Education

Connecticut Cuts 'Ade at Schools

Gatorade and Powerade, as well as soda and other sports drinks, will be banned from Connecticut schools after a "feverish" double-team by Coca-Cola and Pepsi failed to stop the state's House of Representatives from passing "the strongest school nutrition law in the nation." A flier distributed by Coke's PR reps, Sullivan & LeShane, attacked the bill, urging, "It is counterproductive to tell an 18-year-old who can drive a car,

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Crunch Time for School Junk Food?

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a frequent proponent of legislation protecting children, is now taking on a formidable opponent: the snack industry. Matthew Chayes reports that Harkin has introduced legislation that would tighten the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) definition for "foods of minimal nutritional value." Sen.

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Academic Freedom Ain't What It Used to Be

This summer the Wisconsin-based staff of the Center for Media and Democracy had the pleasure of working with Molly Riordan, an Ithaca College student, who came out to Madison to be our intern. A smart and politically engaged student, Riordan quickly took to our work, adding and editing numerous articles on SourceWatch, our collaborative online encyclopedia of the people, issues and groups shaping public opinion and public policy.

I suggested that she write an article on something of interest to her. What resulted was the cover story for the third quarter issue (now available online) of our award-winning quarterly publication PR Watch. In her article "Academic Freedom Takes a Step to the Right," Riordan takes a look at Students for Academic Freedom, a conservative organization with over a hundred campus chapters that claims to promote "academic diversity." Closer examination of SAF reveals its close affiliation with "Marxist-turned-conservative activist" David Horowitz and a pattern of only identifying cases involving conservative students resisting alleged "leftist indoctrination."

Prosecuting Campus Thoughtcrimes

"Some Republicans are pushing a measure through the House of Representatives meant to ensure that students hear 'dissenting viewpoints' in class and are protected from retaliation because of their politics or religion. Colleges say the measure isn't needed, but with Congress providing billions of dollars to higher education, they are worried," writes the Wall Street Journal.

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Fake News Gets Called on the Carpet

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams"The Bush administration violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party," ruled the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO report, "the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities," found that the Department of Education contract with the Ketchum PR firm violated the ban on "covert propaganda." Objectionable activities include a video news release where PR flack Karen Ryan says the Bush tutoring program "gets an A-plus"; news monitoring to determine whether stories agree that "the Bush administration / the G.O.P. is committed to education"; and Armstrong Williams' newspaper columns and television spots praising the No Child Left Behind Act, without disclosing that he was paid by the Education Department. The GAO doesn't have enforcement powers, but reports to the White House and Congress.

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The Education Department's Paid Apple Polishers

An "angry op-ed" in the Dallas Morning News claimed the city's school system was "limiting the future and opportunities for our children" by not enacting policies mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind law more quickly.

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Why Armstrong Williams Wants Us To Forgive and Forget

There's an old PR trick that if bad news can't be suppressed, its release should be stalled until late on a Friday afternoon or just before a holiday break. It's a trick that served the U.S. Department of Education well when, late on Friday April 15, it released its Office of Inspector General's damning final report into the $240,000 Armstrong Williams contract to promote the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation.

The strategy behind the late Friday afternoon news dump is simple: most media outlets will be squeezed for space to cover a late-breaking story, looming deadlines will ensure harried journalists don't have time to get much further than the executive summary, and by the time Monday rolls around, it will be seen as stale news by editors with the attention span of a gnat.

Reading the 20-page report, which was prompted by Greg Toppo's exposé on the Williams contract in USA Today, it's easy to see why the Education Department wanted to bury it. The report chronicles the deception, bungling and mismanagement behind the Williams contract.

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