“Union-Tribune’s” Falsehoods Seek to Divide and Conquer Public Education Supporters

by on January 6, 2010 · 21 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Organizing, San Diego

education Walmart-style

Privatizing public education - Walmart style.

The San Diego Unified School Board held a couple of meetings on Tuesday, discussing options in their search for a permanent School Superintendent and hoping to make some sense of the implications of deep funding cuts expected when Gov. Schwarzenegger announces his 2010 budget later this week.

Our local fish wrap (the Union-Tribune) blasted the Board in advance of the first meeting in an editorial:

Continuing its radical consolidation of power, the San Diego Unified school board majority has scheduled a special meeting today at which members are expected to take the first step toward eliminating the position of superintendent.

This would be a calamitous mistake, one that would make city schools a national laughingstock. Parents of students in San Diego Unified aren’t the only ones who should be up in arms. Everyone who cares about San Diego’s future should be alarmed.

Board members Shelia Jackson, Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans will pretend the decision to adopt an “alternative school district leadership model” is about efficiency or reform or even saving money, but no one should have any illusion about what’s going on. This is a power grab, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with improving schools and everything to do with Jackson’s, Barrera’s and Evans’ determination to destroy institutional obstacles to their micromanagement of every aspect of district operations.

There was only one small little problem with the editorial: the paper had its facts wrong. The idea for the “alternative school leadership model” under consideration was initiated by board member John de Beck, who, at last glance, was not a member in good standing of the “radical” faction that seeks to subjugate all that is good about American in collusion with the super evil teachers union.

kicking public ed

Ooops. You can put away the pitchforks. And the Board decided, after due deliberation, that maintaining the position of Superintendent was the best option available for them.

But an untrue factoid or two won’t get in the way of the Daily Fishwrap’s campaign to save us from these bad guys. You can expect more of the same because it’s all part of their game plan.

And that leads us to our “word of the day”, boys & girls. And that word is “meme”.

The Urban Dictionary definition of meme appropriate for the U-T’s campaign against the School Board is:

a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable.

The meme that the Union-Trib’s editors would like to foist upon their readers is that public employee unions are evil and the root cause of all governmental budgetary difficulties. Amongst older types, uncomfortable with today’s internetistic lingo, this process could also be described as the “big lie” technique. Specifically, as far the local public schools are concerned, that means the San Diego Education Association, an outfit that represents about 8000 teachers locally, gets demonized at every opportunity.

Painting the SDEA with tar brush of radicalism enables the “libertarian-conservative” thinkers on the U-T’s editorial board (and their brethren nationwide) to hide their true agenda: Privatizing public education. Once you strip away all the blue smoke and mirrors, that’s what it boils down to.

education tankThe United States invests over $800 billion on education annually and, unsurprisingly, the private sector wants a piece of it. But don’t just take my word for it, check out the major market analysis by the Montgomery Securities group presented to corporations across the country, which claims that “the education industry represents the largest market opportunity” … “the K-12 market is the Big Enchilada.”.

These folks are not really for charter schools, or vouchers or any of the other “education reforms” bandied about amongst the cocktail chatter at conservative confabs. It’s really about quashing the political power of teachers and their unions, who have an affinity for mobilizing voters in generally Democratic directions on issues. And a fast buck at the public’s expense.

Crush the unions, the thinking goes, and the flood gates will open for implementation of the conservative agenda. And the way to voter’s heart is through their wallet (taxes), so the SDEA and their cohorts get the blame for all the fiscal woes of the State. Never mind that many of these woes are the direct result of the unfettered greed unleashed through the deregulation of the financial sector and subsequent collapse of the economy spearheaded by these same “libertarian-conservatives”.

All of this is not meant to exempt or excuse the SDEA and its “subservient puppets” (actual descriptive words used by the U-T) on the School Board from scrutiny or criticism when it comes to the current state of affairs in our school district.

It’s in the nature of any institutional culture to defend their turf, and it’s a given that we’ll find plenty of instances where the educational needs of students are “short sheeted” as the workings of the San Diego Unified are closely examined in the next few months. But there’s a big difference between institutional inertia and the sort of institutional destruction envisioned by the right wing extremists pulling the strings in conservative circles these days.

For now, it’s best to approach potential solutions to the current crisis in education with the understanding that answers can only be found by bringing all parties to the table who believe that there is a future for public education. This means teachers, parents and the other stakeholders (like the companies that expect educated workers) need to work together. Dividing these groups by spreading disinformation, as the Union-Tribune is clearly seeking to do, only serves the purposes of those who would destroy public education.

Given that the State-wide political processes surrounding the creation of education budgets have failed in past years (We can now proudly point to California’s #47 ranking in terms of educational excellence), the best option for pushing back against this year’s likely cuts will be public actions that serve to remind our Governor and Legislature that further cuts in funding will have political consequences come election time in November.

“No mas!” is the slogan being bandied about amongst those concerned with the future of public education. No doubt the editors at our local daily will do everything in their power to intimidate or distract the public as part of their goal of turning education into a profit center as opposed to a public obligation. They need to be called out so the public understands their real agenda.

(We’ll have another story about the budget options for San Diego schools next week, after the State budget sees the light of day.)

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh January 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

don’t be fooled, people, by the guvenator’s State of the State speech where in he says he doesn’t want any further cuts to education.


Shawn Conrad January 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm

At least the Union Tribune does not delete and/ or edit its users posts.


jon January 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Uhhh…yes, they do. Quite frequently in fact.


Editor January 6, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Sorry, Shawn, we had to moderate unfounded allegations of criminal conduct, including any on your own part.


annagrace January 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm

terrific piece Doug. The meme you describe is prevalent throughout the whole public sector and the same kind of bogus charges are leveled daily against the City unions.

VOSD has interview with Marco Li Mandri worth reading http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/opinion/slop/article_c3059604-f8b9-11de-bacc-001cc4c03286.html on the topic of a dissolving city.


Frank Gormlie January 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Anna, I’m sorry if you’re going google-eyed on MLM – but he brings to the table such a checkered past that it’s difficult even to read that interview you linked us to. Hypocrisy, and self-aggrandizement via so-called maintenance improvement districts for starters.


lane tobias January 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

great editorial doug. some people – and I’m going to generalize, but not include the enlightened readers of the OB Rag – don’t have the ability to pick out the propaganda from within a mainstream media outlet’s lines. Its up to people like you to point it out.

the fact that this regards the future of our country, children’s development, and the sad state of San Diego’s schools, only enhances the importance.

thanks for being this voice.


Rob Hopwood January 7, 2010 at 6:58 am


The Union-Tribune’s Editorial Board and Opinion editors encourage community dialogue on important public matters. Thank you for engaging in this dialogue with us.

We would welcome a letter to the editor or an unsolicited manuscript on this issue. Here is the information about how to submit one:

a. E-mail a letter to the editor: letters@uniontrib.com
b. Submit a manuscript to the Opinion pages to the attention of Pat Flynn: opinion@uniontrib.com

It is the policy of the Union-Tribune to correct all errors. If you feel we’ve made an error of fact, please call (619) 293-1525, or write readers.rep@uniontrib.com, to report it.

The editorials you read in the Union-Tribune are the opinions of the U-T Editorial Board. Our editorial and opinion department is a separate department and is not part of the U-T’s newsroom. It also has a separate staff. The journalists in our newsroom and newsroom staff members do not take part in discussions on the content of the opinions expressed in our editorials.


Rob Hopwood
Social Media Specialist
The San Diego Union-Tribune and SignOnSanDiego.com


doug porter January 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

okay readers, i’d like a little feedback.
we got their attention:
(and lots of other props, h/t to Voice of San Diego and City Beat reporters for adding it to their twitter feeds)
should I go for it?
not waste my time?


Patty Jones January 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

go get ’em douggie.


Shane Finneran January 7, 2010 at 11:51 am

I’m with Pattie, Doug. Speak truth to power. We need as much of that as we can get!


doug porter January 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

okay, i’ve submitted a letter to the editor.
anybody wanna give odds that it gets printed?


Peyton Farquhar January 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

Way to go, Doug, but I don’t see the UT printing your piece. OTOH, considering its PR mouth piece has become aware of the above referenced article on this site, and, took the time to post how wonderfully acceptable “community participation” is encouraged, it may, for the sake of not appearing to be the exclusive tool of the plantation owners in SD, they may just publish it just to shut us up.


doug porter January 18, 2010 at 7:29 am

well, it’s been 10 days… it’s pretty safe to say they ain’t printing it. and just to prove my point about the UT’s real agenda being the destruction of public education, they ran another editorial based on another false premise yesterday.


Shane Finneran January 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

I’ll add my kudos for calling out the UT’s misinformation on this issue. There’s no getting around their BS here, from the omission of DeBeck’s role in particular to the ongoing campaign to demonize teachers in general.

Board members like Richard Barrera are fighting to advance for the common interest. The UT’s editorial writers are fighting to help responsibility-shirking wealthy folks dodge taxes. There’s no question who the true subservient puppets are in this story.


OB Joe January 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Doug – I think we’re all tired of the U-T’s naming the teachers’ union as part of the Axis of Evil. Not only the editorial board but throw in Chris Reed to the mix, and you have a haven of obsessed political witchdoctors trying to whip public sentiment their way. Go for it, dude!


mr fresh January 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm

since that bow tie bob got the ax, chris reed IS the editorial board. it’s him, the cartoonist and a couple of whomevers.


Ron January 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

Doug, of course the corporate media try to maintain a facade of being a democratic forum, not just a raw propaganda machine. But, hey, it’s a facade. Although ANY exposure of alternative views in the pages of a monster like the U-T is better than none, it will never do much more than reinforce the facade, and it for sure will not contribute much to responsible public education on any issue.

Noam Chomsky’s brief essay on “What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream” is a good addition to your critique of the U-T, their agenda, their use of meme. Big Lie, or “yellow” journalism is not the whole problem with corporate journalism. Rather, we might say, the Bigger Lie is the problem — the underlying view of the world that capitalism and the daily dictatorship of the bosses at our workplaces is something either ordained by some god or that it is some permanent feature of nature (or both). Human history proves this is false, and shows us that capitalism and its modern corporate form is a new invention, only a few hundred years old.

Chomsky’s piece is at http://www.zmag.org/zmag/viewArticle/12757

We should all tell Rob Hopwood and all of his ilk to GO SUCK ON YOUR MASTHEAD!

Long Live Progressive Alternative Meda!


Frank Gormlie January 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Hey Ron, have you seen how long Chomsky’s hair is these days?


Editor January 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Apparently, the OB Rag has found itself with this post by Doug Porter in a middle of a squabble about a superintendent for the School District – see this: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/education/schooled/article_c047ad54-fc91-11de-9747-001cc4c03286.html


doug porter January 10, 2010 at 8:29 am

ol’ Chris Reed at the UT has published his version of the truth. note the oblique reference to the OB Rag in the opening sentence. i’ll be weighing in on this shortly.


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