also serves on the The Hechinger Report’s advisory committee.