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General News    H1'ed 5/4/14

CONFLICTED: MSNBC's Mixed Reporting on Common Core and Charter Schools

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Are our school children individual little snowflakes or McDonald's hamburgers?
Are our school children individual little snowflakes or McDonald's hamburgers?
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Last fall, I asked whether MSNBC hosts like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes (my two favorite) are pressured not to cover issues like hydrofracking or GMO foods by their bosses (see Is Rachel Maddow Going Easy on MSNBC Advertisers?). No one knows whether or not they had to sign confidentiality agreements governing editorial control of their shows, or what, if any influence there may be by new ownership. Media watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) notes that Maddow's history of reporting on the shady dealings of ALEC becomes awkward as MSNBC's new parent Comcast is a celebrated corporate member of ALEC with plans to exploit the Common Core "juggernaut" selling their wares to schools.

As a teacher, I've watched the charter/Common Core debates go mainstream of late, including reports on CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Stephen Colbert, The Nation, Mother Jones and many more. But NBC and MSNBC are different because they were previously involved in promoting Common Core. Researching the record of MSNBC hosts, I soon learned of their divisions (which could be a good thing). Let's go through it:

It started with MSNBC blogsman Trymaine Lee. I thought it odd that he wrote so articulately about the charter school controversy, while Morning Joe gives obvious preference to charter school principals with air time and promotion.

CHRIS HAYES "PRESENT": had a real teacher on the air one time (a BadAss Teacher from the 46,000+ strong Facebook group) in a balanced debate against a charter proponent, while Hayes stayed neutral. Hayes noted keen interest in "Common Core" as an issue hurting Jeb Bush's popularity. On the plus side, Hayes did interview Diane Ravitch here and reported on Michelle Rhee's "bombshell" cheating cover-up here. [Update: Hayes ran two segments late last week debating Common Core, see addendum below]

RACHEL MADDOW ABSENT: Noticeably mute on the issue of Common Core, charters and #Rheeform in general, but has concerns about career readiness and "smartness" deficits. In thoughts about raising expectations made at a 2013 appearance at her alma mater Stanford, Rachel asked "who is going to write the stuff that goes into Wikipedia?"

This is a useful set-up for the Common Core promoters - we're falling so far behind, we need to do 'something'. But the Common Core lobby's assertion that new standards will fix things is in major dispute. Rachel has checked out on the subject, but basically can't believe how poor the resumes of her job applicants are.

JOE SCARBOROUGH THE CHARTER CHEERLEADER: a charter school true believer, Morning Joe's show is the on-air home for Eva Moskowitz of Harlem Success Academy. But does not talk Common Core - only one example of coverage was an article on the Morning Joe web page which spoke of the "botched" rollout, top-down inflexibility, lack of teacher input and unwanted data mining.

ED SCHULTZ FIGHTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Ed also didn't wade into Common Core waters but spoke out here against charters for public schools, calling the charter school vacuum of student talent and funding the "new segregation".

STEVE KORNACKI A BYSTANDER: Did a panel on Common Core but concentrated on GOP infighting and attacks against Obama instead of the nuts and bolts of the policy. You'd think wonks like Kornacki or Hayes might delve into the bipartisan affront to accuracy via Common Core's rigged evaluation metrics, if they had a green light to do so. But not so far.

In a different segment, Kornacki stood mute as former VA governor Jim Douglas repeated the specious claim that a standards overhaul somehow will improve performance. The data was there to obliterate the assertion, had Kornacki been read up on the issue.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, CHARTER ADVOCATE: A definite charter guy, @lawrence is a longtime board member at Codman Academy, a charter school in Dorcester, run by his former Harvard classmate.

AL SHARPTON, PAID TO PROMOTE CHARTERS: Also mum on Common Core, the Rev continues to praise charters today but has a sordid past, accepting half a mil to endorse NYC's charter expansion with the tacit help of the Bloomberg administration. Not his best moment, because most of the money reportedly went to just one person on his staff, a well-connected state Democratic party official. Yeeech. But Rev Al did speak out against charter maven Eva Moskowitz for eclipsing Bill de Blasio's pre-K rally in Albany with a decisively bigger counter-rally (which we learned was secretly hatched by Governor Cuomo).

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, USED TO PUSH 'CORE: Hosted a highly staged live forum Oct 2013 on MSNBC starring David Coleman of The College Board, the Common Core's top developer. Coleman spoke persuasively to a live audience stacked with school kids. Amid the softball questions, Harris-Perry hinted at 'controversy' but was mostly decoration as Coleman expounded at length, as seen in this clip.

ANDREA MITCHELL, UGH: Radio silent on Common Core other than one post on her MSNBC web page, promoting an anti-Common Core letter signed by authors like Maya Angelou. Mitchell interviewed US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan here about charters and teacher unions, but tellingly, faulted the Secretary for not fighting harder to back up Michelle Rhee. Ugh...

CHRIS MATTHEWS, CHARTER LOVER: Got a thrill up his leg while interviewing Eva Moskowitz. On her feud with the new mayor Bill de Blasio, he asked "Why are you being nice to him and he's being so tough on you?". But one of Matthews' questions was a legitimate "hardball", asking Moskowitz if charter schools are better because the parents are more involved. Matthews bought whole her reply that they have plenty of at-risk kids (thanks to a shaky definition of "at-risk") and their lottery system makes it fair (in fact, the pro-active application needed to be in the lottery is a de facto screening process which discriminates against kids with less savvy parents).

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(OpEdNews Contributing Editor since October 2006) Inner city schoolteacher from New York, mostly covering media manipulation. I put election/finance reform ahead of all issues but also advocate for fiscal conservatism, ethics in journalism and (more...)

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