Former New York schools boss, Joel Klein, has been brought in by the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to try and sort out the scandal which has engulfed his company in recent weeks.
The multinational media giant News Corporation, headed by Rupert Murdoch – one of the main purveyors of right wing and neo-liberal doctrine globally – is mired in scandal. Its UK reporters have hacked into the phones of murder victims, bereaved parents, and celebrities, as well as paying police officers for information, causing widespread revulsion. The contagion has spread to the USA with suggestions that 9/11 victims’ families have also been targeted by phone hacking.
The connection for teachers is that Murdoch is one of the main cheerleaders for neo-liberal education policies such as privatisation, standardised testing, deprofessionalising teachers and destroying teachers unions. For example, at Davos in 2009, he exhorted the new US President, Barack Obama, to take on the teaching unions, telling the assembled CEO’s, bankers and hedge fund millionaires: “The President must have the courage and the strength to take on the teachers and win ... if the United States is going to continue to lead the world over the next 30 or 40 years, education must be the way.”
Murdoch does not rely on rhetoric and exhortation alone. In the US his media outfit is the main cheerleader for the billionaire Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity organisation, which was behind the attacks on public sector workers in Wisconsin. In New York he is a major supporter of the push to destroy public education by replacing it with charter schools. He has also bought the education technology firm Wireless Generation, which develops testing and teaching software.
Murdoch has hired Joel Klein – the ex boss of New York City schools to head up his education operation. Klein’s tenure in New York was marked by privatisation, continuous attacks on teaching unions and more and more standardised testing to determine amongst other things pay and tenure for teachers.
EI’s US affiliates, the NEA and AFT have joined coalitions of parents and teachers to campaign against the imposition of charter schools in existing public schools. Charter schools – far from being for the benefit of greater opportunity for all, as their proponents claim, have been found to be checking children’s test scores before inviting parents to apply for places.
Furthermore Klein aims to undermine the very basis of education – the human relationship between teachers, children and their class mates – by increasingly replacing teachers with technology. He is on record as saying: “Last, to shake up the system, we must change how we use technology to deliver instruction.… One of the best things we could do is hire fewer teachers and pay more to the ones we hire. ”
It is telling that Joel Klein, who has been attacking teachers and purporting to speak for the ordinary parent, has been flown over to the UK to defend the interests of one of the richest families in the world and to sort out the scandal at News International which is threatening its multi-billion dollar operation.
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