Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Do You Want Fox News in Your Children's Schools?

On November 9, Joel Klein, the Chancellor of the New York City public school system (the largest school system in the country) announced he was leaving that job to become an executive vice president at News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's media conglomeration that includes the Wall Street Journal and Fox Broadcasting Company.  Murdoch is well known for his conservative politics, both personally and via his businesses; for example, this year News Corporation gave $1 million apiece to both the Republican Governors Association and the Chamber of Commerce in support of the election of mostly Republican candidates.

Almost exactly two weeks after Klein's resignation, New Corporation announced that it was buying Wireless Generation, an educational technology company with major ties to the New York City school system.  One of the key products the company offers is software that designs individualized learning plans to students based on their educational testing and progress.   Murdoch explained his acquisition of the company in these words:  "When it comes to K to 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching."

Of course, when I think about K-12 schools, I think in terms of over 55 million children being educated, rather than a $500 billion market opportunity, and in terms of great teachers, not breakthroughs that transmit great teaching.  But those are probably minor differences.  What concerns me even more is the fact that Murdoch has shown no compunction in promoting his political views through his business entities.  So is this "great teaching" going to be coming from actual teachers, or from Murdoch's political machine?

Maybe everything will be fine, and Wireless Generation will continue to operate separately from the conservative bent of Murdoch's other businesses.  But if it were my child, I would be very nervous about instruction being provided in the school by a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.  With all the things parents already have to worry about in terms of sending their children to school, shouldn't they be able to expect that the curriculum their children receive is as free as possible from a particular political bias?

Obviously, one person who is unconcerned about this issue is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who turned around and picked another media mogul, albeit a less controversial one, to replace Klein as Chancellor.  Bloomberg chose Hearst Corporation executive Cathie Black--former president and publisher of USA Today newspaper and current chairman of such Hearst publications as The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Good Housekeeping, and, oh yes...Cosmopolitan--to take over the school system despite her lack of experience in education or in the public sector, labeling her as a "supermanager" and praising her ability to cut costs and stick to a budget (attributes that are not likely to endear her to the teachers she is supposed to lead).  Black's nomination hit a roadblock today, however, when a committee that must approve a waiver for Black due to her lack of educational experience declined to do so.

I think the media already has way too much influence on our lives and our opinions.  But giving them unfettered access to our children's education is, to my mind, unconscionable.

Yet another argument in favor of homeschooling.


  1. "be able to expect that the curriculum their children receive is as free as possible from a particular political bias?" - where? I want to move to that place. I've never seen anything like this yet.

  2. Perhaps not. But at least schools make an attempt to present things without an overt political agenda championed by one party. Having an organization that champions such a one-sided political vision developing individualized curriculum for our children (which means that no one may know exactly what any particular child may be getting) is pretty scary to me.