The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded conservative advocacy group that specializes in lobbying state legislatures for enactment of favorable legislation, has issued a "2004 Report Card on American Education" that provides an instructive example of the ways that industry-funded organizations manipulate information to reach foreordained conclusions.
ALEC's report, which comes packaged with a glossy clip-art cover showing a pencil, ruler and other classroom implements, was authored by Andrew T. LeFevre, the President of LeFevre Associates, a PR/lobby firm based in northern Virginia. It was edited by Lori Drummer, who heads ALEC's education task force, which is "responsible for overseeing the development of ALEC policy related to education reform and school choice programs" - euphemisms for school privatization, which ALEC advocates.
The Business Software Alliance's "copyright-crusading cartoon ferret" appears in "marketing campaigns to teach kids to be good cybercitizens," and its "antipiracy comic book and teacher's guide" is mailed to grade-school classrooms.
The agribusiness giant Monsanto will donate $50,000 to the Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) Consortium. AITC is a "grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture," designed "to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture ... so that they may become citizens who support wise agricultural policies," according to AITC's website.
A 15-year-old boy in Prosser, Washington has been interrogated by the U.S. Secret Service about anti-war drawings he turned in to his art teacher. One drawing depicted President Bush's head on a stick. Another depicted Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war - on terrorism." Kevin Cravens, a friend of the boy's family, criticized the Secret Service investigation. "If this 15-year-old kid in Prosser is perceived as a threat to the president, then we are living in '1984,'" Cravens said.
With little fanfare and almost no media coverage, Congress recently passed House Resolution 3077, which threatens academic freedom by imposing rules on what professors can and can't teach. HR 3077 focuses in particular on "area studies" (university programs that study international culture and politics in specific regions of the world).
The student editor of the California Patriot, a right-wing student newspaper at the University of California-Berkeley, claims that conservatives are the true heirs to the university's free speech movement of the 1960s. "The conservatives on Berkeley's campus have employed various strategies in order to insert their views -- whether they're wanted or not -- into campus debates," writes Michael Gaworecki.
"Civic Progress, a St. Louis-based group made up of the heads of the region's largest corporations, is paying Jay Lawrence, who is co-chairman of Fleishman-Hillard's corporate reputation management unit, to play a behind-the-scenes role in the city school reform effort," O'Dwyer's PR reports.
The venerable Parent-Teachers Association has begun seeking corporate funding partnerships with companies including Coca-Cola Enterprises, Disney Interactive and Microsoft. "I know the PTA may need money, but when they accept money from whomever, it loses its independence," says parent Loretta Pleasant-Jones. "How can a PTA now turn and say, 'We want the Coke machines out of our schools?' "
Several high school teachers in New Mexico have been suspended or fired after refusing to enforce pro-war views in their classrooms. Geoff Barrett, a teacher at Albuquerque's Highland High School, was suspended after refusing to remove student-made artwork expressing views on the recent U.S. war against Iraq.