Charter schools, Corporate, Cost of Education, Domestic, Elementary / Primary / Junior, Ethics, For-Profit, Friend, Fraud, or Fishy, High school / Secondary 2, Investors, Opinion, Public education, Publishers, Required - Written by Wired Academic on Monday, October 17, 2011 15:48 - 0 Comments
Is Rupert Murdoch The Steve Jobs of Education Reform? Hecklers Say No.
Today, media baron Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp., writes an essay for The Wall Street Journal editorial page about his views on education reform (“The Steve Jobs Model for Education Reform”). It’s based on a speech he gave Friday to the Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit in San Francisco. We agree with many of his points and appreciate a company the size of News Corp., getting involved in the space. At the same time, his title begs the question of whether Murdoch views himself as a Steve Jobs in education? If so, he has a lot of work to do. His company News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, has also been doing some deals in the online education space. It hired former New York Public Schools chief Joel Klein to head up that business division. Meanwhile, the recent spate of ethical scandals in Murdoch’s journalism divisions, including at The Wall Street Journal, has proved a setback for the News Corps. Wireless Generation business, which lost a $27 million contract from the state of New York. Murdoch has a strong profit motive to reform education, but does he and News Corp. possess the aesthetic sensibility of Steve Jobs’ Apple and the ethical bedrock to change education for the better? Here’s Murdoch’s words:
At the top end, our public schools are producing fewer and fewer graduates who have the skills necessary for the world’s best jobs. At the bottom, each year more than a million Americans—that’s 7,000 every school day—are dropping out of high school. In the middle, too many American children float from grade to grade in schools that never challenge them to reach their full potential.
This is unjust, unsustainable and un-American. And it is especially galling because we have the technology to change it.
He decries the New York Times’ coverage of education technology and the “colossal failure of imagination” in America’s school system. He notes that per pupil spending on K-12 education has doubled in the past three decades while achievement has been flat. He thinks technology can change education to meet individual needs of students the same way the iPod forced the music industry to cater to customers. He cites Rocketship charter schools in San Jose, Calif., and its blended model of brick and mortar classroom learning with tutor-led small groups that use online learning technologies.
Let’s be clear: Technology is never going to replace teachers. What technology can do is give teachers closer, more human and more rewarding interactions with their students. It can give children lesson plans tailored to their pace and needs. And it can give school districts a way to improve performance in the classroom while saving their taxpayers money.
Everything we need to do is possible now. But the investments the private sector needs to make will not happen until we have a clear answer to a basic question: What is the core body of knowledge our children need to know?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on academic standards. But as a business leader, I do know something about how common standards unlock investment and unleash innovation. For example, once we established standards for MP3 and Wi-Fi, innovators had every incentive to invest their brains and capital in building the very best products compatible with those standards.
He makes the case that education should undergo similar standardization. He points to more than 40 states agreeing what students should know in subjects like math and English.
Steve Jobs knew all about competitive markets. He once likened our school system to the old phone monopoly. “I remember,” he said in a 1995 interview, “seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said ‘We don’t care. We don’t have to.’ And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.”
We have to care. In this new century, good is not good enough. Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn’t work or gets in the way. And to make our bet that if we can engage a child’s imagination, there’s no limit to what he or she can learn.
Meanwhile, during his speech in San Francisco, Murdoch encountered hecklers. He brushed off the disturbances as kind of fun. But it was interesting that the audience cheered for the hecklers. Here’s what a local TV station reported on the incident:
On Thursday, a teacher’s union picketed outside the Palace Hotel where the summit was taking place.
“This conference is about how (you) make a profit out of the fiscal crisis,” said Ken Tray with the United Educators of San Francisco. “There is very little about academic achievement…that is Rupert Murdochville.”
Murdoch is a controversial figure. During his speech, he often mentioned Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, considered by many to be a technology icon and visionary.
“He was a Silicon Valley liberal who believed that monopolies like our public school system don’t work, and that parents deserved student vouchers for their children,” Murdoch said.
Jobs was, in fact, in favor of student vouchers. Despite this, the protesters still heckled Murdoch, but the News Corporation CEO seemed to take things in stride.
“It’s okay, a little controversy makes things a little more interesting,” Murdoch said to applause.
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