30 April 2012

Gove, Klein and Murdoch - a Very 'Educational' Triumvirate!

Last week at the Leveson Inquiry, we were asked to suspend all disbelief and to accept Rupert Murdoch's assurance that he never uses his papers to promote his business interests. Never. He simply doesn't do business like that, apparently. Ever.

I tried. Truly I did....
Unfortunately, my pesky curiosity had been piqued some months ago by something I read on a U.S. blog:-
Billionaire Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News, which promotes both a "corporate education reform" agenda and politicians like Governor Chris Christie to carry that agenda out. Murdoch recently hired Joel Klein, former NYC Schools Chancellor and toady to billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to run Wireless Generation, Murdoch's venture into the education business.
The name Joel Klein rang a bell. When Rupert and James Murdoch appeared together last year to be questioned by the DCMS Select Committee, a figure seated almost directly behind them caught my attention:-
 He sat impassively throughout the whole proceedings, barely blinking, yet strangely tense. It turns out that he, Joel Klein, had been appointed in 2010 as a 'fixer' by News Corp to deal with the turmoil resulting from the phone-hacking scandal.
 Obviously a man very close to Rupert Murdoch, he was also present at the Leveson Inquiry this week, seated with Wendi and Lachlan Murdoch in the courtroom.
( More information on Joel Klein HERE )

During his testimony, Rupert Murdoch was asked by Mr Jay (taken from official transcript):-
Mr Jay: Fair enough. May I ask you about Mr Gove. Is he a politician who is close to you?
Rupert Murdoch: No, I wish he was. He was - I don't say that any other than to say that he worked with me, had a very distinguished career at the Times for a long time. I might have met him very occasionally then, walking through the Times. I think he and his wife, who is also a distinguished journalist there, they've come to dinner once the last two or three years, that's with his wife. The I think there was another occasion when Mr Joel Klein was with me and he came over because he was to do a conference with Mr Gove on education. That was -- he was invited when he was -- long before he joined me. when he was chancellor of the New York City school system. And there might have been another one. I like to get a few people around me of interest and different, from different fields, not just politicians.

Michael Gove, Joel Klein and the US Charter School Experts observe a maths lesson at the King Solomon Academy. 

Ahead of the Free Schools Conference, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, Schools Minister Lord Hill, Joel Klein, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Monique Miller and Josephine Baker, US Charter Schools visit King Solomon Academy on Friday 28 January 2011. 

King Solomon Academy is run by the education charity ARK and is also one of the proposers wishing to set up free schools.

There are many reports in the press and elsewhere which show the close liaison between Michael Gove, Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch:

Who Do They Know - Michael Gove's Meetings with NI execs.
What Gove's Meetings With Murdoch Tell us - New Statesman

During his testimony to the Leveson Inquiry, Rupert Murdoch repeatedly denied that he had any influence over his editors or journalists. He contradicted himself later when he said, flatly denying that he was able to shape the policies of governments,: 'If you want to judge my thinking, look at the Sun.' 
Let's look at Mr Murdoch's thinking on education through the eyes of a Sun reader (if you're a teacher reading this blogpiece, you may wish to don a hardhat and book a precautionary course of anger-management sessions..):-

Ed Balls News: Labour ex-Minister Slammed by Michael Gove - Sun
Time to root out the Bad Teachers - Sun
Teachers Strikes: the Class Divide - Sun
Reward our Top Teachers and Dump the Duds - Sun
Labour's Grade Betrayal: Michael Gove Has Accused Labour of Betraying a Generation of Poorest Kids - Sun 
17 Duff Teachers Axed in 10 Years - Sun
Blair's Teacher Son to Strike - Sun
How Academies Will Benefit ALL Children - Sun

 These articles offer no real investigative journalism. They are full of exaggeration and skewed facts and on the whole do not represent a fair, balanced appraisal of the British education system. They are 'knocking copy', intended to prime the public, to bring about a belief that our education system is rotten and needs a complete, radical overhaul.
Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein
  The pieces contain the same message as the one contained in a diatribe speech from Rupert Murdoch during his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry, when we were treated to his views on the prognosis and cure for our ailing schools and society - exactly the same message, too, as that of Joel Klein in his efforts in the U.S. to clean up their defective education system!

Below is a very telling and acerbic animation made in the U.S:-

Just one example highlighting how Klein's approach has a similar ring about it to those of Murdoch and his megaphone, the Sun:-
Joel Klein Compares Teachers to Murderers - Good Education

Michael Gove allegedly employs extremely secretive methods when planning and discussing his policies for British education with those close to him, instead of using official email and communications outlets:-

How Government Uses Private Emails and Texts to Evade Scrutiny - TBIJ
Education Department 'Deleted Email Exchanges' With Michael Gove Adviser - Guardian
BBC News - Michael Gove Loses 'Private Email' Battle
ICO Statement: Department of Education Decision Notice - ICO

 This, despite assurances that this government would be the most transparent and accountable ever! One wonders just what is being hidden - and why...
 Rupert Murdoch owns Harper Collins which publishes, amongst other genres, text-books for schools. Could this be at least part of the reason?

 I, for one, heard nothing from Rupert Murdoch last week during his two-day 'grilling' which would give me reason to believe his motives are in any way altruistic. Least of all in the realm of education.

Update - It would appear that when Gove met Murdoch and Klein at a site in London Docklands to discuss a possible 'News International Academy' or Free School, Boris Johnson was also in attendance.....as this article which appeared on the BBC Website today shows: - BBC News - London Mayor Boris Johnson in 'News International Links' - Video