Columnists seek to shape opinion in discussing school reform

Duane Campbell

Duane Campbell

The Paucity of Dan Walters’ Commentary on School Issues

The column by Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee entitled “California’s School Wars Heat Up” in the print edition for Dec.20, and entitled  “Powerful Factions Go to War Over Direction of California Schools,”  in the on line version  seriously and deliberatively misinforms.  Walters’s columns are reprinted in newspapers throughout the state.

He frames the conflict between the School Establishment ( school administrators, elected officials, teachers’ unions]  vs. the “School Reformers”.   These are indeed two of the powerful factions competing in the California State Capitol, but not at all the complete story.

To understand the distortion lets see who these “reformers “  see the Democracy and Education Institute

The cadre Walters’ calls reformers  are not reformers.  They  are a corporate financed  advocates of a system that uses scores on high-stakes tests to  punish students and teachers while generating profits for corporations such as Pearson. They are  well financed sales people. In most cases they do not work in schools, rather they work in lobbyist offices financed by the Waltons, the Gates, and others.   See here

There is at least one additional group who Walters ignores- the social justice equity oriented based school reformers who have been working in schools and in teachers unions  for decades to  improve school opportunities for low income and minority children for decades.

There are numerous examples of this groups, here,  and here CABE, Ca-Name, Raza Educators,  and the movement within both CTA (California Teachers Association) and CFT (California Federation of Teachers)  known as social justice unionism.

On the national level these approaches are well represented in the Broader, Bolder Approach hosted by the Economic Policy Institute,  Rethinking Schools, the Shanker Institute (initiated by the AFT)  and others.  Diane Ravitch has been writing well about some of these efforts.

Walters’ essay reflects the  similar  narrowness in the media as it portrays the U.S. political struggles as only between the Democrats and the Republicans . This media  narrowness- created and funded significantly by corporate ownership of media functions to move the society in the direction of restricting democracy.  See, Democracy Inc. Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism by Sheldon Waldon, (2008) and Digital Disconnect; How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy,  by Robert McChesney (2013) .

Digital Disconnect readers benefit from McChesney’s long critical scholarly record of studying corporate journalism as an imbedded form of corporate capitalism  and its challenge to democracy.  As he says, “capitalism imposed its logic” ( p.89).

Most  media,  as  illustrated by Dan Walters in the Dec. 20 column with reporting and opining on “inside baseball’ at the state capitol, are not objective observers. Walters is in fact an integrated and important part of the campaign to turn public schools  (and other public institutions) over to even more corporate influence and corporate control.  The first step in turning schools over to the corporations is the defeat the teachers’ unions. This narrow frame of media coverage corrupts our democratic system and needs to be opposed.

I have been fortunate to have  served to prepare over 600 new teachers and educational leaders who are currently working in Sacramento area  schools and educating  children and adults.  Some are becoming administrators and college professors.  These teachers and educational leaders are not considered in the narrow framing of opinions presented by  Walters’, but they constitute a significant  cohort of persons immediate knowledge of the school reality and who are working for substantive  educational reform.

Duane Campbell is the Director of the Democracy and Education Institute. Sacramento, and Sacramento Chair of DSA.


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