While NBC has once again put itself in the service of the Obama administration, this time on education, they are both unwittingly making the case for more choices for parents desperate to get their children out of dead-end public schools. But is there a reason other than liberal bias that explains NBC’s willingness to serve as an outlet for Obama Administration propaganda?
Could it have something to do with NBC parent company GE having been the beneficiary of federal largesse?
Obama took some time out from traveling around the country, bashing the Republicans for supposedly favoring the rich, so that he could sit down with NBC’s Matt Lauer and act concerned about poor students being stuck in failing public schools. He talked about his own “reform” initiatives, which consist of more federal money and control. Then, he accused Republicans of wanting to rein in federal spending by cutting funds to education. It was a political performance, designed to fire up his base of union power, that did nothing to solve the problem about which he claims to be concerned.
NBC played along with the facade, calling its coverage “Education Nation,” while ignoring the fact that the Republicans are the ones who actually favor educational policies that benefit the poor by giving them a way out of the public schools through choice. On this issue, Obama is definitely not “pro-choice.”
An excellent commentary by Lindsey Burke in National Review Online pointed out that when Obama sat down with Matt Lauer on Monday’s “Today Show,” the one tough question came from the audience, when a woman asked the President whether his daughters could receive as good an education at a D.C. public school as they were currently getting at their elite private school.
“I’ll be blunt with you,” said Obama. “The answer’s ‘No’ right now.” He continued, “I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”
As Burke pointed out, “no doubt unintentionally” the President had just delivered “a beautiful thesis on the necessity of school choice.”
She noted, however, that this was just rhetoric, and that the President has stood by “as Congress phases out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program…which provides vouchers of up to $7,500 to low-income children to attend a private school of their choice,” and which “has been a lifeline out of the unsafe and underperforming D.C. public-school system.”
This is how Obama demonstrated that his priorities are with the union, rather than the children and their parents.
And while he “may invoke the language of school choice,” Burke said, the reality is that “last spring, 216 children in the nation’s capital had scholarships wrenched from their hands by the Department of Education, in some cases just days after receiving what was likely a life-changing letter of acceptance into the D.C. voucher program. The families of those children will certainly not be fooled by Obama’s newfound affinity for school choice.”
So why did NBC decided to put itself at the service of the President and his phony educational “reform” policies at this time? Was it purely political and designed to give Obama a boost before critical mid-term elections? That seems to make sense. Or was there another reason?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that GE had federal credit amounting to $126 billion from the government, and that it just negotiated some new terms from the federal government on issuing bonds and debt. When a company is dependent on the government, it makes sense for a company subsidiary to serve as a propaganda platform for the administration dispensing the money.
But there is another factor. According to Burke, “Perhaps the president is feeling pressure to adopt reform language because of the attention being paid to the new documentary Waiting for Superman, which charges education unions with the poor state of American education.” The film draws on the expertise of those with intimate knowledge of how teacher unions have prevented educational progress.
Burke points out that “These unions are, by a long shot, the largest contributors to members of Congress. The two major education unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), make 95 percent of their political contributions to Democrats. And with a budget of more than $355 million, the NEA spends more on campaign contributions than ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Walmart, and the AFL-CIO combined.”
She concludes by arguing that “As long as the Obama administration continues to let unions set the high mark for reform, as was the case with the Race to the Top program, it will be difficult for families nationwide to gain access to a quality school. If the president wants to legitimize his school-choice rhetoric, he’ll need to start by standing up to education unions and standing for school choice in D.C.”
The left is clearly anti-choice when it comes to schools, and they defend that position by arguing that state or local funds given to families in the form of vouchers, which could then be redeemed at private schools, further weakens an already failing public school system. The question is, will the realization that the status quo is failing result in fundamental change, or just lead to throwing more money at the same failed system. In other words, is Obama’s “reform” agenda a fraud?
On Morning Joe on MSNBC, as part of the “education nation” propaganda offensive, a statistic was cited from the National Center for Education Statistics showing that 68% of 8th graders cannot read at grade level. What Joe Scarborough and his liberal colleagues failed to emphasize was that Obama’s “plan” to solve the problem is more of the same—more money for the public schools that created the problem in the first place.
It is time for GE’s talking heads in the media to look beyond the “solution” of more federal money and the interests of teachers unions and take into account the fate of parents and their children. It is time, in short, for NBC’s news personalities to truly take the side of the poor. That means not leaving it to the audience to grill Obama about why he has made sure that his own children don’t attend the D.C. public schools.
Roger Aronoff is a media analyst with Accuracy in Media, and is the writer/director of Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared on www.aim.org.