NBC’s Education Nation’s Weak Attempt to Set the Tone of the Education Reform Debate

A few weeks out from NBC’s Education Nation event, I have had a great deal of time to reflect on that event and my experience with it. Others have done a much better job of pointing out all the flaws of that event, so I don’t have a great deal to add to that. One thing I would add regarding that event was if its purpose was to set the tone and focus of the education reform debate, it may not have accomplished that purpose. It was clear to me that NBC was not interested in opening up the debate to question whether the Obama Administration’s education policy is the right thing for schools. This was no more clearer than the segment with Joe Scarborough. He barely allowed AFT’s Randi Weingarten the opportunity to respond, and the questions he asked were already loaded and slanted against teachers and teacher unions. But I won’t go further in the specifics of the whole NBC production, other than to say that they did try to control the debate and the conversation with news show hosts and moderators who made it clear where their views lie. It’s not really a shock to me any more. The Fox News Channel does the same thing 24 hours a day. They control the debate tightly on their broadcasts. NBC did the same thing with Education Nation, or tried to.

I say tried to because in the 21st century world of social media, it is impossible to control the entire conversation. NBC might be able to control who is speaking and asking the questions on their sets, but the Twitter stream and comments being posted on Facebook can’t be controlled. I was amazed by the tweets of fellow educators during each of the NBC Education Nation events. Most were thoughtful and passionate comments that displayed a genuine concern for what is best for the education of our children.

In the end, just what did NBC gain with it’s Education Nation broadcast? It obviously scored points with the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan. The charter school companies and supporters were happy. In the end though, NBC left a lot of educators angry and feeling more dejected about a profession they dearly love. For me, I haven’t been able to tune in to my favorite Rachel Maddow since. I am still trying to decide whether MSNBC has chosen the same path that Fox News has blazed with its unwavering support for the Republican establishment. Perhaps the NBC network has decided to become the unwavering voice of our Democratic president and his his education policies specifically. I hope not. I have always admired this network’s independence.

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