XQ Live – Desperate School Choice Rebrand After Trump Touched It

IMG_8016

What do you do when your corporate brand has become repugnant to consumers?

You REBRAND, of course! And that’s exactly what uber-rich widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, paid a boatload of celebrities to do last night all over your TV.

The program was called XQ Superschools Live, and it took over four major networks.

It’s ironic really. Using an almost 100 year old medium to push “schools of the future.” They tweeted and Facebooked all over it, but the focus was on the old boob tube.

Why? Because the audience they wanted wasn’t so much the young. They wanted the old – those deep pocketed investors who might be startled by all the flash and bombast and ask their grandkids if this was “cool.”

It was the most pathetic display of desperation I have ever seen in my life.

If there is any justice, Tom Hanks, Yo-Yo Ma, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and Common will have to spend the rest of their lives to regain even a fraction of street cred.

 

IMG_8017

 

They were nothing but a series of singing and dancing sell outs. This was a modern day minstrel show. A bunch of highly paid shills pretending to represent the common folk.

I’m talking raised fists at the end of dance numbers meant to evoke all the power of authentic activists like Black Lives Matter without really having any grassroots support or message.

To be honest, my overwhelming response was pity.

Did anyone really think this was going to connect with an audience?

And speaking of that audience, if you had no idea who XQ or corporate education reform was, you probably watched the screen in bemused confusion. What the heck was this crap? It was platitudes about improving high schools broken up by song and dance numbers. It made the MTV Video Music Awards seem like a college dissertation.

Yet, to the initiated, you could see the subtle nods to privatization and charter schools, the shade thrown on traditional public schools.

Rethink high school?

Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling  an issue of Tiger Beat.

So now that it’s over, what have we learned?

1) Corporate education reformers are THAT desperate to distance themselves from Donald Trump.

His wholehearted endorsement of their agenda has done them serious life threatening damage. He has exposed their racist, privileged, corporatist policies for exactly what they are. No amount of celebrities will replace that in the public consciousness.

2) Rich people cannot set education policy.

Steve Jobs widow may be a very nice lady. But she has no freaking clue about public education. Nor is she honest enough to engage actual classroom teachers in the discussion to find out.

Instead of relying on the billionaires of the world, we should tax them. Then we can afford to fully fund our schools and let the people actually in the classroom decide what’s best for the students in their care. Let parents decide. Let school boards decide. Not a privileged tech philanthrocapitalist.

3) Celebrities will do anything for money.

The things these Hollywood elite prostitutes did last night to sell snake oil would make porn stars blush. I will never look at any of these people the same. Some of them I knew were true believers because of other projects. Heck! As much as I love Common’s new album, he does rap about Corey Booker – so warning there. Viola Davis is an amazing actress but she was in the parent trigger propaganda film “Won’t Back Down.”

Being famous doesn’t mean you know a damn thing. We recognize their faces. We associate them with past roles and characters we loved. We think their political stands are authentic when they are often just a pose. We’ve got to stop respecting these people just because they’re celebrities.

What will the long-term effect of last night’s propaganda be?

I don’t know.

I seriously doubt anyone really bought that. But you know what they say – no one ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the public.

And that’s what this was – a high stakes wager on American gullibility.

Advertisements

The Arrogant Ignorance of Campbell Brown: Education Journalism in Decline

campbell-brown

Apparently facts don’t matter much to Campbell Brown.

 

 

Though her latest “fact” about public schools has once again been shown to be more truthiness than truth, she refuses to retract it.

 

 

During an interview published in Slate where she gave advice to the next president, she said:

 

 

“Two out of three eighth graders in this country cannot read or do math at grade level. We are not preparing our kids for what the future holds.”

 

It’s a scary statistic. The problem is it’s completely unsupported by evidence.

 

And when education experts called her out on it, she complained that SHE was being attacked.

 

When pressed, Brown admitted she got this figure from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) a test given to random samples of students in fourth and eighth grades every two years.

 

However, Brown either misunderstands or misinterprets the scores. If one were to interpret the data in the way Brown suggests, the highest scoring countries in the world would be full of children who can’t read at grade level. Hardly anyone in the world would be literate or could add and subtract. It’s beyond absurd.

 

And when she was notified of her error by authorities in the field including Carol Burris, Tom Loveless and Diane Ravitch – who, by the way, served on the NAEP Governing Board for seven years – Brown responded by likening her critics to Donald Trump.

 

She wrote:

 

“That the people who disagree with my characterization would react by attacking me personally… speaks volumes. Those feigning outrage over the difference between “grade level” and “grade level proficiency” are the people who profit off the system’s failure and feel compelled to defend it at all costs. Sadly, in the age of Donald Trump and Diane Ravitch, this is what constitutes discourse.”

 

I especially like the bit where she attacks experts, teachers, and PhDs because they “profit off the system’s failure.” It’s pretty rich stuff coming from Brown who makes a pretty penny retelling the fairytale of “failing public schools.”

 

Once upon a time, Brown was a respected reported for NBC and anchorperson for CNN.

 

 

Now she’s a paid Internet troll.

 

 

I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

 

 

She co-founded and edits a Website called The Seventy Four – a reference to the 74 million children across the country who are 18 or younger.

 

 

It might be more honest to call it The Four, instead, for the $4 million she receives annually from the mega-rich backers of school privatization to bankroll the endeavor.

 

 

She claims her site is “nonpartisan.” Funny. I guess that explains why she continually backs every cause and campaign championed by her donors.

 

 

Change all public schools to private charter schools? Check.

 

Block teachers unions from collectively bargaining? Check.

 

 

Ignore the overwhelming preponderance of stories about charter schools cheating the public and their students? Check.

 

 

When called out on her bias, she proudly proclaimed, “I have learned that not every story has two sides… Is The Seventy Four journalism or advocacy? For 74 million reasons, we are both.”

 

 

Pithy. Yet it remains unclear exactly how the nation’s school children will benefit from Bill Gates and the Walton Family having an even larger say in education policy.

 

Brown has sold her image and rep as a journalist so it can be used to purposefully mislead the public into thinking she is still dedicated to those endeavors. She’s not. What she’s offering these days is not News. It’s bought-and-paid-for public relations meant to destroy our nation’s public schools.

 

If anyone thought Brown retained even a shred of journalistic integrity left, she should have removed it when she called herself, “a soldier in Eva’s army.” This is a reference to Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of a New York City charter school chain – Success Academy – where children are put under such pressure they wet themselves during testing and kids in first grade are shamed and berated for math mistakes.

 

As a public school teacher, myself, this makes me sad.

 

John Merrow, one of the elder statesmen of education journalism, recently proclaimed that we live in the “golden age of education reporting.”

 

I must respectfully disagree.

 

Yes, there is more being written about education policy and public schools than ever before.

 

But most of it is just paid advertisements from the standardization and privatization industry.

 

Look who’s funding these stories.

 

 

TV Networks such as NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo have broadcast various education segments on “Nightly News” and “Today” underwritten by Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

 

 

The Education Writers Association – which boasts more than 3,00 members – receives money from Gates and Walton. The L.A. Times receives funds from Broad for its Education Matters Digital initiative.

 

On-line publications also have been infiltrated. The Education Post took $12 million in start-up funds provided by Broad, Bloomberg and the Waltons. The site focuses on “K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students,” according to the Washington Post.

 

Even well-respected education blogs including Chalkbeat and Education Week are funded in part by the Waltons (in the latter case, specifically for “coverage of school choice and [so-called] parent-empowerment issues.”) Education Week even tweets out paid advertisements for Teach for America as if they were news stories!

 

 

We’ve all seen “Waiting for Superman,” the infamous union bashing, charter loving propaganda film packaged as a documentary. Its popularity was helped with outreach and engagement funds by the Waltons and a host of other privatizers. It’s far from the only effort by market-driven billionaires to infiltrate popular culture with corporate education reform. They tried to sell the parent trigger law with “Won’t Back Down,” but no one was buying. Efforts continue in Marvel Studios television shows.

 

A plethora of teachers, academics and other grassroots bloggers have taken to the Internet to correct the record. But they are often ignored or drowned out by the white noise of the same corporate education reform narratives being told again-and-again without any firm footing in reality. In fact, after blogger and former teacher Anthony Cody won first prize from the Education Writers Association in 2014 for his criticism of Gates, the organization banned bloggers from subsequent consideration.

 

We bloggers are almost completely unpaid. We do it because we care about our profession. Meanwhile the so-called “news” sources are funded by corporate special interests, yet it is bloggers that are looked at as if they were somehow reprehensibly compromised and biased.

 

Education journalism is not going through a golden age. It’s a sham, a farce.

 

When we allow our news to be funded by private interests, we lose all objectivity. The stories are spun to meet the demands of the big foundations, the billionaires bankrolling them. And the real experts in the field are either not consulted or left to quixotically do whatever they can on their own time.

 

Education journalism isn’t about what’s best for children. It’s about how best to monetize the system to wring as many taxpayer dollars out of our schools as possible for corporate interests.

 

It goes something like this: reduce the quality to reduce the cost and swallow the savings as profit. But it’s sold to the public in propaganda that we call journalism.

 

As famed cartoonist and counter-culture figure Robert Crumb wrote in 2015:

 

“You don’t have journalists [in America] anymore. What they have is public relations people. Two-hundred and fifty thousand people in public relations. And a dwindling number of actual reporters and journalists.”

 

Nowhere is this as obvious as with Brown.

 

Just as Broad was initiating a plan in February to double the number of charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Brown’s site, the Seventy Four, was given control of the LA School Report, an on-line news site focusing on the second largest district in the country. Brown was expected to run interference for the takeover. She was running the propaganda arm of the privatization push.

 

And that’s really what’s happening with our education journalism.

 

I’m not saying there aren’t actual journalists out there trying to tell unbiased stories. But they are few and far between. They are beset by corporate interests. And anyone who wants to tell the truth is silenced or marginalized.

 

As we’ve seen, when you actually try to point out errors like Brown’s ridiculous assertions about eighth grade students, the media treats it as a he-said-she-said.

 

They say, “Wow! Teachers really hate Brown.” Shrug.

 

Meanwhile the truth is left murdered on the floor as our schools are pillaged and sacked.

Selling the Big Lies About Schools and Teachers on Sci-Fi Fantasy TV

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 10.58.36 AM

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
Malcolm X

I’m with Brother Malcolm on this.

The media matters. And not just the news.

We learn what is real from the stories we tell ourselves and allow to be told about us. We construct our view of reality based on fairy tales, soap operas, rap lyrics and energy drink commercials.

There are cultural truths left unspoken that govern the very way we think. When the media speaks, we listen.

How dangerous, then, that we allow money to write the script. We let the 1% define who is an enemy and who is a friend. It’s no surprise that this almost always aligns with their interests.

As a public school teacher, I am an enemy of the plutocracy. I dare to teach children – even poor children, especially poor children – that knowledge is free. I stand in the way of the monetization of our schools. So I am a frequent target of attack.

It happened most recently in such a subtle way you might not even notice it. Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers briefly shifting the narrative of science fiction/fantasy to increase the bottom line.

Marvel Studios is often concerned with escapism. But this season, two of its television shows – Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Daredevil – offered brief propaganda amid the comic book action.

Agents of Shield is a superhero/spy drama that connects the production company’s big budget blockbuster films – Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers, etc. It follows the escapades of a well-meaning intelligence agency made up of folks without super powers trying to deal with a world where super heroes are becoming more common.

This season on the ABC drama, one of the major arcs focused on Skye, a young woman just getting used to her super powers, and her quest to find her mother and father both of whom had abandoned her as a baby.

When she finally meets her dad, Cal, he is a mentally unbalanced enemy of Shield . However, as time goes on, Skye begins to see a nicer side to him.

In episode 2X18 “Frenemy of my Enemy,” the two spend the day together walking around Milwaukie and have a conversation about why she had been deserted as an infant. It was all rather interesting until they walked through a puddle of stinking corporate school reform.

Cal talks about how he and Skye’s mom had planned to raise her before they were thwarted by the evil Hydra organization. He talks about the nice middle class suburb where he had bought a home. He talks about the cute local businesses. And to show what an awe shucks great dad he might have been, he rhapsodizes about a really good local charter school where they were going to send her.

Skye: So, you had a … you had a practice here?

Cal: Yeah, before I met your mother.

Skye: She was a doctor, too?

Cal: Studying to be one. She had a natural gift for it … compassionate, beyond intelligent, wise … always five steps ahead of me. She wanted to finish med school here. Oh, and there was this great, little charter school just around the corner.

Skye: A charter school for medicine?

Cal: What? [Chuckling] Oh, no, not for her … for you. Oh, it was gonna’ be perfect. I was gonna’ drop you off every morning and pick you up, help you with your science fair project … the volcano, because who doesn’t love a volcano, right? We’d go to the father-daughter dances together, get ice cream. Ah, the life we could have had … should have had…

A charter school!?

Are you freaking kidding me!?

First of all, let’s talk continuity error. The first charter school law wasn’t even passed until 1991 in Minnesota. Skye was born in 1988. There were no charter schools in existence when Cal was musing about sending his infant daughter to one. Moreover, Wisconsin didn’t allow charter schools until 1993, long after Skye was separated from her parents!

But putting aside issues of believability (This is a show where people have super powers, after all) the charter school reference is hardly organic. It’s used as an emotional shorthand to show that Cal was a good father once. And you know what else is all warm and fuzzy? Those plucky charter schools. Shouldn’t you consider enrolling your child in one today?

However, charter schools have a terrible academic record. They either do no better than traditional public schools or – in most cases – much worse. In fact, for-profit charters are notorious because – unlike public schools – they don’t have to spend all of their budgets on kids. They’re big business producing huge profits for investors at the expense of student learning. Just google “charter school scandals.”

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of that lucrative taxpayer money may be finding its way into Marvel’s coffers to buy advertising space on Agents of Shield.

Product placement: drinking a Coke, driving a Toyota and – now – if only daddy could have sent me to a charter school.

Instead Skye had to deal with a life in an orphanage, at foster homes and – yuck! – the public school system!

Even worse, though, is the outright libel on Daredevil, a show delivered streaming on Netflix.

Most of the time it’s a pretty good action thriller about a blind lawyer who moonlights as a vigilante superhero fighting crime. (Yeah. He has superpowers, too, kinda.)

One of the supporting characters is Ben Urich, a grizzled seen-it-all investigative reporter. While New York’s Hell’s Kitchen is being taken over by the evil businessman, Wilson Fisk, some of Daredevil’s friends try to convince Urich to write about Fisk in the newspaper.

In episode 1X04 “In The Blood,” Urich warns feisty secretary Karen Page about how dangerous it is to go after nefarious evil organizations – like the mob, corporate polluters, the VA and – gasp – the teachers union!

Karen goads him by saying, “I read every big story with your byline. The VA kickbacks, toxic runoff, the Teachers Union scandal. Hell, you pretty much brought down the Italian mob back when I was in diapers. What ever happened to that reporter, Mr. Urich?”

(Later)

Ben Urich: You said you read a bunch of my articles. Remember the one about the, uh the runoff? What that company was dumping into the river?

Karen Page: Yeah, sure.

Ben Urich: Fished the guy that tipped me off out of that same river a month later. And that fella trying to clean up the Teachers Union? Moved out of state after flyers went up saying he was a pedophile. They underestimated what people in power will do to stay there.

So in the Marvel Universe, the ultimate evils are Red Skull, Loki, Thanos and public school teachers.

I’ve got to tell you my union must really be slacking. We never seem to get to world domination at our meetings.

I pay my dues. How come I’ve never gotten to whack anyone? Why haven’t any of our members – who by law can’t have a criminal record to work with children – why haven’t any of us ever slandered each other as pedophiles? All we do is talk about how to make our school better for both the students and our members.

But those big corporations drooling all over themselves at the prospect of privatizing public education dollars sure do hate us. We’re the last line of defense stopping them from stealing from the piggy bank of tax money put aside to educate your child.

So it’s no wonder some of their shadowy money donated by multi-billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the Walton family probably made its way into Marvel’s bank account.

I can’t prove that Marvel Studios took a cent to write either of those episodes. The Daredevil script was written by Joe Pokaski, a television writer for other genre shows like Heroes and also a Marvel comic book author. The Shield episode was written by Monica Owusu-Breen, one of the show’s co-executive producers. She also has a long career writing for television.

Maybe they each just have personal axes to grind.

Or maybe vampire organizations trying to bleed public money into their bank books might use some of that blood money to soften their image and take down their enemies.

Hey, Daredevil! Hey, Agents of Shield! Maybe if you really want to root out evil, your next mission should be at Marvel Studios! Because making nefarious charter schools look just swell and attacking school teachers – that’s not something heroes do.


NOTES:

“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.”
Noam Chomsky & Edward S. Herman
Manufacturing Consent

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
Adolph Hitler


-This article also was published on the Badass Teacher Association Blog.

-The article inspired fellow blogger Peter Greene to write a post, “Privatizer Product Placement,” asking readers to contact Marvel Studios and ask the company to stop putting anti-school propaganda in its TV shows.