Good Night and Good Luck: Is Being a Public School Teacher REALLY Un-American, Mr. Gates?

“We will not walk in fear, one of another.”  ~ Edward R. Murrow

“The American education system has never been better, several important measures show. But you’d never know that from reading overheated media reports about “failing” schools and enthusiastic pieces on unproven “reform” efforts.” ~  Paul Farhi, “Flunking the Test”

Mainstream Media Mogul CBS Slams Newark Teacher Unions 

“Good Night and Good Luck”, as a movie, is a study of Edward R. Murrow’s role as a main stream media journalist who confronted a witch hunt brought on by Senator Joe McCarthy, otherwise known as the mass hysteria of McCarthyism.  Edward R. Murrow becomes the protagonist in this story, exposing McCarthyism for the propaganda it spread across America.

My last post “The Cruicible – NYC and the Department of Education’s Mass Hysteria” introduced the topic of the nation’s latest attack on America’s public school teachers.  Bill Gates tries his best to cover his tracks, but his MET Project and his partnership with Rupert Murdoch in their Shared Learning Collaborative, LLC  - their data system that was designed exactly for this Teacher Witch Hunt -  speak the real truth of his involvement.


The mass hysteria created by Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch surrounds public education in a similar way, but there’s something far different today.

Today’s main stream media journalists are bought and paid for by the oligarchy – they  don’t have the courage or integrity to stop this witch-hunting mass hysteria.

Take Fareed Zakaria of CNN in his special “Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education, for example. Paul Farhi writes in his “Flunking the Test” for American Journalist Review:

“Fareed Zakaria is worried about the state of American education. To hear the CNN host and commentator tell it, the nation’s schools are broken and must be “fixed” to “restore the American dream.” In fact, that was the title of Zakaria’s primetime special in January, “Restoring the American Dream: Fixing Education.”  Zakaria spent an hour thumbing through a catalog of perceived educational woes: high dropout rates, mediocre scores by American students on international tests, inadequate time spent in classrooms, unmotivated teachers and their obstructionist labor unions. “Part of the reason we’re in this crisis is that we have slacked off and allowed our education system to get rigid and sclerotic,” he declared.

This is odd. By many important measures – high school completion rates, college graduation, overall performance on standardized tests – America’s educational attainment has never been higher. Moreover, when it comes to education, sweeping generalizations (“rigid and sclerotic”) are more dangerous than usual.” 

Farhi continues, telling us how Zakaria as a main stream media journalist, adds to the mass hysteria of blaming teachers and their unions for problems that don’t really exist. [my emphasis added]….

“Zakaria’s take, however, may be a perfect distillation of much of what’s wrong with mainstream media coverage of education. The prevailing narrative – and let’s be wary of our own sweeping generalizations here – is that the nation’s educational system is in crisis, that schools are “failing,” that teachers aren’t up to the job and that America’s economic competitiveness is threatened as a result.” 

The 50′s appeared to all who lived through the newly introduced media called Television, to be a simple time.  “Leave It To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” showed us a world with very few problems, a simpler, innocent time.

But underneath that innocence, a Witch Hunt, the Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthyism,  and a mass hysteria to justify it, had been brewing, starting back in 1938.  People were looking for an answer to the Great Depression.

Then too, unions were demonized as the root of the problem.  

Union members were labeled as “Red”.  Union activities as a “Red Plot”.  Belonging to a union became known as “subversive” and “anti-American”.  All over the country…the friendly witnesses provide the names…the committee gives them to the press and the newspaper headlines tell the public….

In 1947, America was unprepared for what happened in congress when Senator Joe McCarthy began targeting individuals he deemed dangerous to the country.  America watched as one by one, these innocent people were hunted down.   The media was enlisted to help foster the mass hysteria with films, which would run as previews before the feature in movie theaters.   One such troublesome preview was this one:  

“How do you spot a communist?” 

Is America prepared for the devastation that will be the result of Bill Gates’ and Rupert Murdoch’s Teacher Witch Hunts?

The current teacher witch hunts  began in Los Angeles, California, spread to New York City, and are working their way to Chicago.  The mainstream media picks up stories from the outliers, like the New York Post, and then TV coverage brings it home in that VISUALLY EMOTIVE way that the newspapers can’t, just like it did in the 50′s.  Here are some examples via visual main stream media:

In Los Angeles last year, this public shaming proved to be too much to bear for 39 year old teacher, Rigoberto Ruelas, Jr who took his life after his low ranking scores, based on a flawed algorithm, were published for all to see.  Watch this video and read the story, as reported by 7 Live in LA.

“39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. taught fifth-graders at Miramonte Elementary School. His body was found Sunday at the foot of a bridge in a remote forest area. An investigation is underway, but authorities believed he made a fatal leap on his own accord.

There’s no official motive in the case, but it’s been reported that he had been upset ever since the LA Times published his district ranking as a “less effective” teacher in its public database of “value-added” ratings.”

Now we have teachers being tried, judged, sentenced, and executed in the court of the Fourth Estate.

When did teaching and due process become “un-American”?  The union bashing of today carries with it a familiar tone, that does not go unnoticed, as seen on Twitter where GatorbonBC question by Diane Ravitch in her blogpost, Why Are Teachers So Upset, on Bridging Differences:

“Teachers in K-12 schools do not have a lifetime guarantee; what they have is a guarantee of due process if someone wants to fire them. The right to a hearing, the right to be presented with evidence against them. When did that become un-American? ~  Diane Ravitch, March 13, 2012 [my emphasis added]

GatorbonBC echoes Diane Ravitch’s recent blog post by saying “Nothing Un-American about Due Process!!”

RT @DianeRavitch http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2012/03/why_are_teachers_so_upset.html AMEN! Nothing UnAmerican about Due Process !! Ravitch tells it like it is ! Thank You from teachers !

All this union bashing has created a mass climate of fear in teachers.  Many union activists wonder why teachers are so passive.  I believe this comes from years of oppression and the demonization of teachers fostered by the oligarchy.  Fear in teachers seems to have paralyzed unions, keeping them weak in their actions against their enemies.  Teacher Witch Hunts have created a new breed of…
Teacher Inactivists:
Are there other contemporary examples of branding unions and teachers as “un-American”?  What have been some of the other attacks on unions?  Has Bill Gates been involved in any of these attacks?
On 2-11-11, Governor Scott Walker threatened to call out the National Guard to bust unions in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Friday that he was willing to mobilize the state’s National Guard force in order to address the potential repercussions of his stated proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees….

There are roughly 175,000 public sector employees – including state and local government workers and teachers – who are union represented in Wisconsin, according to data maintained by Georgia State University professor Barry Hirsch and Trinity University professor David Macpherson. Of those, roughly 39,000 are state employees and more than 106,000 are teachers.” ~   Huffington Post

And in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder and the legislature tried to take an ax to collective bargaining too.

 “While the nation has been focused on the contretemps in Wisconsin, the Badger State’s neighboring Wolverines have taken a more novel approach in the effort to defang its public employee unions.

A bill that is expected to pass the Michigan Senate today will give the state’s treasurer the ability to appoint emergency financial managers with broad powers to take over the operation of cities and school boards facing a financial crisis.

Not only can an emergency manager wipe out collective bargaining agreements, he or she can literally push aside duly elected city officials and prevent them from doing the job they were elected to do.” ~ Rick UngarUnion Busting: Michigan Style, Forbes March 9, 2011: 

 Bill Gates addressed the The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June 2010.
Not only did Bill Gates speak at the Chicago meeting (the speech below was delivered on June 29, 2010) but Bill Gates set the tone for the teacher bashing, union busting and privatization agenda with his main speech there.  ~  John Kugler, Substance News 2010
On ABC in March 2011, Gates compared teachers to Enron in this ABC piece,Bill Gates Criticized Long Held Norms in America’s Education System” here.
Has the press done its job in reporting the truth?  Or has it just become the creature of Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Mayor Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, and the other Corporate EdDeFormers?
In her blog, linked above, Diane writes:
“But they are also feeling the chill wind stirred up by Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, which demands that teachers must be evaluated in some degree by the test scores of their students. In many states, those evaluations are as much as 50 percent, and that 50 percent trumps the other 50 percent. Teachers know, almost instinctively, that this is misguided, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s recent Commentary in Education Week shows that this is a flawed idea with no support in research. The debacle in New York City, where teachers were ranked according to their value-added rating, showed what a misleading and pernicious tool this is, and how many teachers will be wrongly labeled and publicly humiliated.” ~  Diane Ravitch
Going back to American Journalism Review, “Flunking the Test”, Paul Farhi writes:
“What or who was responsible for the poorest performing schools? Quite often, news media accounts have pointed the finger at a single culprit – teachers. In late 2008, Time magazine featured the District of Columbia’s then-School Chancellor Michelle Rhee on its cover wielding a broom to symbolize her desire to sweep out underperforming instructors. The magazine endorsed her approach not just as prudent but as scientific: “The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching,” wrote reporter Amanda Ripley, citing “decades of research.” This view – a favorite of wealthy education “reformers” such as Bill Gates and real estate developer Eli Broad – was also a theme in the critically adored documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,” which featured Rhee.”

Michelle Rhee and her StudentsFirst.org ran a “Six Word Essay Contest” 
for teachers to win a free iPad.
The winning essay was
“I’ll remember her fifty years later.”, 
by Cullen, from Indiana.  
I’ll bet the students whose mouths were taped shut certainly will…remember Rhee 50 years later!
Score one for the truth tellers of journalism, as The New York Times did actually report on a small fraction of the truth about Michelle Rhee.  Rhee was a Teach for America teacher and later became Chancellor of DC schools. Rhee is currently under federal investigation for her role in the DC cheating scandal.  But why doesn’t the mainstream media cover the WHOLE truth about Rhee, who admittedly taped her students mouths shut to keep them quiet?
  • Why would DC hire her as Chancellor knowing she taped students mouths shut to keep them quiet?
  • Who was involved in getting her hired?
  • Why did it take so long for Rhee’s “conspiracy of silence” in DC to break?
  • Why would Arne Duncan share the stage with someone he is investigating?
  •  How does Rhee survive all this scandal?
  • Why are her opinions still accepted as “expert” and used in mainstream media education ‘reform’ programming?
Oakland teacher Adam Bessie writes for Truthout:
“What’s wrong with the school system, according to corporate reformers, is the bad teachers, their unions and “special interests,” as Rhee claims practically unchallenged in her Newsweek cover story and across the corporate media, including in “Waiting for Superman,” which earned ample air time on Oprah’s “Shocking State of Our Schools.” The corporate media has adopted this diagnosis, as is best illustrated in Tom Brokaw’s segment in “Education Nation,” an NBC special applauding the corporate reformers featuring Rhee and Gates (Gates also appeared in “Waiting for Superman”). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was also one of the sponsors of Education Nation, and Gates was a star of his own show. Not surprisingly, Brokaw – a reporter, not a pundit – claims, as fact, that there is a “teacher establishment,” which is part of the problem, echoing Rhee and other corporate reformers sponsoring the event.” ~  Adam Bessie, “Let’s Not ‘Reform’ Public Education, Truthout [2010]
Just how deeply are these Corporate EdDeFormers involved in the mainstream media?  Are the nations’ teachers doomed to be the victims of this 21st Century version of  McCarthyism?

“During its first “Education Nation” summit in 2010, for example, “NBC Nightly News” aired a profile of a Gates Foundation initiative, “Measures of Effective Teaching,” which seeks to create a database of effective teaching methods. The reporter was former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw. During the second summit last fall, Brokaw showed up on “Today” with Melinda Gates to discuss the same Gates initiative. Turning from reporter to advocate, Brokaw told host Natalie Morales, “So what Bill and Melinda have done, and it’s a great credit to them, and it’s a great gift to this country, is that they have taken the kind of episodic values that we know about teaching and they’ve put them together in a way that everyone can learn from them. So that’s a big, big step.”

Brokaw also put his gravitas behind Gates and other billionaire education reformers in a syndicated column that appeared in newspapers during the NBC summit in 2011, writing that “Entrepreneurs and captains of industry such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, home building tycoon Eli Broad, hedge fund billionaires in New York’s Robin Hood Foundation, have put education reform and excellence at the top of their personal and financial agenda.” Brokaw didn’t mention the objections to these “reforms” from teachers, nor ask why billionaires should be accorded expert status on education policy in the first place.

(An NBC spokeswoman declined to make Brokaw and Ellis available for comment, saying that the story sounded “negative.”)

NBC News does more than just report on the “reform” movement; it’s also in business with those who are promoting it. Among the corporate sponsors of its “Education Nation” summits are the for-profit education company University of Phoenix, the book publisher Scholastic Inc. and…the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Remember that Aspen Institute study showing broad public awareness of NBC’s “Education Nation” efforts?  It was funded by the Gates Foundation.

Capus says such a relationship doesn’t pose a conflict of interest for the network’s journalists because an editorial “firewall” prohibits sponsors from influencing coverage. Nevertheless, representatives of each of these sponsors, including Melinda Gates and Scholastic Senior Vice President Francie Alexander, have appeared repeatedly on “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” to discuss various education proposals and ideas (their financial connection to NBC News has never been disclosed on the air, according to a Nexis search). Meghan Pianta, an NBC spokeswoman, defended using the billionaire couple as a news source because of their “prominence and importance in the education debate.” ~  Paul Farhi, “Flunking the Test”, American Journalism Review [2012] [emphasis added]

As Diane Ravitch says: 

There is a word for this kind of anti-democratic collaboration between business and government, but we haven’t used it much since the 1940s: fascism.” – Diane Ravitch
Do journalists owe us the truth?  The Society of Professional Journalists appears to think so, with its members taking  this voluntary oath:

Seek Truth and Report It”


Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
— Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
— Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
— Never plagiarize.
— Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
— Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
— Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
— Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

In the 50′s Edward R. Murrow and his crew took a risk.  Although Murrow was on CBS’s payroll, he did not have CBS’s blessings when he exposed McCarthy. 

 

Here is a synopsis of how Murrow and “Murrow’s Boys” took down Senator Joe McCarthy, despite the disapproval of his network, CBS.

“Murrow’s love of common America led him to seek out stories of ordinary people. He presented their stories in such a way that they often became powerful commentaries on political or social issues. See It Nowconsistently broke new ground in the burgeoning field of television journalism. In 1953, Murrow made the decision to investigate the case of Milo Radulovich. Radulovich had been discharged from the Air Force on the grounds that his mother and sister were communist sympathizers. The program outlined the elements of the case, casting doubt on the Air Force’s decision, and within a short while, Milo Radulovich had been reinstated. This one edition of See It Now marked a change in the face of American journalism and a new age in American politics.

Soon after the Milo Radulovich program aired, it was learned that Senator Joseph McCarthy was preparing an attack on Murrow. As it happened, Murrow himself had been collecting material about McCarthy and his Senate Investigating Committee for several years, and he began assembling the program. Broadcast on March 9, 1954, the program, composed almost entirely of McCarthy’s own words and pictures, was a damning portrait of a fanatic. McCarthy demanded a chance to respond, but his rebuttal, in which he referred to Murrow as “the leader of the jackal pack,” only sealed his fate. The combination of the program’s timing and its persuasive power broke the Senator’s hold over the nation. The entire fiasco, however, caused a rift with CBS, and they decided to discontinue See It Now.

By 1961 tensions had become irreparable between Murrow and CBS and he accepted an appointment from President Kennedy as the head of the United States Information Agency.”  ~  PBS, American Masters - Edward R. Murrow, This Reporter

I would love to challenge one of today’s corporate mainstream media’s “journalists” to be as courageous.

Unfortunately, it seems most of our mainstream journalists are bought and paid for, and will tell us ONLY what their corporate owners want us to see, hear, and feel.

Research confirms that poverty is the real issue behind any academic achievement gap existing in the US and elsewhere. Instead of highlighting this fact,  the mainstream media sweeps it under the rug and focuses instead on the constant demonizations of teachers and their unions.

Yet NBC and “Education Nation” have rarely looked closely at the effect of poverty and class, the single greatest variable in educational achievement.  Academic research has shown for many years that poor children, or those born to parents who are poorly educated themselves, don’t do as well in school as better-off students.  More recent work by, among others, Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University, suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children has grown wider since the 1960s, reflecting in part the nation’s growing economic disparity.  The problem is vast – some 22 percent of American children live in poverty, the highest among Western democracies.” ~ Paul Farhi [emphasis added]

Remember, Bill and Melinda Gates’  message via their Gates Foundation tagline?  It’s clear their proposition that “All Lives Have Equal Value” is pure propaganda, as Teri Yamada points out when she writes about their partners, Pearson Publishing in “Blood Money:  Pearson’s Profit”.

“Meanwhile, nearly 15 million children in the United States live below the federal poverty level; one-third of all Hispanic children now live in poverty here.  Shouldn’t the cultural focus of the Gates Foundation and friends be a war against poverty instead of a war against teachers and public education?”   ~  Teri YamadaBlood Money:  Pearson’s Profit  ~ , October 2011 [emphasis added]

How is Bill Gates able to control the message delivered by the “mainstream media” in his attempt to destroy public education? 

Ventures in Media

“On October 7 and 8, 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a two-part investigation by Robert Fortner into “the implications of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s increasingly large and complex web of media partnerships.” The report focused on the foundation’s grants to the PBS Newshour, ABC News, and the British newspaper the Guardian for reporting on global health. Of course, all three grantees claim to have “complete editorial independence,” but the ubiquity of Gates funding makes the claim disingenuous. As Fortner observes, “It is the largest charitable foundation in the world, and its influence in the media is growing so vast there is reason to worry about the media’s ability to do its job.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, too, questioned the foundation’s bankrolling of for-profit news organizations and its “growing involvement with journalism” (October 11, 2010). Neither publication mentioned that Gates is also developing partnerships with news and entertainment media to promote its education agenda…

In 2009 the Gates Foundation and Viacom (the world’s fourth largest media conglomerate, which includes MTV Networks, BET Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and hundreds of other media properties) made a groundbreaking deal for entertainment programming. For the first time, a foundation wouldn’t merely advise or prod a media company about an issue; Gates would be directly involved in writing and producing programs. As a vehicle for their partnership, the foundation and Viacom (with some additional funds from the AT&T Foundation) set up a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization called the Get Schooled Foundation. The interpenetration of foundations and the spawning of new ones is endless. In July 2010, Get Schooled hired Marie Groark, then senior education program officer at Gates, as its executive director. Among its initiatives, Get Schooled lists Waiting for Superman, which is produced by Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of Viacom. This is how the New York Times (April 2, 2009) described the Gates-Viacom deal:

  • Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom….It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies. Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living…. Their goal is to weave education-theme story lines into existing shows or to create new shows centered on education.” 

Joanne Barkan, “Got Dough?  How Billionaires Rule Our Schools”, Dissent Magazine

Joanne Barkan is a REAL journalist, as was Edward R. Murrow.  Will anyone in the mainstream media BECOME a real journalist?  How will the Teacher Witch Hunts end?  Is it up to teachers to gather together to create enough attention to attract the mainstream media?  I still have hopes we could create enough attention to gather them to us and break the story wide open.  I have hope we will be able to do just that, before it’s too late for children.

“Senator McCarthy died yesterday in Washington,” wrote the English newspaper News Chronicle in May 1957.

“America was the cleaner by his fall, and is cleaner by his death.”  

To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck.”  ~ Edward R. Murrow


About Teachers'LettersToBillGates

Our mission is to create a dialogue with Bill and Melinda Gates in order to achieve a democratic influence on public education through the voices of education researchers, professors of education, administrators, school board members, professional teachers, parents, students, and community members. We would appreciate Bill and Melinda's feedback and want to influence their education policy and financial decisions by adding democratic voices to create meaningful relevant education for children. View all posts by Teachers'LettersToBillGates

4 responses to “Good Night and Good Luck: Is Being a Public School Teacher REALLY Un-American, Mr. Gates?

  • Dan McConnell

    We need more information like this. The job of teachers is not just equip learners in a standardized fashion to become worker-drones, and people who could never understand the true goals should not be given status and control.

    • livingbehindthegates

      Thank you, Dan. I will continue to supply others with “more information like this.” I hope you will follow my blog and share it widely. Children are not widgets, like Bill Gates tries to produce, and not so well I might add. The miracles of edreform are beginning to show evidence of giant faults in their own system. Expose them and we loosen their grips on control, we diminish their status.

  • seattleducation2011

    Great photo’s! I just hi-jacked a few.

    Dora

    • livingbehindthegates

      Please borrow all the photos you like, Dora! Share them widely! Thank you for your continued work in battling corporate education reform!

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