Better Conversation? Not so much...

I had a fun little Twitter chat recently with Peter Cunningham, executive director of Education Post, the billionaire funded anti-public education website devoted to fighting back against the critics of the corporate reform of education movement. Because billionaires evidently need to be defended against public school teachers and parents who are concerned about hedge fund managers bent on destroying their kids' schools and turning teaching into an entry-level gig. But, I digress...

Pete had just tweeted a snarky put down of students protesting budget cuts in the Chicago Public Schools, and I asked him why he was always criticizing teachers and students, and why he never used his bully pulpit to critique any charter school operators--like Steve Ingersoll, who used his charter school as a personal ATM, committing fraud and embezzlement along the way--given that they are doing a lot more damage than teachers and kids.

It's worth mentioning here that Pete's goal for Education Post was to "raise the bar" for the conversation surrounding education reform; indeed, the website's tag line is "better conversation. better education". According to Mr. Cunningham, "At some level, it feels as if it’s people . . . just screaming at each other from across the aisle,” Cunningham said. “We can have differences of opinion about these policies, but they should be based on facts, not fear. An honest, open conversation is possible among people of good will. We want to elevate those voices that are not being heard and counter the voices that are misleading, either willfully or not.”

Given Mr. Cunningham's approach to elevating the dialogue about ed reform, one might expect to see a balanced, thoughtful collection of stories being curated on the website, expressing a broad range of opinions and staking out positions along a wide spectrum of beliefs and philosophical stances with respect to the complicated, confusing arena that is modern day education reform.

As it turns out, not so much.

After our Twitter conversation, I wandered over to Education Post to see what Pete and his plucky band of hedge fund funded "reporters" were sharing in their effort to support and encourage a "better conversation." Here's what I found...

  • a piece on how Race To The Top was "genius" (a reminder: RTTT was the ed reform initiative that pitted the states against one another in a Hunger Games-styled competition that has resulted in no winners and lots of losers...)
  • another piece criticizing the Chicago Public Schools (boy, does Mr. Cunningham hate the Chicago Public Schools--I'm guessing it's the "Public" part of their name that does it...)
  • an Arne Duncan puff piece (Mr. Cunningham was Mr. Duncan's Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the Department of Education--neither man ever taught...)
  • a human interest piece featuring...wait for it: a charter school! (Mr. Cunningham and the Education Post love charter schools.)
  • a puff piece on DC charters (did I mention that Peter and the Post really love charters?)
  • a piece criticizing parents who choose to opt out their children from standardized tests (because the only thing that the Ed Post loves more than charters are tests--in fact, the Education Post loves tests so much they should probably marry one...)
  • a piece promoting the National Assessment of Educational Progress, because tests. (Boy, do these folks love their tests...)
  • a piece on how school choice should be for everyone...except for those nasty parents who "choose" to opt their kids out of tests, because that kind of choice isn't good for anyone!
  • a piece promoting The New Teacher Project, because these TNTP "teachers" appear to be the first persons to discover this new thing called "student centered learning", which teachers in the public schools have been, you know, doing now for decades. (This is a common theme on the Education Post--breathless reporting of allegedly new teaching strategies that actual teachers use in their classrooms every day...)
  • another Arne Duncan puff piece, which somehow also manages to slam Hillary Clinton--which is odd given the supposed liberal political leanings of Mr. Cunningham, who did serve in the Obama administration (psst: the Democrats for Education Reform are neither Democrats, or for Education Reform--they are hedge fundies who want to destroy the public schools and make billions of dollars in the process--and Mr. Cunningham works with (for?) these folks...)

The verdict? Far from being an outlet that is designed to promote "better conversation," the Ed Post is nothing more than a corporate-funded mouthpiece for the reform community, and the site only runs stories designed to reinforce and advance the reform agenda. The headlines for these pieces reads like a cheat-sheet of Michelle Rhee's talking points: anti-teachers and unions, anti-public school, pro-Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, pro-testing, pro-school choice, pro-charter schools.

If Mr. Cunningham is really serious about a "better conversation," then he should start asking some actual teachers and parents of public school students what they think about this agenda. A conversation with only one voice is a monologue, not a conversation.