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PBS runs paid propaganda

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 4:18 pm    Post subject: PBS runs paid propaganda Reply with quote

PBS Runs A Three-Hour Series Glorifying The DeVos Education Agenda

Funded by conservative foundations devoted to privatization, this program
is the definition of paid propaganda.


The Huffington Post
Diane Ravitch, Contributor
Research Professor of Education, New York University; Author, ‘Reign of Error’
June 13, 2017

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two
decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations
has expanded rapidly. The George W. Bush administration first wrote into
federal law the proposal that privately managed charter schools were a
remedy for low-scoring public schools, even though no such evidence
existed. The Obama administration provided hundreds of millions each year
to charter schools, under the control of private boards. Now, the Trump
administration, under the leadership of Secretary of Education Betsy
DeVos, wants to expand privatization to include vouchers, virtual schools,
cyberschools, homeschooling, and every other possible alternative to
public education. DeVos has said that public education is a “dead
end,” and that “government sucks.”

DeVos’s agenda finds a ready audience in the majority of states now
controlled by Republican governors and legislatures. Most states already
have some form of voucher program that allow students to use public money
to enroll in private and religious schools, even when their own state
constitution prohibits it. The Republicans have skirted their own
constitutions by asserting that the public money goes to the family, not
the private or religious school. The longstanding tradition of separating
church and state in K-12 education is crumbling. And Betsy DeVos can
testify with a straight face that she will enforce federal law to
“schools that receive federal funding,” because voucher schools
allegedly do not receive the money, just the family that chooses religious

Advocates of the privatization movement like DeVos claim that nonpublic
schools will “save poor children from failing public schools,” but
independent researchers have recently concurred that vouchers actually
have had a negative effect on students in the District of Columbia,
Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio. Charters, at best, have a mixed record, and
many are known for excluding children with disabilities and English
language learners and for pushing out students who are troublesome.

This is a time when honest, nonpartisan reporting is needed to inform the
American public.

But this month the Public Broadcasting System is broadcasting a
“documentary” that tells a one-sided story, the story that Betsy DeVos
herself would tell, based on the work of free-market advocate Andrew
Coulson. Author of “Market Education,” Coulson narrates “School,
Inc.,” a three-hour program, which airs this month nationwide in three
weekly broadcasts on PBS.

Uninformed viewers who see this slickly produced program will learn about
the glories of unregulated schooling, for-profit schools, teachers selling
their lessons to students on the Internet. They will learn about the
“success” of the free market in schooling in Chile, Sweden, and New
Orleans. They will hear about the miraculous charter schools across
America, and how public school officials selfishly refuse to encourage the
transfer of public funds to private institutions. They will see a glowing
portrait of South Korea, where students compete to get the highest
possible scores on a college entry test that will define the rest of their
lives and where families gladly pay for after-school tutoring programs and
online lessons to boost test scores. They will hear that the free market
is more innovative than public schools.

What they will not see or hear is the other side of the story. They will
not hear scholars discuss the high levels of social segregation in Chile,
nor will they learn that the students protesting the free-market schools
in the streets are not all “Communists,” as Coulson suggests. They
will not hear from scholars who blame Sweden’s choice system for the
collapse of its international test scores. They will not see any reference
to Finland, which far outperforms any other European nation on
international tests yet has neither vouchers nor charter schools. They may
not notice the absence of any students in wheelchairs or any other
evidence of students with disabilities in the highly regarded KIPP charter
schools. They will not learn that the acclaimed American Indian Model
Charter Schools in Oakland does not enroll any American Indians, but has a
student body that is 60 percent Asian American in a city where that group
is 12.8 percent of the student population. Nor will they see any evidence
of greater innovation in voucher schools or charter schools than in
properly funded public schools.

Coulson has a nifty way of dismissing the fact that the free market system
of schooling was imposed by the dictator Augusto Pinochet. He says that
Hitler liked the Hollywood movie “It Happened One Night” (with
Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable); should we stop showing or watching the
movie? Is that a fair comparison? Pinochet was directly responsible for
the free market system of schooling, including for-profit private schools.
Hitler neither produced nor directed “It Happened One Night.” Thus
does Coulson refer to criticisms (like Sweden’s collapsing scores on
international tests) and dismisses them as irrelevant.

I watched the documentary twice, preparing to be interviewed by Channel
13, and was repelled by the partisan nature of the presentation. I googled
the funders and discovered that the lead funder is the Rose Mary and Jack
Anderson Foundation, a very conservative foundation that is a major
contributor to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which
advocates for vouchers. The Anderson Foundation is allied with Donors
Trust, whose donors make contributions that cannot be traced to them.
Mother Jones referredto this foundation as part of “the dark-money ATM
of the conservative movement.” Other contributors to Donors Trust
include the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and the Richard and
Helen DeVos Foundation.

The second major funder is the Prometheus Foundation. Its public filings
with the IRS show that its largest grant ($2.5 million) went to the Ayn
Rand Institute. The third listed funder of “School Inc.” is the Steve
and Lana Hardy Foundation, which contributes to free-market libertarian
think tanks.

In other words, this program is paid propaganda. It does not search for
the truth. It does not present opposing points of view. It is an
advertisement for the demolition of public education and for an
unregulated free market in education. PBS might have aired a program that
debates these issues, but “School Inc.” does not.

It is puzzling that PBS would accept millions of dollars for this lavish
and one-sided production from a group of foundations with a singular
devotion to the privatization of public services. The decision to air this
series is even stranger when you stop to consider that these kinds of
anti-government political foundations are likely to advocate for the
elimination of public funding for PBS. After all, in a free market of
television, where there are so many choices available, why should the
federal government pay for a television channel?

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