Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Education Nation reflection and fallout


1 a : the often radioactive particles stirred up by or resulting from a nuclear explosion and descending through the atmosphere; also : other polluting particles (as volcanic ash) descending likewise

b : descent (as of fallout) through the atmosphere

2 : a secondary and often lingering effect, result, or set of consequences

Okay, this past week’s propaganda-fest peak seems to have passed, so now all we have to deal with are the toxic particles that remain. This was probably one of the plans hatched up by the billionaires at the clandestine May 2009 summit organized by Bill Gates, which was attended by Gates, Broad, Bloomberg, Winfrey, and others.

Here is Stephen Lazar’s reflection of his experience as one of Education Nation’s featured teachers:

Over the past few days, I have had the unbelievably depressing and deflating experience of being part of NBC’s Education Nation. I was one of the first teachers on stage for Sunday’s Teacher Town Hall, and I returned on Monday for a panel entitled “Good Apples,”…

Arriving at Rockefeller Plaza Sunday morning was a surreal experience. I am going to give NBC credit for two things: they have poured a ton of human and financial resources into having a conversation about education in America, and they built a beautiful setting to do so. I felt like I had entered a dream world where the voices of teachers would actually be listened to and respected in a forum where major educational decisions were made. I should have known better…

I admit, I should have known better than to expect anything positive to come out of NBC’s Education Nation. It became abundantly clear that while well intentioned, NBC really knew very little about the topic they decided to cover, and instead of any real conversation or reporting, relied on the most famous faces in education to argue over the same old points that get us nowhere. I hoped the conversation would change, but with the people they had involved, I should have known there was little hope for that...

Be sure to read the whole thing HERE.

Memorable accounts of what was going on at NBC behind the scenes in the days leading up to Education Nation are preserved in the online history books now.

Leonie Haimson informed us in Education Indoctrination about how NBC named one of its panel sessions “Does Education Need a Katrina?” then changed the title after public outcry. She also reviewed for us how Yong Zhao was disinvited, and how, in fact, anyone skeptical of the dominant education “reform” was pretty much excluded.

Diane Ravitch, one of the most prominent voices about education matters, especially over this past year, was originally invited to appear live via satellite, but Education Nation decided to do a taped interview instead. This segment was cut down and spliced together with segments of other things. In other words, NBC gave Ravitch an insulting spit of an appearance.

All of this would seem odd for a multi-day program with such an important and far-reaching agenda, unless you knew who was driving the program’s mission.

Then there’s Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey jumped on the bandwagon with her billionaire friends and presented an education show, too (“show” being the telltale phrase). At one point, she canceled the appearance of a teacher who had been invited to appear (the woman had even flown to Chicago) in favor of giving fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg a chance to try to protect his self image which has been sullied by a soon-to-be-released movie, and to redeem himself by donating $100 million to Newark public schools which can only be used under conditions which may well be illegal.

Anthony Cody summed up the whole sordid affair and coined a great new word: “OprahPaganda.”

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post had this take:

Oprah Winfrey may imagine that she runs a serious policy forum on her television show. You know, the one on which she routinely features: celebrities; hoarders (Aug. 5,6); dieters; people facing unusual crisis, such as a woman who had a tumor that covered half of her face (Aug. 2), and a woman who discovered her dead husband’s mistresses (July 30).

But she doesn’t. Shows recently aired include:

  • 09/14/2010 Exclusive - How Wynonna Judd Survived the Ultimate Betrayal
  • 09/13/2010 Oprah’s Farewell Season Premiere with Special Guest John Travolta
  • 09/08/2010 Harpo Hookups - Cher, Justin Timberlake,, Usher
  • 09/07/2010 Women Who Claim They Were Child Brides in the USA
  • 09/06/2010 Stars of Reality TV: Fantasia’s Comeback and Ruby’s Revelations
  • 09/02/2010 Oprah’s Make Over My Man Crew Strikes Again
  • 09/01/2010 The Most Talented Kids with Justin Bieber and Charice
  • 08/31/2010 Oprah Says Goodbye to Nate Berkus: The Grand Finale
  • 08/30/2010 Oprah and Simon Cowell: The Farewell Interview
  • 08/25/2010 Inside Sex Addiction Rehab

So yesterday when she aired the show called “Waiting For Superman - The Movie That Can Transform America’s Schools,” her viewers should have known that they were watching an entertainment show with a show woman -- not an educator -- as host…

But then there’s the smarmy Joe Williams of DFER who is now basking in the rays of this explosion of propaganda and wrote this message to his hedge fund-manager friends:

I mean, seriously?

Oprah? Meet The Press? Matt Lauer and Obama talking hard-core, down and dirty ed reform on the Today Show? One hundred million dollars for Newark school reform from that Facebook dude? Education Nation? Front page of Time Magazine? Waiting for ‘Superman’????...

Due to the passion of an awful lot of people on this email list [his hedge fund manager friends], the tracks were laid over the course of the last few years for the kind of high-profile conversations that are taking place right now on the airwaves, in movie theaters, and in public squares all over the land…

All of us have made tremendous personal and professional sacrifices [translate: donations to the cause of the privatization and oligarch-ification of the U.S.] to help get this issue where it is today…

But thank God for Leonie. From Gotham Schools:

A group of city public school parents blasted NBC today for its week-long special programming on education, saying that the network has kept parents and skeptics of education reform off the air.

The network is running a series of televised interviews and panel discussions it is calling “Education Nation” all this week. Parents gathered today outside of the “Learning Plaza” the network has built at Rockefeller Center to complain about the series’ line-up of speakers, which is dominated by politicians, officials and philanthropists.

“Parents are offended about the way in which NBC has refused to invite a single NYC public school parent onto any of their panels,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters. “Instead, the network has allowed wealthy billionaires once again to control the agenda.”

The group also criticized NBC for allowing Mayor Bloomberg to deliver a policy speech televised on the network Monday morning without taking questions from reporters.

This (me) urban public school parent, non-union member, who has experienced 17+ school years (the last eight of them in so-called "failing" schools), and has been the parent "client" of at least 100 teachers and 10 principals -- and knows A LOT at this point -- has one final thought.

A friend of mine doesn't share my passion about all this education stuff, but will sometimes chime in and say something that's spot on, such as:

"Who would want to be a teacher these days? You get paid s**t. You have to deal with unmotivated, disrespectful students and complaining, uninvolved parents. You have to deal with crappy administrators.

"Not only are you busy all day, but then you have to go home and grade all those papers.

"What pleasure could you get out of that? At least you have the summers off.

"Maybe if you were really into teaching, or if you are married to a millionaire and doing it to keep busy. Or if you were teaching in a school like Head Royce [one of our local hoity-toity private schools] where there are a lot of resources.

"It’s a lot of work."

I know this view is simplistic, harsh, and unromantic, but it does contain some truth. And it doesn’t even mention the current fad of bashing and demoralizing teachers, or the degree to which many of them spend their own hard earned money on their classes.

My years of working in the Parent Center at my local middle school gave me so many insights about day-to-day school life. It's too bad more people don't have a chance to see teachers in action so they can become aware of what they do, and learn to appreciate it, too.

This would be the movie that needs to be made.


The Perimeter Primate said...

"An Unheard Voice in the Education Nation Debate," Sept. 29, 2010, The Epoch Times

The Perimeter Primate said...

"Four Days IN Education Nation," September 29,2010,

..."Usually the devil is in the details, but in this case the devil was right there in the basic skeleton and structure of the event. This wasn't even remotely a search for truth or an exercise in journalism. It was pretty much Johnny One Note, with no room for depth or dissent.

"The message was pretty simple: We have an education crisis because we have bad teachers who are protected by evil teacher unions, and the solutions are good charter schools and great teachers. That sounds suspiciously like "Waiting for 'Superman,' " and so you won't be surprised to learn that one of the opening events of Education Nation was a screening of the movie. (I missed that because I was flying home from Texas.)

"I kept hoping that someone would be even a tiny bit skeptical about our test-score driven schools. Wouldn't just one person wonder whether we should stop asking 'How intelligent are you?' and ask instead 'How are you intelligent?' (Never happened, not in any session I attended.)..."

The Perimeter Primate said...

"NBC’s Education Nation: Policy Summit or Puppet Show?"

..."NBC did include one or two figures associated with parent organizations. Just not those representing the the real views of most actual parents–you know, the real parents who on balance are unhappy with Obama’s education policy, who fired a mayor to get rid of Michelle Rhee, and who–when given the chance to vote–overwhelmingly support teacher-run schools over charter-school operators.

"But somehow they completely failed to include practicing teachers, scholars of learning, or even recognized analysts of education policy..."

nikto said...

...(sorry, a bit OT)...

Here's what I'm Sharing today:

I found the next article I will base a lesson on, for several of my classes.
From this article will come a standards-based, 3-day lesson derived entirely from the reading, Including:
Vocab, Grammar constructions, paragraph questions & final conceptual essay Question.

Here's the article:

A Teacher In The Bronx said...

I think, and I hope and pray, that the week long "education nation" propaganda has backfired. The deformers have not only bitten off more than they can chew, but are showing a classic, "I am rich, powerful, yet I know more than you" attitude which is now finally not just rankling the teachers, but now parents. They are losing the constituency they need most. Good.