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By Anthony Cody.

Last Saturday I shared the dramatic story of how a group of parents and teachers convinced the Democratic Party Committee of the State of Washington to vote in favor of a strong statement rejecting the Common Core standards. Perhaps there could be no better issue to compare and contrast mainstream media coverage to that of independent bloggers. Common Core, after all, has been the flagship project of the Gates Foundation, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the development and promotion of the standards.

I was recently informed by the Education Writers Association that my work as a journalist does not exhibit enough “independence from what is covered” to qualify for journalist membership in their organization. Thus I cannot submit my work to their annual contest – in which I won a first prize last year.

So when this Democratic Party committee passed this resolution against the Common Core, I was very interested to see how it would be covered by the supposedly independent and objective members of the mainstream press.

To be clear, I do not claim to be entirely independent when writing about education issues. I approach my writing with the clear perspective of a former classroom teacher, and an advocate for democratically controlled public schools. Where I differ with the EWA is in their insistence that the reporters they call journalists are actually themselves independent. So let’s take a look at the mainstream coverage of this vote, and see how the issues were covered.

On Living in Dialogue, I carried two stories covering the vote. The first was a report posted just hours after the vote was taken on the evening of Jan. 24. This story included the text of the resolution the committee passed, and firsthand reports from both David Spring and teacher Susan DuFresne, who had also spoken in favor of the vote. Living in Dialogue also re-posted a detailed description of the process activists had followed to achieve this outcome.

The first story to appear on the subject in the mainstream media was on the Education Lab Blog at the Seattle Times, on Tuesday, Jan. 27. The Education Lab is a project funded by the Gates Foundation to cover education issues. This story appeared on Jan. 27, posted by Leah Todd, headlined Key Democratic Committee Condemns Common Core. The story features quotes from David Spring, one of the activists who had spoken in favor of the resolution. This story was fairly neutral in tone and did a decent job in presenting the facts, including providing a link to a press release from the Coalition for Public Schools, on of the groups that had supported the resolution. But this story is only on their blog. This did not go any farther than the Seattle Times blog.

A second mainstream story was published on Wednesday, Jan. 28, by Associated Press reporter Donna Gordon Blankinship. Since this story was filed with Associated Press, it has far wider reach than the one on the Education blog. Thus, this is the main way that the world will learn of what happened last Saturday. The headline reads: Washington Democrats oppose national standards. After three short paragraphs describing the resolution that was passed, Ms. Blankinship begins to quote Washington’s state Superintendent Randy Dorn:

“I do not believe that most people understand what this is about. It’s become a political propaganda issue,” Dorn said. “This wasn’t just done overnight. This was done over a long period of time with a lot of input from teachers and administrators, and top education researchers.”

Quotes from Superintendent Dorn make up more than a third of the article.

This story contains no quotes or comments from anyone supporting the resolution, although the content of the resolution is summarized.

When supporters of the resolution wrote to Ms. Blankinship suggesting that her report was biased, she responded, stating in part,

“I cannot write a story based solely on your point-of-view. That would be one-sided. I am required to reach out to get other viewpoints. Both your point of view and Randy Dorn’s were well represented in my story.”

So here is the challenge I put to fair-minded readers. Please take a minute or two to review the article. How well are the different perspectives represented? Is this report independent and objective? What do you think?

Author

Anthony Cody
Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.

Comments

  1. Mike Barrett    

    The AP story is incomplete and misleading suggesting that the resolution is against standards rather than the Common Core version of standards. The truly evil aspects of the common core are the fact that they are copyrighted and therefore not open to smart editing and that they are connected to mandated tests which set up schools for failure and mistakenly blame teachers for the effects of concentrated multigenrational poverty.

  2. David Spring    

    I was one of the people who wrote and advocated for the resolution to Oppose Common Core that was passed by the Washington State Democratic Party last weekend. It is disappointing to those of us who worked long and hard for nearly a year explaining to Democrats all over Washington State why they should oppose Common Core, that the Associated Press article wrote an about our resolution without contacting any of us who actually wrote the resolution and instead only spoke with an opponent of the resolution, Randy Dorn. We think readers deserve a more balanced article.

    Two thirds of the delegates to the Washington State Democratic Party voted to support our resolution.The delegates overwhelmingly oppose Common Core. In May 2014, delegates to the Republican Party State meeting voted unanimously to oppose Common Core. So opposition to Common Core is very widespread in Washington State. Yet the article quoted Randy Dorn as if he was right and we were wrong.

    Randy Dorn is completely wrong in the claims he made in the article. Had the AP reporter contacted us, we could have provided them with more accurate information. For example, while school children often move within any given State, according to a 2011 report by the US Census, less than one percent of school children move from one state to another.

    Randy is also wrong about who wrote Common Core. It was not written with input from teachers. It was written by a couple of Wall Street consultants. Common Core standards are copyrighted and cannot be changed no matter how badly written they are. Worst of all, the Common Core test that will be given to our students this spring (called SBAC) is deliberately designed to fail over 60% of the students who take the test – causing permanent harm to hundreds of thousands of students who will unfairly be labelled as “failures”- including very young students who are only in the Third Grade!

    Randy Dorn is also wrong in claiming that the Common Core standards are similar to the prior Washington State standards. The prior Washington State standards were written by teachers and supported by child development specialists. The Common Core standards were not written by teachers and are opposed by the nation’s largest organization of child development specialists.

    The Common Core math standards are particularly bad. They were hastily written by a single person, Jason Zimba, who has never taught in a public school. The Common Core math standards require very young children to complete abstract math exercises. This is impossible for most young children because, according to Piaget and 100 years of research on very young children, they are “concrete” thinkers. This means that their brains require concrete examples to solve math problems. Forcing Kindergarten students to do abstract exercises is a form of child abuse as it leads children to believe they are failures and learn to hate school.

    In our view, Randy Dorn will not be re-elected if he continues to support poorly written standards and high failure rate tests that harm hundreds of thousands of students here in Washington State. Also not mentioned in the article is that Randy Dorn just this week was elected to the board of CCSSO – a group paid more than $50 million by Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation to promote Common Core. So Randy Dorn is not an unbiased source of information and readers should be told this.

    In light of these facts, we emailed the AP reporter and asked her to write a more balanced follow up story explaining why the overwhelming majority of rank and file members of both the Washington State Democratic Party and Republican Party now oppose Common Core. Unfortunately, the AP reporter has refused to write a follow up story. So readers of this AP report will never know the truth about Common Core or our resolution – at least not by reading the main stream media. Thank you Anthony Cody for exposing this problem.
    Sincerely, David Spring

  3. Dan Bell    

    I read this article in my local paper, the Tri-City Herald. I assumed the Herald had cut out the part of the story where the Common Core opponents were interviewed and got to air their reasons for persuading the Democratic committee to reject the Common Core standards. I assumed also that the part where the Democratic committee members were interviewed and explained their thinking about the Common Core and why they voted to reject it by a wide margin was excised. I was having negative thoughts about my local paper, not for the first time. Now I find that the journalist did not include any of these reasonable, expected elements. The Democratic committee is represented as having merely done something while Randy Dorn is represented as thoughtfully disagreeing. He accuses the committee of not understanding the issues and falling for “political propaganda”. The opposing view is mute. To call this balanced reporting is incredible.

  4. tsmekens    

    To be honest, I don’t even have to read the article from the AP reporter. If they want picked up by the newspapers, they have to be biased in favor of those directing our capitalistic society. I’ve been a strong advocate against Common Core in Indiana, but I am one of the few. Karen Francisco with the Journal Gazette holds Hoosier lawmakers accountable and is more well-versed on educational issues.

    Education is just one of many pieces of our society which is under attack. It’s the last bastion of democracy in this country. If people don’t see this as class warfare, than I am not sure what can be done. I noticed three years ago that while this assault was taking place, our media was quiet. As a lifelong student, I began questioning why.

    In my research, as written in Muncie Voice (http://muncievoice.com), I’ve discovered that capitalism is unsustainable and is driving this need for more and conquest. It’s part of our nature – a predatory phase of development. Progressives have been trying to move past this phase, but are being pulled back by “Libertarian conservatives” who have accumulated wealth and using that wealth with blatant disregard of history and democratic principles. The development of Common Core in a vacuum is one great example of this. It’s a top down hierarchy where those with the money establish the plans and implement those plans upon the people.

    What’s ironic, is over 60 years ago, Albert Einstein, wrote an article titled “Why Socialism”. Within this brilliant article, Einstein nails many aspects of our human condition, but this particular paragraph I want to share with this intelligent crowd who won’t scowl and close their minds to his writings (http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism/). He is specifically talking about capitalism and why its inherently unsustainable and Evil:

    “Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

    I’ve tested his comments with my own research about the press – “free and independent” press. It’s not free and independent at all. We have 90% of all media in this country owned by 6 conglomerates.

    Within Indiana, the number one state for education reform, mainly because of Eli Lilly – the pharmaceutical giant which funds a non-profit called Mind Trust. Within the Mind Trust, Indiana’s version of Common Core is pushed on student much to the happiness of Jeb Bush and the Bush Foundation.

    Within our state, the #1 “free and independent” press is Gannett which owns 4 newspapers in major cities. What have they been doing in our state to inform people about the players pushing education reform. Nothing. Have they exposed the connection between Mind Trust and Eli Lilly and how it’s attacked public schools in Indiana?

    Not at all. They could easily inform Hoosiers about Common Core and who is behind education reform. Not a word. Charles and David Koch own more politicians in “Coal Country” than any other billionaire and 80% of Hoosiers have never heard of them. If you do a in their newspaper, you’ll find nothing.

    When you consider that 90% of Gannett is owned by Wall Street’s institutional investors, then it all starts to make sense. If you re-read the paragraph above, it will make even more sense. Our media platforms (newspaper, broadcast media, radio) are NOT free and independent. Period. End of story.

  5. liberalteacher    

    I think we should all write the AP reporter and demand that she answer point-by-point why educators oppose common core. It will be her job to prove with hard evidence that the standards were written mostly by teachers. She must be able to name all the teachers who wrote the standards and compare the number of those individuals with the number of non-teachers who were involved. She also must prove that the standards–especially the math standards are developmentally appropriate by providing sound reasoning and sufficient evidence that the standards will raise the achievement level of all students. She must be able to cite research that shows when compared to the old standards, the Common Core standards is proven to provide a higher level of academic achievement.

    If you notice, I am throwing the 8th grade Common Core Standards right back at this journalist. If she is unable to do more than cite one source (a biased one at that) in her article, then she would definitely fail New York State’s Common Core ELA Assessment.

    1. David Spring    

      Teacher, Several of us did email the AP reporter. She has refused to change her story or even admit that it is biased. We pointed out numerous statements made by her and the person she interviewed. She was not interested in the facts. My conclusion is that she is on the Bill Gates Bullpen team – a group of reporters whose job it is to mislead the public. It does no good to write reporters who are paid to tell lies. We have a chapter on how Bill Gates bought out the media to promote Common Core in our upcoming book Weapons of Mass Deception. Instead of contacting the fake reporter, what we really need to do is start organizing to take back our country and save our schools. Join Parents Across America or the Network for Public Education or start a group in your community. Then tell all of your friends to read Anthony Cody and Diane Ravitch instead of the AP.

      1. tsmekens    

        Public schools aren’t the only systems under attack in the United States. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Right to Work legislation has been passed in many states. Public sector unions had their collective bargaining rights stripped away. There is yet another free trade agreement in Washington which our “liberal” president wants to push thru congress allowing more jobs leave the United States. Our environment is under attack. Our food system has morphed into a mechanistic breeding and slaughtering process. You also better pay attention to what Mitch Daniels is doing at Purdue University, because he is getting ready gut higher learning principles as well.

        The reason I had to point out all these other facets of our society under attack is to appeal to your common sense. Our Fourth Estate, or Fourth Branch of government, are names referring to our “free and independent press”. The press was given the power of free speech to hold our government accountable for abuses of its power. The public sector, our government, was given power to hold the private sector accountable. For a true democratic system to function, we need all of these entities holding the others accountable. Guess what?

        As an educator, you see the problem through the lens of an educator. You see how our government is attacking public education.However, you identified Bill Gates as the one causing problems – the same person many call the true Secretary of Education in this country. Where is the free and independent press? Why aren’t they hammering Bill Gates? Why aren’t they hammering Mitch Daniels for appointing 80% of the Board of Trustees as governor, who then hired him as president when he didn’t have the necessary qualifications?

        If you look closely at our “press”, you’ll discover that 90% is owned by Wall Street investment firms. The same firms appoint board members and support CEO’s who fall in line with their line of thinking. Who is bound to make lots of money taking away dollars from public schools and placing those dollars in private companies? Guess who will end up owning these private corporations?

        You need to see the bigger picture. Education isn’t being singled out. It’s part of the capitalistic system which is being used by the extremely wealthy to extract more and more money from us. This also means that you are not alone in this endeavor, since our entire way of life as Americans are under attack. So while you’re organizing teachers, don’t forget why public schools are failing – lack of resources. It’s being done intentionally, and the press is on their side.

        Stop subscribing to newspapers and form your own media companies. Use social media like Facebook and Twitter until you can develop your own website. As I pointed out, the press must be held accountable by teachers and parents alike if you are to gain traction. They are misinforming your customers – parents. Parents across the country need to fully understand that public education is being privatized for money. Period.

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