Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why do many reporters miss the story on the realities of school change ?



How the media distorts the issues in the public school debates.  
  Reporters who are not experts on schools too often  rely upon the wisdom of selected “spokespersons” and other elites. 
They have been sold a framework of  a corporate view of accountability. Corporate sponsored networks and think tanks such as the the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Broad Foundation,  the Bradley Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute,  and the Olin Foundation provide “experts” prepared to give an opinion on short notice to meet a reporters deadline.  Most reporters assume that these notables are telling the truth when in fact they are promoting a particular propaganda such as in the film “Waiting for Superman”.  Who do they not talk with?  They fail to interview experienced teachers and professionals who have worked for decades to improve the quality of inner city schools.

The Obama Administration’s appointment of Arne Duncan was symptomatic of the problem.  He represents the  kind of corporate/media approach to reform.   So, reporters can go to the corporate funded foundations and provide “balance” by asking the appointees of the government- they get the same story.  In particular recently they have been turning to the Gates and Broad Foundations  or the conservative Democrats for Education Reform and Michelle Rhee.  
 What the foundations and the Billionaires Boy’s Clubs are saying is fundamentally misleading.  They are deliberately distorting the story.  However reporters think that these foundations have smart people so they must know what they are talking about.  See Diane Ravitch.  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. 2010.

  There are layers of influence that tell reporters what is the “correct” side of the story.  Reporters seldom go to people who might provide an unsafe viewpoint- like people who have worked in the schools for years.   For more on this see Mike Rose. Why School?
  Reporters typically develop sources and they writer for these sources. They don’t want to offend their sources or to indicate that they don’t understand the issues.  Reporters also know what the owners of the newspapers and journals think.  And, except for  journals of professional organizations, the newspaper owners think very much like the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce.
In the last twenty years media ownership has become highly concentrated. 

  Now, reporters and editors are disturbed to learn that growing sectors of the public do not trust their reporting.  In particular teachers do not trust the reporting – it is so often misinformed. This is an unconscious class bias of the media- looking up to the selected expertise of those funded by the foundations and looking down on everyday teachers and others actually working in the schools.
   There is a well developed media structure focused on the think tanks and foundations and revealed in the film Waiting for Superman and Won’t Back Down  which regularly repeats a series of mis information. 

 In Waiting for Superman, the film maker distorts the needed discussion of school reform by citing only one side of the debate- that of the  Billionaire Boy’s Club and their well funded spokespersons.  The film decries the teachers unions as a special interest while reporting on Bill Gates, the Olin Foundation, the Bradley foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the entire raft of very conservative economic interests as if they were neutral.  They are not.   Their declared interest is the shrink the public sector – as in public schools- and to spend less money on tax supported institutions.   A second goal of several of these foundations is to defeat the power of teachers unions and the Democratic Party- that is the primary goal of  Democrats for Education Reform.  And, who do they represent ( see prior post)?
Blogging as if public education mattered.
So, this blog along with several others has a viewpoint, and part of the effort is to counter the opinions and perspectives of the Billionaire Boy’s Clubs, the Democrats for Education reform, Michelle Rhee of Students First, Mayor Kevin Johnson, and similar foundation funded efforts.  The effort is to provide a variety of views to counter the biased view of the general press. 
For more on this topic see:  www.DemocracyEducationInstitute.org.

There are, of course, others providing these views also including the journals of the professional organizations and a few notable bloggers such as the blog The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/
http://www.susanohanian.org/index.php
And others. 

The above  post is based upon an interview with veteran reporter and author William Greider. Social Security in Perspective, Part III A conversation with William Greider by Trudy Lieberman in the Columbia Journalism review  posted on Dec.21,3010.   The interview with Grieder is about how the press miss report the condition and the so called “crisis” of social security.   For this post I have taken Greider’s points and applied some of them to reporting on school reform.  I am relying upon Greider’s extensive knowledge of the press and  economics reporting and applying some of  the ideas to reporting on school reform where I see a parallel problem
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