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Friday, September 19, 2014

NPR's battered wife syndrome! (rough draft)

First let me say I am not making light of abused women or any victims of abuse. I just see a parallel between the often counter intuitive choices that victims of abuse that stay in those relationships make and NPR's anti-public education, pro-corporate reform behavior.

Most people probably think NPR is a huge fan of public education as they are seemingly cut from the same cloth but if you have followed their reporting over the last few years you would quickly come to see that they are not. Now I wouldn't want NPR to be a shill for public education. It is far more import to me to have the right answer than for my answer to be right but NPR has hardly been fair or balanced in their reporting.

Take for example their recent principal round table on common core, evaluating teachers on tests and colleges of education. None had a problem with common core or evaluating teachers based on tests and didn't have complementary things to say about colleges of education either. Not a one. Now are their views out of the mainstream? Sadly not but if you would have heard the piece you might think their views were universal and nothing could be further from the truth.

They also did a piece on alternate teacher certification and used the National Council of Teacher Quality as their go to source. Unfortunately for NPR the NCTQ has been widely criticized and debunked by education experts. Probably not coincidentally they and NPR also receive quite a bit of funding from the Gates Foundation.

Now the NCTQ was critical of alternative certification problems but that doesn't change the fact: The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), is a Gates-funded organization dedicated to data-driven, market-oriented "reform." It sees itself as a part of a coalition for "a better orchestrated agenda" for accountability, choice, and using test scores to drive the evaluation of teachers. Its forte is publishing non-peer reviewed opinion pieces under the guise of "policy analysis."

Then then did a puff piece on the decidedly anti-teacher's union book, the Teacher Wars:  Well, tenure is not a promise of a teaching job for life. It's a promise of due process. So if the administration of a school wants to fire you, they have to gather evidence and build a case for why you should go, and then some neutral arbiter makes a ruling on that. I do conclude in the book that it makes sense for teachers to have some sort of due process. We see throughout American history that the teaching job is very politicized, that teachers are attacked for a whole bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with their competence: whether they support various reform dictates that are coming down from above, what their personal politics are and things like that. So it makes sense that, because their job is so politicized, teachers should have a little more protection than the average worker. 

That said, the current tenure system makes it very difficult in practice to get rid of bad teachers. It makes it a very long, expensive process. I think it makes sense to streamline that.

So on one hand if a administration wants you gone you're gone but on the other due process should be streamlined? The problems here are legion and I go more in depth here.

There are numerous other pro privatization and corporate reform pieces I could point to as well. Now do all their pieces have a similar theme? No, but enough are or are one sided enough that I believe it begs a legitimate questioning of their motives.

But it's not just the pieces they do but the pieces they don't do too. They have practically ignored all the charter school scandals, and concerns about Teach for America, Merit Pay, Arne Duncan, Vouchers and a hole host of issues. Like an ostrich they have buried their heads in the sand only to come out when somebody has something negative to say about public schools and public school teachers.

Let me say that over all I love NPR, in my car they are who I listen to the most but I also feel sorry for NPR. Despite the fact they do a lot of good at a very reasonable price they have faced almost constant attacks to their funding. Living under the threat of imminent demise has to have had played some role with their choices to accept money from ideologically driven groups.

It seems as if they have become so downtrodden, so desperate for cash that they are willing to sacrifice their principals. It's like they are in an abusive relationship and either don't realize they should walk away or are to afraid to do so and are staying willingly, trading a measure of financial security for what is right.

The Gates Foundation, The Walton Foundation and in my hometown of Jacksonville Florida the Chartrand Foundation are all not only big donors to NPR but are also anti-public school teacher, pro-privatization and ideologically driven groups. I get it money is the fuel that drives the world but at the same time don't you want more?  Don't we deserve better?

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