Why does the news media bash public school teachers incessantly?
Unfortunately, much of the debate and complaints about our educational system is based on myth and is propelled by the powers that be. Powers that are not interested in the betterment of our nationís children, but rather interested in making a profit or reducing taxes and government services at any cost. The usual mantra is to privatize all of our nationís public services. The unfounded conclusion that privatization makes things more efficient and is inherently better is inculcated within our nationís populace. Hence, we see the political battle for the privatization of Social Security, welfare services, and of course, the voucher program for education.
The $440.3 billion (now larger) federal, state, and local dollars ( U.S. Census 2002-03) used per year to fund public education is coveted by private industry with avarice, just as the billions of Social Security funds are also being craved by Wall Street. You must understand this motivation to understand our mediaís reporting on educational progress. And, understand that our nationís media is a corporate owned entity. These corporations usually own stock or are somehow affiliated with other companies in our world of conglomerations (Three companies dominate 60 to 66 percent of the cable television, recruitment, and college textbook markets ( Alperovitz pg. 31)).
No Child Left Behind places the privatization course within its legislation. For example, if public schools do not attain Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) as stipulated within NCLB, the respective school districts are forced to provide vouchers (money to use towards another school, primarily private schools) for the children attending the underperforming schools OR provide transportation to other schools within those districts that have not failed to attain AYP. Once all schools in a district fail to attain AYP, the only option left to taxpayers are private schools. Essentially, tax dollars normally going towards public education get funneled to private schools. Private schools usually do not have unions. If public school teacher' unions lose membership and support, their political clout will decrease. This is precisely why NCLB is the perfect law for corporate America, bent on achieving profit at the expense of teachersí health care and retirement security.
An example: An example: NCLB requires annual testing in reading and math for every student in grades 3 - 8 and once in the high school. It has been estimated that test development, scoring, and reporting will cost our nation about $2.29 billion per year by 2006. Curriculum adoption for reading alone could reach $1.1 billion per year. These mandates become a financial windfall to corporations such as Education Testing Service, McGraw-Hill, Harcourt Assessment, etc. ( Source: Where Does the Money Go?) *This is only a small slice of the pie.
Corporate Owned Media:
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote a book called, Manufacturing Consent, in 1988. They created a "Propaganda Model" that documented how our concentrated news sources on television, in the papers, and magazines, etc. provide us with "filtered" news. It wasn't a giant right wing conspiracy book; instead, it only showed what happened almost naturally within our nation's news corporations, given that they were exactly that: Corporations. The authors came up with the following filters that can be applied to what we read today:
Filter 1: The size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms. ( Media Ownership Chart or Who Owns what? or Frontline: Merchants of Cool)
Controlled by corporate interests, our local news sources are mainly out to make the almighty dollar, rather than inform the citizenry. Given that these "local" news sources are really large corporations with many different holdings, it is not a stretch to imagine that there are many topics they might be hesitant to publish and or entirely cover. This is not to say that stories like The Fleecing of America, or series on the abuses of Enron don't get published; however there is an inherent bias overseeing our news sources that shouldn't be overlooked.
Our Newspapers - Consider that the Providence Journal is owned by the Houston based Belo Corporation (Their Board). The Kent County Times, The Coventry Courier, The Standard Times, among most other local papers in this state are owned by The Journal Register Company. (Their Board)
Our Television Station News - Channel 6 (ABC - Disney), Channel 10 (NBC), Channel 12 (Fox - News Corporation) *The links show what else they own and the inherent conflict for objective news coverage.
*Interesting editorial on media conglomerations.
Filter 2: Advertising as the primary income source of the mass media.
Corporate news media count on advertising to make money. Think of how much time is dedicated to those annoying commercials. Newspapers, TV corporations, Internet sites, etc. make their bread and butter through selling advertising space to companies, which in turn provide them with profits. Predominantly, corporations fill up the advertisement space. Subscription costs do not cover the bills. In fact, without ads or commercials, we would pay a lot more for TV, papers, magazines and the like. But, most importantly, we need to realize the influence this advertising process has upon the news we see and read. For example, why would NBC News be interested in broadcasting an in-depth series on the military industrial complex in this country given that it is owned by GE, a major defense contractor?
Advertising Money Dependence: Corporations spend billions of dollars a year on advertising ( Advertising spending 2005).
Filter 3: The reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power.
Scan through the Providence Journal and look for the sources of all of their articles. While they do have a staff of reporters and writers, the paper borrows from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, etc. to provide an assortment of stories or coverage. In fact, if you gloss over the Internet sites of some of the major papers around our country you'll notice that many of the same articles or editorials appear in numerous papers. "The latest figures available for newspapers show that 500 fewer people were working in newsrooms in 2003 than the year before, according to the American Society of Newspapers employment census, and the job losses are believed to have continued in 2004." ( Article) This has been going on for years now. Due to media concentration and downsizing, our diversity of sources has diminished greatly, not to mention the security those jobs brought to American journalists and their families. This trend leads to less real investigative reporting and fact checking. *Read this editorial about a study by Sonoma University.
Government News Sources: Think of Armstrong Williams and the Department of Education. This pundit was paid $240,000 by our government (with our tax dollars) to promote No Child Left Behind! ( Article) Other arms of the government also use propaganda to shape public opinion. The Pentagon (our military) has an incredible amount of publication resources for this purpose. (See interests instead of field offices and the onĖthe-scene reporters of a bygone era.List) Watch any news pundit show, like Chris Matthews or Bill O'Reilly and again and again you will see many of the same talking heads appear over and over again. These "sources" usually paint the same picture, using the same concentrated arsenal of citations brought to us by corporate
Think Tanks: Corporations spend many dollars funding various media "think tanks" to fabricate their arguments for them. For example, if you consider those arguments most often quoted in RI within the pages of the Providence Journal, like the Education Partnership (Board) and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (Board), you only need notice their board of directors ("directing their work") to realize how similar they are in corporate/non-union make-up. It is no wonder why teacher bashing is popular given that unionized labor threatens their profits and political domination and they use their access to keep the public "properly" informed.
Other similar Think Tanks to be aware of: The Manhattan Institute ( Board), The Pioneer Institute (Board), The Heritage Foundation (Board), The Hoover Institution (Board) *You really only need to look at the representation of these boards to understand their inherent biases or agenda. Try to find ONE public school teacher sitting among them. Ironic, given that they offer all sorts of education policy advice.
When people insist that our media is liberal-biased, refer them to this study to prove them wrong: F.A.I.R. Think Tank Citation Study
Interesting article on so called, "Professional Journalism" by Media Lens.
Filter 4: "Flak" as a means of disciplining the media.
Flak is the barrage of criticism that comes in the "form of letters, telegrams, phone calls, petitions, lawsuits, speeches and bills before Congress, and other modes of complaint, threat, and punitive action." (Source) With the Internet you can add Email. Although grassroots organizations have been very successful in creating "flak" to stop certain legislation or demand apologies from TV hosts, the more money a group has, the more funds it has at its disposal to print flyers, fund lawsuits, and threaten to deny campaign funds or advertising.
*Figures associated as being behind or funding the "flak" machine: Political RightRichard Mellon Scaife, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and more. Political Left: George Soros (Funds MoveOn.org) The political right far outweigh or outgun the political left when it comes to "flak". One very successful moderate "flak" machine would be the AARP, hence the inability of Wall Street to take over and manipulate Social Security.
Filter 5: "Anticommunism" (now replaced with Anti-Terrorism) as a national religion and control mechanism.
Prior to the break up of the Soviet Union, communism was the "evil" of the world. McCarthyism is a perfect example of how anti-communism was used as a filter in the news media. For example, if a reporter wrote about the Soviet Union or Castro favorably, he/she would be immediately branded as a communist sympathizer and un-American. The Senate hearings were reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials. This was a very effective means of discrediting anything a reporter or pundit might say. Anti-Terrorism is the new Anti-Communism.
While 9/11 created a source of patriotism around the nation, it also created a means for corporate America and those under its thumb to brand people or even lines of thinking as un-American. Dissent, something critical to a true democracy, was further quashed by legislation like the Patriot Act. The media was also inflicted with the negative side of nationalism, as in the case of the Iraq War. For example, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, cited a FAIR study in her video, Independent Media in a Time of War that found that out of 393 interviews prior to the beginning of Gulf War II, only 3 were of the anti-war position (This included PBS). It is no wonder the public supported the war based on faulty reports of falsified weapons of mass destruction.
How do these filters affect our situation in RI and why does the corporate media target public schools?
Public schools take away tax dollars that could be used to subsidize corporations. The affluent can already afford private school. If the poor need to be educated, it is in the inherent motive of corporations to make money in the process while ensuring that they produce a docile workforce ignorant of the true qualities of citizenship.
Public schools are staffed by a unionized workforce. A unionized workforce can use the democratic process of collective bargaining to demand fair compensation and a living wage. This usurps the power of corporate leaders to reap huge profits regardless of the workers' well-being. If teachers are making a just wage, then other professions and the workers around them might also demand fair compensation. This ultimately threatens corporate profit margins.
Public school teacher unions collect dues which they may use to back political candidates that are sympathetic to workers. Even though unions are outspent by corporations almost 14 to 1 ( Alperovitz, pg.54 ), this backing is still an obstacle in the way of shaping legislation more favorable to big business.
How do we fix the problem?
10 Policies to fix our media
Author: Ted Mitchell Edited by Cynthia Ballard & Roger Desaulniers
Articles of Interest:
Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed by The Center for Media and Democracy
Is the news authentic (humorous)? - Check out Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Bush II's staged interview (Video feed)
How the debate is framed (humorous) - Jon Stewart's Daily Show featuring Republican strategist Frank Luntz (Video feed)
Non-Corporate Funded Media Links:
Common Dreams News Center
Dollars & Sense (Dr. Ellen Frank from RIC authors many articles in this magazine)
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
Independent World Television
Institute for Public Accuracy
In These Times
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