Now NBC is owned by Comcast, a company that is universally hated by consumers across the country and regularly ranks in the top five of the the list of "Most Despised" companies in America. If you want to see just how bad a company Comcast is, check out the customer forums on Comcast's own site! I have been a customer of all three major cable companies and I can say without a doubt that Comcast was by far, the worst of the three. The bill consistently shifted around, they were always trying to stick me with charges for products or services that I never asked for, and the customer service was abysmal. Then, when I ended my service and returned my cable box and paid my last bill, they claimed they never got the money and sent the last month's charges into collection. Yeah, I have fonder memories of that time when my apartment building burned than I have as a Comcast customer.
So, let's cut to today. NBC is running the third edition of its education reform show called Education Nation. As has been usual with the other two editions of this nonsense, NBC has invited a corporate education reform friendly line-up of guests - people like Joel Klein, Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee. When they have invited parents or teachers to be part of the line-up, these have been parents and teachers who espouse corporate education reform values like firing hundreds of thousands of teachers, tying teacher evaluations to test scores, charter school expansion, online schools and the like. This year, NBC is promoting the education reform movement movie "Won't Back Down," just as a couple of years ago they promoted another education reform movement movie, "Waiting for Superman." And just as in the past, NBC's Education Nation tolerates no dissent from the corporate education reform narrative - Diane Ravitch and other noted opponents to the education reform agenda have not been invited to the show, though darling of the corporate reform movement Randi Weingarten is there to give her perspective on things.
Which perhaps makes sense, since the AFT is inexplicably one of the sponsors of this crap, as is the NEA. Yes, you heard right, teachers - you're hard-earned dues money is going to help sponsor an NBC show that promotes the myth of the "bad teacher" and the sanctity of the standardized test score. I suppose this is the unions' way of "staying relevant" in a time of anti-teacher, anti-union bashing, but frankly, both the AFT and the NEA would do better to put on their own "Debunking NBC's Education Nation Nonsense" show and invite real students, real parents, real teachers and real education leaders to tell their stories. But that would take some actual ingenuity or desire at the unions to take on the education reform movement, and as we have seen over and over, that does not exist at either the AFT or the NEA. They would rather have " a seat at the table" or some such nonsense rather than promote the values and principles their members hold dear - like smaller class size, a rich, diverse curriculum, and other progressive education values.
So I get why they wouldn't want to put on their own Education Nation to debunk NBC's corporate version. But why the hell are they also sponsoring it? Have you seen the list of corporate sponsors? The line-up reads like a rogue's gallery of corporate criminality, nepotism and cronyism:
University of Phoenix
Gates Foundation (i.e. Microsoft/Monsanto)
Bezos Foundation (i.e., Amazon)
We could take a brief look at each of these criminal organizations and the harm they do to America and the world and then ask what would anybody who cares about kids, education or schools be doing watching an education show on a network once owned by one of the most evil companies in the world, now owned by one of the most despised, that is sponsored by these corporate criminals. But you can do your own Google search and come up with the pollution caused by ExxonMobile, the horrible working conditions at Amazon warehouses, the horror Bill Gates is doing to Africa and Asia via GMO, and the predatory business practices of TARP-recipient Citibank. Instead I am going to focus on the University of Phoenix, since this company purports to be an institution of higher learning, has been a corporate sponsor of Education Nation for all three years and has managed to get its president onto the Education Nation stage to pontificate about education issues.
Here is how NBC bills the University of Phoenix:
University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help students balance education and life in a rapidly changing world. Through flexible schedules, challenging courses and interactive learning, students achieve personal and career aspirations without putting their lives on hold. As of May 31, 2011, 398,000 students were enrolled at University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America.
All of that is just advertising jive. The University of Phoenix is actually a for-profit "college" with the highest number of student loan defaults of any school in the country. One out of every four students who attends this "college" defaults on his or her loan. The graduation rate is also one of the lowest in the country (currently 9%, 5% for online students), and even when you do graduate with a University of Phoenix degree, you find out very quickly it's not worth the paper its printed on.
So why is University of Phoenix on the list of Education Nation sponsors? Why was the president of this for-profit diploma mill on stage at Education Nation talking about education standards last year when his own company has none other than, "Can you hold a pen and sign for the loan, please?"
NBC News president Steve Capus has defended the presence of University of Phoenix as a sponsor, saying that the company is not shaping editorial content for Education Nation and has been the subject of some "tough news stories" on NBC News.
But as FAIR has pointed out, NBC has actually done more to promote University of Phoenix than scrutinize them. Ann Curry actually patted a University of Phoenix VP on the head on The Today Show at "Learning Plaza" last year and praised him for helping kids. So much for the "tough NBC news stories" on University of Phoenix. And in fact, NBC has partnered with the University of Phoenix to "donate" technology to classrooms that will show NBC "educational programs" while promoting the University of Phoenix and made the University of Phoenix it's lead sponsor in the "On-The-Road" segment of last year's Education Nation. Far from being a simple sponsor with no say over editorial content, it is clear from the prominent place the University of Phoenix has on the sponsor's list, the donor's list, and in the content of Eduction Nation that NBC and its parent company Comcast are quite comfortable selling a diploma mill with abysmal graduation rates and the highest defaults of any college in the land to its viewers.
What are we to make of a so-called education reform forum that promotes and partners with a "college" that has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers over the last decade in the form of defaulted loans, has saddled hundreds of thousands of students with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and continued to expand its business even as its graduation rates and loan default rates show that it should be shut down?
If NBC News was an actual "news" organization as opposed to some public relations wing of its parent corporation, the people at the network wouldn't be partnering with some shyster college like University of Phoenix and putting the president of said college on stage to talk about higher education standards.
No, if NBC News were an actual "news" organization, they would be exposing the University of Phoenix for the crap college it is, warning every American to stay as far away from it as possible, and asking law officials why the University of Phoenix president wasn't behind bars with Bernie Madoff.
But of course NBC News is not an actual "news" organization any more than Brian Williams or Matt Lauer are real newsmen (as opposed to corporate shills) and so we get the Education Nation crapola, hosted by the unctuous Williams, complete with corporate criminal sponsors and studio audience.
The good news out of all of this is, fewer people are watching TV these days, and of those, fewer still are watching NBC News shows, so who knows how many people are actually going to see this garbage. Many Americans have woken up to the fact that what they see spewed on TV news programs these days is propaganda and lies. They actually hold teachers and schools in much higher esteem than, say, news media personalities from NBC.
Still, it's really a big pain as an educators to have to push back against the lies and propaganda on something like NBC's Education Nation and it's certainly true that many of those lies and some of that propaganda has become conventional wisdom for Americans.
How could it be otherwise when all they ever hear about schools from hacks like Brian Williams is "Our schools are in crisis!"