Sunday, March 02, 2014

Conservative USC alums fight on over FCC newsroom survey

The Federal Communications Commission's decision to shelve plans for a study of how media newsrooms work has tamped down outrage from some conservative quarters but some alumni from a prominent participating university are still in an uproar.

The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism was one of two institutes of higher learning the FCC commissioned to conduct a study of how media organizations gather and report the news. The other school was the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Several members of USC's Washington, D.C. alumni community, which includes prominent conservative attorneys, nonprofit leaders, politicians and journalists, want answers on why their alma mater was involved in a project critics fear could have been used to place new controls on the nation's newsrooms, and quell free speech.

USC, a large private school located in Los Angeles that is No. 23 on U.S. News & World Report's undergraduate school ranking list, was traditionally known as politically conservative, especially in the West Coast's mainly liberal academic world. In recent years, however, the campus has been changing as the school’s rising rankings and rigorous admissions policies attracted students of all political stripes.

The alumni are also voicing deep concerns about whether USC's relatively new president, Max Nikias, is deliberately trying to change its conservative reputation by involving the university in more liberal-oriented studies and programs. Nikias became president in 2010.

“The University of Southern California has transitioned from a place of higher education to a far left policy-setting organization,” said Richard Manning, a vice president at Americans for Limited Government, who graduated from USC in 1981 and served as president of the university's D.C. alumni club in the early 1990s.

“The latest reports that the School of Journalism was involved in the FCC intrusion into the reporting and editorial decisions of individual news outlets reveals just how much the University has lost its way from its original mission.

“President Max Nikias should be fired over this alone,” he continued, “but when you consider previous decisions to become a shill for the Affordable Care Act to the entertainment industry, there is no case to be made for his retention.”

Manning was referring to a $500,000 grant USC's Norman Lear Center Hollywood, Health & Society program received last fall from the California Endowment, a health-oriented nonprofit financed by the insurance industry. Critics say the money will be used to promote Obamacare in film and television, in a manner similar to product-placement marketing techniques for consumer brands.

Another former president of USC's D.C. alumni club, who requested anonymity, said the university's decisions to wade into more liberal territory is causing him to rethink his yearly financial commitment.

“I give the university money every year – and it absolutely will affect my decision this year,” the USC graduate said. He said the FCC study and the Norman Lear Center grant are projects that are “pretty contrary to what USC ought to be involved in” – especially if the FCC survey was going to to be used to try to control what the media should cover.

“That's kind of crazy – I assume the quest for the almighty dollar is pushing this. Times are tight and you can't get earmarks out of Congress anymore and so they're trying to find money anywhere they can,” said the USC graduate.

Boyd Rutherford, a 1990 graduate of USC's Gould School of Law who is currently running for lieutenant governor in Maryland, was more nuanced in his criticism, saying news of the university's involvement immediately drew his concern but that he would need to find out if the school knew how the FCC would use the information before he condemned it outright.

“It is disappointing if the university knew what the intent of the FCC was – if the intent was to go into newsrooms and ask questions – but we don't know what the FCC wanted to do with it,” he said.

The stated goal of the FCC survey was to determine if the “critical information needs” of the public are being met by modern media outlets. Democrats at the agency say they aren't planning to place any limits on press freedom or make a case for re-imposing the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated that broadcasters provide equal time to both sides of a debate from 1949 to 1987.

After news about the FCC survey first broke, the Washington Examiner's Byron York reported that the goal of the newsroom survey may have been different than originally believed - perhaps part of an effort to gather information for a new government campaign to increase minority ownership of the nation's media outlets.

One of the project's key advocates, York notes, is Mignon Clyburn, an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner who last year served as the agency's acting chair. Clyburn is also the daughter of Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant House minority leader and a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

A USC spokeswoman side-stepped questions from the Examiner about how much the university knew about the FCC's intent, pointing to a statement it posted on the Annenberg School's website Tuesday.

Titled “USC Annenberg Position on Fact-Based Media Policy Research,” the statement said the school is proud that it won an open competition by the FCC “to lead a prominent group of scholars from top universities in conducting a literature review (of approximately 500 scholarly articles) regarding 'critical information needs' of the American public.”

“Our purpose was to provide and encourage fact-based, nonpartisan and rigorous analysis in support of policy-making at a time of sweeping changes in the media and in American society,” the school said in a six-paragraph statement.

It said the findings are helping the FCC meet its statutory mandate of issuing a triennial report to Congress about “the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small businesses from competing in the media marketplace, and pursue policies that eliminate those barriers.”

“The literature review was the extent of USC Annenberg's involvement in the project,” the school added.

The spokeswoman also pointed to a Feb. 16 New York Times article about the grant to the USC Norman Lear Center that quoted its director as trying to push back against the notion that money would be used to fund pro-Obamacare propaganda. The Center recently held a Writers Guild of America East forum on the Affordable Care Act's place in comedy and drama.

“This is such a contentious issue – no one's pretending there will not be bitter on-screen clashes and disagreement as in life,” Center director Martin Kaplan told the Times.

But the article noted that the panel discussion did not include vocal Obamacare opponents. Instead, it was moderated by Kaplan, along with Writers Guild president Michael Winship, the Center for Public Integrity's Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive, and Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It's lineups like those that have some USC alums fighting mad and taking shots at Nikias, as they recall what they regard as "the good old days" under previous USC President Steven Sample.

“I'm shocked and disappointed that USC keeps getting its name dragged through the mud for doing the bidding of the most outrageous Obama administration proposals,” said the Institute for Energy Research's Thomas Pyle, a USC alum. “This certainly didn't happen when Steven Sample was at the helm.”


National Takeover of School Curriculum

Many people said ho-hum when President Barack Obama threatened to change any law with his pen or phone, and even use that power to personally alter Obamacare and the welfare law, and to "legislate" the Dream Act that Congress refused to pass. But Americans are rising up by the tens of thousands to stop Common Core, which is the current attempt to compel all U.S. children to be taught the same material and not other things parents might think important.

Ever since Congress began pouring federal tax dollars into public schools, parents have been solicitous to have Congress write into law a prohibition against the federal government writing curriculum or lesson plans, or imposing a uniform national curriculum. Parents want those decisions made at the local level by local school boards, which are, or should be, subject to the watchful eyes of local citizens and parents.

Parents are supported in this view by the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government no power over education. Here is some of the repetitive language included in federal school appropriation laws.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the first federal attempt to regulate and finance schools, stated: "Nothing in this act" shall authorize any federal official to "mandate, direct, or control" school curriculum. The 1970 General Education Provisions Act stipulates that "no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any" federal agency or official "to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction or selection of instructional materials by any" school system.

The 1979 law that created the Department of Education forbids it to exercise "any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum" or "program of instruction" of any school system. The amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act reiterates that no Education Department funds "may be used ... to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in" grades K-12.

Despite all those emphatic words, Obama's Department of Education, headed by an alumnus of the Chicago Democratic machine and other leftists, seeks to mold the minds of all our children into supporters of big government. Their vehicle to accomplish this is Common Core, which is artfully designed to impose de facto national uniformity while complying with all explicit federal prohibitions.

The mechanism of control is the tests all students must take, which will be written by the people who created Common Core. If students haven't studied a curriculum "aligned" with Common Core, they will have a hard time passing the tests required for a high school diploma and entry into college.

As explained by education researcher and author Darcy Pattison, the Common Core gang in 1996 gathered a cozy group of rich big businessmen, six governors and a few other politicians, and founded an organization called Achieve Inc. Working backward from the 12th grade down to kindergarten, this eventually morphed into the Common Core State Standards.

Achieve Inc. started implementation of Common Core with 13 states, but a national curriculum was still the goal, and a congressional debate about that would have been a political risk. So the Common Core advocates bypassed most elected officials and went straight to each state's Department of Education, and by 2009, 35 state curriculums had aligned with Common Core.

Common Core advocates then announced that "standards" had been developed "in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts ... to prepare our children for college and the workforce." By 2011, 45 states had signed up, even though the final draft of the standards was not yet available and had never been field-tested.

Still careful to skirt the laws barring federal control of curriculum, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used federal funds to bait the states to align with Common Core by offering grants from the federally funded Race to the Top program.

The Common Core promoters, whose goal is a national curriculum for all U.S. children despite laws prohibiting the government from requiring it, used the clever device of copyrighting the standards by a nongovernment organization, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This enables Common Core advocates to force uniform national standards while claiming that the laws prohibiting federal control of curriculum are not violated.

No one may copy or reprint the standards without permission, and states that sign on to Common Core may not change or modify the standards. The license agreement that states must sign in order to use Common Core states: "NGA/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards."


Australia:  NSW Government resists Commonwealth push for independent government funded schools

Different approaches to giving schools more independence

New South Wales is resisting any further embrace of the Federal Government's new $70 million Independent Public Schools initiative.

The reforms, launched earlier this month, include a goal of 25 per cent, or approximately 1500 existing public schools to become Independent Public Schools by 2017.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said on Sunday that he had letters from every state and territory, except South Australia, wanting to be part of the program.

But NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says his state has already substantially gone down the road of school autonomy and is not planning to go any further.

"We've made it clear and New South Wales has gone substantially down the road of increased school autonomy. Public schools in NSW will manage 70 per cent of their budget up from the current 10 per cent," he said.

"So we have gone substantially down the road of school autonomy, New South Wales has done a lot.

"The Commonwealth have got their views and I have met with Christopher Pyne to talk about where our reforms actually meet the kinds of changes that he would like to see and we continue those negotiations."

He says it is powerful for public schools to be part of a system and he does not want that to change with more autonomy.

"You have got to have a balance between the power of principals to make decisions about their schools but also keeping the power of a system in place, " he said.

Mr Pyne says NSW wants to be part of the independent schools program and he will continue to work with Mr Piccoli.

"I'll be working with him to develop the kind of autonomy in schools that we both think is of an advantage to students, particularly, in bringing about good outcomes for students," he said.

Mr Pyne has denied there are any tensions between himself and the NSW Education Minister saying he feels "very positive toward Adrian Piccoli".

Political lobbying

The Federal Education Minister has urged MPs to talk to parents and teachers to encourage schools in their communities to become independent public schools.

Mr Piccoli says he does not have a problem with federal MPs lobbying schools.  "Federal MPs are entitled to write to their local schools," he said.

But the the Director-General of Education and Communities Dr Michele Bruniges has taken issue and written to the state's public school principals.

" NSW public schools operate as part of a school system. Individual schools are therefore unable to enter into any such arrangement with the Commonwealth government," she wrote.  "Any discussions about independent public schools will be conducted at a departmental level."


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