Monday, June 19, 2017

Right-wing propaganda on PBS

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Diane Ravitch on Huffington Post:

...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...

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 referred to 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...

The Diane Ravitch blog.

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