Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Cranky Old Bill'nairs" (Phi'thrpists Piss on US? Problem Not Public Schools . . . Poverty (Beware Bill Gates ("Got Dough? How They Own Our Schools"))

Heard that Keith Olberman was gone from MSNBC yet? Cause he is. I know I was just thinking the other night while enjoying his sharp program (sharp in every sense, particularly the sense of sticking it to my enemies) on a suspect network (owned by GE and now Comcast) just how long can this last? Something tells me with the race for 2012 heating up as we breathe (meaning every second since the last election) that we ain't seen nothing yet as far as media control and PR for the Rethug view of life goes (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

"Cranky Old White Billionaires" Consolidate Media

Professor Juan Cole

People are blaming the abrupt departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC on that company’s merger with Comcast and Olbermann’s loss of the protection and patronage of Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC programming. MSNBC says that the issue has nothing to do with Comcast. It seems Olbermann is too extreme for US television. But Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, now they are mainstream. What universe could that proposition be true in? That of cranky old white billionaires. And television news is owned by them. Not by you.

Whether Comcast is the villain of the piece directly, things like the Comcast merger with MSNBC are responsible for there being very few voices on American television (and despite the proliferation of channels) like Olbermann’s. And for there being relatively little news on the “news” programs. Time Warner, General Electric and Comcast (partners in NBC), Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp own almost all television news. In other words, six big corporations determine what you will hear about the world if you get your news from television. There are fewer and fewer t.v. news outlets that do not belong to one of these six, a process called media consolidation.

For reasons of profit-seeking, when Disney acquired ABC, it looted the company’s news divisions. Profits are not to be had in hard news, but rather in tabloid news. It used to be that human interest stories would be ‘desert,’ but they have become the main meal.

Ironically, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was one of Olbermann’s biggest critics, afraid that the latter’s flamboyant and polarizing style would tarnish the reputation of regular NBC newsmen for objectivity.

What Brokaw seems not to have noticed is that NBC and MSNBC did, like most television news, a miserable job of covering the Iraq issue in 2002-2003–mainly buying White House propaganda. The powerful bias toward the point of view of the rich and powerful and well-connected in Washington demonstrated by all the major tv news outlets in 2002-2003 makes Olbermann look like a staid centrist.

Senator Al Franken, a former NBC employee, fulminated against the Comcast/ MSNBC merger: But the FCC has passed it.

We’ll miss Keith. But it isn’t about him. It is about the ever-narrowing character of public comment in the US, about the few having most of everything. It is about media consolidation.

Our friend at the Green Eagle has another pointed take:

. . . here's the reality of press suppression in this country:

MSNBC just fired their top-rated broadcaster. And make no mistake about the reason: it was solely because he dared to tell the truth in public. And if you think Rachel, Ed Schultz, and that clown O'Donnell don't get the message, you really are fooling yourself. If Keith is expendable they all are. It is apparently tolerable for CNN to employ the right wing hatemonger and professional liar Erick Erickson. But being a moderate liberal is too much for this country to allow anyone a public voice.

Speaking of expendable (and we all are now in this "brave new world" upcoming), hows about that education system, guaranteeing US to stay just barely able to compete with people making $2 a day? Do you like giving your money to "philanthropists" who use it to subvert your lives?

I don't. And I want to change this. NOW!

The cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy — where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision — investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

. . . the Post broke the news that Bill Gates had “secretly bankrolled” Learn-NY, a group campaigning to overturn a term-limit law so that Michael Bloomberg could run for a third term as New York City mayor. Bloomberg’s main argument for deserving another term was that his education reform agenda (identical to the Gates-Broad agenda) was transforming city schools for the better. Gates put $4 million of his personal money into Learn-NY.

. . . Since Bloomberg’s reelection, however, the results of one study after another have shown that his reform endeavors are not producing the positive results he repeatedly claims.

First they steal your money, then they use it to steal your life. Did you notice those worry lines on Melinda Gates brow last time she told you how public spirited she and the boss were? No? (Why the movie Waiting for Superman is a fraud . . . see below. )

On October 7 and 8, 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a two-part investigation by Robert Fortner into “the implications of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s increasingly large and complex web of media partnerships.” The report focused on the foundation’s grants to the PBS Newshour, ABC News, and the British newspaper the Guardian for reporting on global health.

Of course, all three grantees claim to have “complete editorial independence,” but the ubiquity of Gates funding makes the claim disingenuous. As Fortner observes, “It is the largest charitable foundation in the world, and its influence in the media is growing so vast there is reason to worry about the media’s ability to do its job.”

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, too, questioned the foundation’s bankrolling of for-profit news organizations and its “growing involvement with journalism” (October 11, 2010). Neither publication mentioned that Gates is also developing partnerships with news and entertainment media to promote its education agenda.

Ya think anyone's noticing yet the terrible effects of creating all those multi-millionaires/billionaires?

Both Gates and Broad funded “NBC News Education Nation,” a week of public events and programming on education reform that began on September 27, 2010. The programs aired on NBC News shows such as “Nightly News” and “Today” and on the MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo TV networks. During the planning stages, the producers of Education Nation dismissed persistent criticism that the programming was being heavily weighted in favor of the Duncan-foundation reform agenda.

Judging by the schedule of panels and interviews, Education Nation certainly looked like a foundation project. The one panel I watched — ”Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?” — was “moderated” by Steven Brill, a hardline opponent of teachers’ unions and promoter of charter schools. The panel did not belong on a news show.

Where Do You Think The Bad Schools Came From?
In November 2008, Bill and Melinda gathered about one hundred prominent figures in education at their home outside Seattle to announce that the small schools project hadn’t produced strong results. They didn’t mention that, instead, it had produced many gut-wrenching sagas of school disruption, conflict, students and teachers jumping ship en masse, and plummeting attendance, test scores, and graduation rates. No matter, the power couple had a new plan: performance-based teacher pay, data collection, national standards and tests, and school “turnaround” (the term of art for firing the staff of a low-performing school and hiring a new one, replacing the school with a charter, or shutting down the school and sending the kids elsewhere).

. . . In 2009 the Gates Foundation and Viacom (the world’s fourth largest media conglomerate, which includes MTV Networks, BET Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and hundreds of other media properties) made a groundbreaking deal for entertainment programming. For the first time, a foundation wouldn’t merely advise or prod a media company about an issue; Gates would be directly involved in writing and producing programs. As a vehicle for their partnership, the foundation and Viacom (with some additional funds from the AT&T Foundation) set up a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization called the Get Schooled Foundation. The interpenetration of foundations and the spawning of new ones is endless.

In July 2010, Get Schooled hired Marie Groark, then senior education program officer at Gates, as its executive director. Among its initiatives, Get Schooled lists Waiting for Superman, which is produced by Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of Viacom. This is how the New York Times (April 2, 2009) described the Gates-Viacom deal:

Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom….It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies.

Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living . . . . Their goal is to weave education-theme story lines into existing shows or to create new shows centered on education.

Interested in a real (unbought and unpaid for) discussion of why billionaires want to control our education system, and the lies for which they have paid handsomely in order to inculcate them into the background of all discussions?

You will be shocked at how well paid these liars are, the "pipelines" they have infiltrated into your education establishment (h/t to American Enterprise Institute), and how effective they are at changing your educated world.

And you thought there was undoubtedly some actual thinking that went on at those right-wing "think tanks?" And these people run our national government - don't kid yourself - they do. (P.S. Daley don't know shit about education, he's just the latest inexpert expert (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

Last fall, Daley announced that he wouldn’t run again for mayor; Ron Huberman, who replaced Duncan as schools CEO, announced that he would leave before Daley; and Rahm Emanuel, preparing to run for Daley’s job, announced that he would promote another privately funded reform campaign for Chicago’s schools. “Let’s raise a ton of money,” he told the Chicago Tribune (October 18, 2010). Eminently doable.

. . . Gates and Broad also sponsored the documentary film Waiting for Superman, which is by far the ed reform movement’s greatest media coup. With few exceptions, film critics loved it (“a powerful and alarming documentary about America’s failing public school system,” New York Times, September 23, 2010). Critics of the reform agenda found the film one-sided, heavy-handed, and superficial.

From Dissent Magazine:

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools By Joanne Barkan . . . Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children (only religious organizations receive more money). But three funders — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation — working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making.

And they fund the same vehicles to achieve their goals: charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing for students, merit pay for teachers whose students improve their test scores, firing teachers and closing schools when scores don’t rise adequately, and longitudinal data collection on the performance of every student and teacher. Other foundations — Ford, Hewlett, Annenberg, Milken, to name just a few — often join in funding one project or another, but the education reform movement’s success so far has depended on the size and clout of the Gates-Broad-Walton triumvirate.

Every day, dozens of reporters and bloggers cover the Big Three’s reform campaign, but critical in-depth investigations have been scarce (for reasons I’ll explain further on). Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the reforms are not working.

Stanford University’s 2009 study of charter schools — the most comprehensive ever done — concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately.

Gates and Broad helped to shape and fund two of the nation’s most extensive and aggressive school reform programs — in Chicago and New York City — but neither has produced credible improvement in student performance after years of experimentation. To justify their campaign, ed reformers repeat, mantra-like, that U.S. students are trailing far behind their peers in other nations, that U.S. public schools are failing.

The claims are specious. Two of the three major international tests — the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study — break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years. The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math.

When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower.

Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this. The problem is not public schools; it is poverty. And as dozens of studies have shown, the gap in cognitive, physical, and social development between children in poverty and middle-class children is set by age three.

Drilling students on sample questions for weeks before a state test will not improve their education. The truly excellent charter schools depend on foundation money and their prerogative to send low-performing students back to traditional public schools. They cannot be replicated to serve millions of low-income children.

Yet the reform movement, led by Gates, Broad, and Walton, has convinced most Americans who have an opinion about education (including most liberals) that their agenda deserves support.

Given all this, I want to explore three questions: How do these foundations operate on the ground?

How do they leverage their money into control over public policy?

And how do they construct consensus? We know the array of tools used by the foundations for education reform: they fund programs to close down schools, set up charters, and experiment with data-collection software, testing regimes, and teacher evaluation plans; they give grants to research groups and think tanks to study all the programs, to evaluate all the studies, and to conduct surveys; they give grants to TV networks for programming and to news organizations for reporting; they spend hundreds of millions on advocacy outreach to the media, to government at every level, and to voters. Yet we don’t know much at all until we get down to specifics.

. . . Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom . . . .It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies. Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living….Their goal is to weave education-theme story lines into existing shows or to create new shows centered on education.

. . . Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes announced the results of the “Grantee Perception Report,” which the foundation had commissioned from the Center for Effective Philanthropy. The center, a nonprofit research group, has rattled the foundation world with surveys that show how grantees evaluate a funder and also how that evaluation compares to the evaluations of other funders. Some 1,020 Gates grantees, active between June 1, 2008, and May 31, 2009, responded to the survey. On questions relating to the experience of working with Gates, the foundation got bad grades. “Lower than typical ratings,” Raikes wrote.

Many of our grantee partners said we are not clear about our goals and strategies, and they think we don’t understand their goals and strategies. They are confused by our decision-making and grant-making processes.

. . . The report intrigued me because it shows another aspect of how Gates operates on the ground. More important, it helps explain why the Big Three can keep marketing and selling reforms that don’t work. Certainly ideology — in this case, faith in the superiority of the private business model — drives them.

But so does the blinding hubris that comes from power. You don’t have to listen or see because you know you are right. One study after another sends up a red flag, but no one in the ed reform movement blinks. Insanity, defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, applies here.

Can anything stop the foundation enablers? After five or ten more years, the mess they’re making in public schooling might be so undeniable that they’ll say, “Oops, that didn’t work” and step aside. But the damage might be irreparable: thousands of closed schools, worse conditions in those left open, an extreme degree of “teaching to the test,” demoralized teachers, rampant corruption by private management companies, thousands of failed charter schools, and more low-income kids without a good education. Who could possibly clean up the mess?

All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters.

Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one.

Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K–12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them.

Private money should not be producing what amounts to false advertising for a faulty product. The imperious overreaching of the Big Three undermines democracy just as surely as it damages public education.

Read it all for yourself here. You have a stake in this country and its education system. Start acting like you know that. Suzan _________________


P M Prescott said...

I retired after 27 years of teaching. You wouldn't recognize the schools I started teaching in from the ones we have today. Saint Reagan started the destruction of public schools in 1986 with his "Schools at Risk" report. Funny how it was a self fulfilling prophesy.

Suzan said...

I last taught in 2002 and the class thought it was joke that I wanted them to learn anything.

Thanks for commenting!


Suzan said...

I forgot to mention that all the Rethugs want schools to be at risk.

After all they didn't get much education, why should anyone else?


libhom said...

Tom Browkw always was an obnoxious wingnut. For him to accuse any other broadcaster of bias is astonishing.

Suzan said...

I always thought so, too, LH.

Funny how he and Will and Brooks and Krauthammer and the Cokies and all the rest of the MSM trash talkers were always given so much personal space because of their shouted neutrality or unbiasedness or whatever the word of the day was that excused their wingnuttery, while closing the door on having speakers that actually were unbiased in judgments on the touted "news" of the day.

I do believe those times are over now. Let's see if we go straight into totalitarian media being the next "accepted" value (re: Comcast buyout of NBC) or we have another moment or two in which we could reconsider our path before rushing off that cliff too.