Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yellow Journalist Jim Newton Hails a Dubious Civil Rights Hero

"Soviet style elections" — Ben Austin in response to parents and communities choosing community school plans over corporate charters.

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin
Jim Newton, chief crusader of the notorious school privatization propaganda publication known as the Los Angeles Times, recently penned a piece that reaches far beyond absurdity, it borders on irrational and inane. In Newton's topsy-turvy world view, oppressed and impoverished people of color just need to look to wealthy white male saviors from Beverly Hills to solve all their problems — Rudyard Kipling would have been proud. He sets up his ludicrous Op-Ed with a false dichotomy of parents versus school districts, in which the former "demand a decent education," and the latter "blithely ignores them." A phantasmagorical tale at best, told by someone who lets, to use a phrase coined by the illustrious Dr. Diane Ravitch, "ideology trump evidence." No mention in Newton's amateurish essay about the intentional chronic underfunding of public schools, the deliberate demoralization of public schools imposed by the impossible goals set forth in the reactionary NCLB, or the crushing effects of poverty on students discussed by education experts like Dr. Stephen Krashen.

In Newton's reactionary right-wing account, Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Board Members are the "rogues," not billionaires who don't pay taxes, politicians that spend all our money on wars and occupations, or corporations that sent inner city jobs to remote corners of the world years ago. Newton's utter detachment from reality is even more apparent when he calls McKinley Elementary School "a tragically underperforming school." Like his abominable underlings Jason Feltch and Jason Song, Newton feels no need to research or fact check his bombastic assertions. Had he done so, would have learned McKinley's APIs have been rising steadily over the years. Tracy Douglas has pointed out "There are 7 Green Dot charter schools that scored well below McKinley." Respected journalist Caroline Grannan found the "Spring 2010 API for McKinley Elementary in Compton, CA: 684; Spring 2010 average API for all Green Dot charter schools in California: 657." Apparently in Newton's Randian world view only public schools "tragically" underperform, underperforming charter schools, no matter how awful, aren't discussed in the pejorative, especially when they're the former employer of the person he's lionizing in his Op-Ed.

I was compelled to write him a letter, expressing my discontent with his dishonest screed.

Mr. Newton:

You cast an all African American CUSD Board as "civil rights villains" and then speak of the wealthy white Ben Austin, and his right wing charter school trade association as heroes for hoodwinking parents into handing a community school over to the vile Vielka McFarlane? The same McFarlane who dismissed institutional racism by declaring children of color merely need to "dress for success..." rather than "focus on how the history of the country has been checkered."

Austin a civil rights hero? With no background in education, he was recruited via a six figure salary to represent CCSA interests and increase charter school market share. While he poses as a disgruntled parent and champion of people of color, he has no school age kids and according to The Times Austin's neighborhood [Benedict Canyon] is 87.5% WHITE with a median household income of $169,282. Austin's house cost $1,210,000. He holds public events with The Heartland Institute [1]. That's a civil rights hero Compton parents and the rest of us can all identify with!

Talk about taking Newspeak to a new level. We've come to expect this non-stop charter cheerleading from the Times. Newton and Stanton come off as Jed Wallace's personal public relations firm. Your defense of the Walton, Broad, and Gates funded Austin and his corporate trigger law is deplorable. Is a glowing tribute to the late Generalissimo Franco next?

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels

[1] For those that don't know, The Heartland Institute is essentially the John Birch Society with a budget. See also: Teabaggers, Fascists, Bigots, and Reactionaries.



Anonymous said...

Why do you keep harping on Austin's "six-figure" salary? There are plenty of school administrators in California making six-figure salaries. Does that invalidate the work they do?

More to the point, are you seriously denying that McKinley is in the bottom ten percent of California schools? Are you denying that it's hit its AYP target just twice in the last eight years? Your politics is classic infantile leftism: let all the poor kids drown rather than embrace a change that might help some if that change would in any way strengthen bourgeois interests. Pathetic.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

A.K. here's one for you and all the other armchair activists working for the plutocrats' interests Poor Teaching for Poor the Name of Reform.

I put in a minimum of 400 hours of non-political volunteer work in my community and the Westlake district every year to help people in the inner city. Westside elites can make specious accusations of infantilism all they want. What exactly have you done to help people? Supporting the vile agendas of the top 1% of income winners is not helping. I'll say it again: privatization is not a solution to poverty.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

On "embracing" the "change" you advocate. Natalie Hopkinson: The McEducation of the Negro

Anonymous said...

McKinley Elementary school has a very diverse population of teachers. Many of the teachers grew up in Compton. There are Hispanic, African American, white and Asian teachers. All of the teachers are fully credentialed by the state of California. It is a fairly young and very energetic staff. The teachers voluntarily participate in professional development with UCI Math and Science Project. Many teachers seek and pay for workshops to learn new strategies to help their students. The staff, as a whole, is currently working on becoming National Board Certified (this is a very difficult process and only fifty percent of teachers that apply are certified). Most of the teachers have masters degrees. There are teachers with masters in science, linguistics and education. There are several teachers who have a B-CLAD. The test scores have been rising and continue to rise. This year has been very difficult on the morale of the hardworking staff and the parents that support them. Parent Revolution has actively campaigned against this school and the teachers that work there. The teachers and parents at McKinley do not have the political and media connections to defend this assault. This is an emotionally violent attack on a school and is pitting parents against parents. I can’t imagine that the type of behavior exhibited by this organization (Parent Revolution) would be tolerated in a wealthy suburban community. All parents need to have a voice in their child’s education. The way this was done . . . no one will really every know what McKinley parents want. Some parents weren’t contacted at all. Some believed they were signing a document to help beautify the school or improve the school (not supplant the principal and staff). There are parents that want the charter school and everything that was promised with that charter school. We will never know.