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Beating down the education deformers, Part 3

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2016 · 3 comments

abandonedschool(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

The following blockquote is from the best succinct description of the goals and tactics of the deformer/privatization movement that I’ve seen. It was originally published in the Washington Post.

The pitch
Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.
Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters — academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

Needless to say, corporate-controlled “legacy”/”traditional”/whatever-you-want-to-call-it media (the daily papers, the nightly news broadcasts, etc.) play a big, key part in all of this.

This post is mainly a public service because it has become stunningly clear that trying to engage journalists and the media covering education in order to prompt change is falling on willfully deaf ears.
My public service is to save you, dear reader, time. If you see or view a story in the media covering education, you can expect only two frames: (1) If the coverage is about public schools, the message is CRISIS!, but (2) if the coverage is about someone (anyone) without expertise or experience in education, the message will be breathless awe at their courage to finally be dragging that miracle to life that the horrible public school system has been unable to do lo these many years.
(the becoming radical)

And from Media Matters, “The Worst Media Failures on Public Education in 2015.”

Mostly. But there have been exceptions, like the article from February, 2015, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about a study that showed that Minnesota charters on the whole performed worse than public schools. I’m still not sure why that did get published, but, absolutely, credit where it’s due.
Speaking of the Strib, much more typical was the wildly misleading article lauding (soon-to-be-ex) Rep. John Kline (R-MN) after the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. In fact, Kline sat on NCLB reform for years, hoping to get a far more onerous final bill (which would have included provisions for pulling money away from the poorest schools), and only got on board with what did happen when greater powers were brought to bear. If any Minnesota legislator “won,” it was Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), though to what extent his progressive, pro-student measures will actually be fully funded and implemented over the long haul remains to be seen. So much depends on the upcoming election.

Corporate “news” media has two priorities that don’t always work well together. One is to try to get viewers to vote for corporate, preferably Republican, candidates. The other is not to lose any more viewer/listener/reader share, by offending anyone, including parents whose kids are in (often great) traditional public schools. This has led to the approach discussed above. As their base audience, like the Republican Party’s, passes on, presumably there will be change. But what kind of change, and when, who knows? For now, and the near future, if you are pro-public schools, corporate media is a big problem. No harm in telling those you know where you’re coming from, on that.
From Mac Hall: Slightly off topic, but does John Kline have naked pictures of the Strib’s editors ?
Yeah, they gave him praise for NCLB-reform (which you accurately stated was the Senate version and a rejection of Kline’s Student Success Act), but how about the praise that they have loaded upon him for finally acknowledging the plight of Native American schools ( which you gotta wonder if Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School wasn’t in Minnesota if the Strib would have done its story forcing Kline to actually visit it). Last year, Kline supported NOT cutting Indian education … but this year, when the letter went out asking for funding to address Bug, it was signed by 6 Members of the Minnesota House delegation … and John Kline, along with Tom Emmer, were the ones that did not sign it.
Another Strib-Kline lovefest is his “leadership” on VA delayed billings … it took him months from when the problem was reported to offer legislation and it has been three months since a sub-committee held a hearing on it (he was invited to speak but was a no show). And since this comment interweaves education and vets, John Kline was silent earlier this month when the House GOP “reformed” vets education benefits … cutting funding for children of vets.
Franken deserves a lot of credit … not only for the education reform but also for addressing workforce development … something that is within the bailiwick of Chairman Kline … the last reform, was not Kline’s version, but the Senate’s version. And Franken is still pushing for more private-government partnerships to train workers for jobs that are unfilled today … the House has a version H.R. 3862, The Community College to Career Fund Act, but it is buried in Chairman Kline’s committee.
John Kline has left a legacy … harming pensioners, students, unemployed and veterans.

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