Arianna Huffington Sells Out on American Education

Click on Huffington Post these days, and you are immediately inundated by the presence of Arianna Huffington. Watch Arianna on MSNBC's "Hardball" or "Countdown"! See Arianna on "Meet the Press" or CNN! Laugh as Arianna makes a (very teeny) funny on "Real Time with Bill Maher"! Read about Arianna's new book! See how Arianna sums up the previous week's news! Who cares about politics or the news when there's Arianna and her opinions to read or watch? It's wall-to-wall, 24/7, all-Arianna-all-the-time, in a self-promotional onslaught that would make Donald Trump blush.

Never one to let her principles, such as they might be (a former rabid conservative, she was an active supporter of Newt Gingrich and a strident caller for Bill Clinton's impeachment until she noticed the talking heads vacuum on the left), stand in the way of self-promotion and making a buck, Arianna has apparently taken the pulse of the current education debate. Seeing where the money and the publicity are, she has now thrown in with the education deform crowd. Her site is now plastered with "Waiting for Superman" ads (Why not scoop up some of that Gates/hedge funder ad money?), but that's hardly the least of it.

On October 4, Arianna herself (or someone writing under her name) announced the addition to Huffpost of HuffPost Education. Even the title of her announcement post inadvertently reveals her short-attention-span commitment to this issue: "Turning a Spotlight on America's Education Moment." Not to worry. When the "moment" has passed and there's no money, notoriety, or ad revenue from it, we can be sure Arianna will maintain her commitment to the cause of American education.

To continue. Arianna informs us that, while "delving into" education for her latest book, Third World America (PLUG!), her "research" led her to a sneak preview of "Waiting for Superman." She knew, in her heart of hearts, that this movie would get America talking about schools. So now that the movie has been released and she has been able to read the direction the public wind was blowing, she has moved boldly forward to make HuffPost part of the national dialog.

And what a dialog it promises to be! For starters, Arianna proudly announced in her posting that the movie's distributor, Paramount Pictures, will be HuffPost Education's "inaugural sponsor." She tells us her chosen editor is Brian Sirgutz, President of the non-profit Causecast ("With Brian's guidance and vision, Causecast is positioned to become a powerful mechanism for social good."). Brian's education expertise apparently arises from his three-plus years feeding off the estate of deceased singer Aaliyah after three earlier years as president of Elementree Records, the promotional company for the bands Korn and the Firm. Then again, perhaps his relevant background for this nationally important issue area comes from his bachelor's degree from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, involving a "concentration on the impact of technology on human consciousness in modern western societies."

Regardless, Arianna goes blithely on, apparently without any copy editing, to write:

HuffPost Education is designed to be a hub for education news and trends -- and will be home to a spirited, ongoing conversation about what's gone wrong with America's schools, and what needs to be done to fix them. We'll have topical takes from an eclectic mix of stakeholders in the education debate. Among those already lined up to weigh in: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Davis Guggenheim, Bill and Melinda Gates, John Legend, New York City School [sic] Chancellor Joel Klein, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Geoffrey Canada, whose inspiring work at the Harlem Children Zone [sic] is featured in "Waiting for Superman."

Eclectic indeed! How this "dialog" could possibly be any more one-sided is utterly beyond my imagining. Even if other voices are occasionally permitted a space, the tone and philosophical leanings are nakedly revealed in the line-up HuffPost is promoting, a list that would allow Brian Williams (the diva of NBC's recent "Education Nation") to join "the Donald" in blushing. Still being featured on HuffPost's Front Page, the October 4 posting by John Legend, "Wake Up! We Know How to Fix Our Schools," sets the tone. Mr. Legend establishes his education reform credentials as having written the music for (what else?) "Waiting for Superman" and his connections with Harlem Village Academy (where he has performed as a fund-raiser) and "my friend" Dr. Roland Fryer (he of NYCDOE's experiments on children, "pay for grades" and "give the kids cell phones as academic rewards so they can hear educationally supportive messages from renowned high school graduate LeBron James").

So after -- and despite -- all this, I decided to go ahead and have a look at HuffPost Education. The latest post (as of the morning of 10/10/10) was from NBA basketball players Etan Thomas and Laron Profit. Seems they saw "Waiting for Superman" and got their education about education. Next in line was a social systems scientist named Steven Brant. He also saw "Waiting for Superman" but doesn't think it goes far enough. After him came the celebrated education expert and actor Matthew Bodine. You'll never believe this, but he saw "Waiting for Superman," too! Then there is one Mimi Carter, EVP of SparkLight Communications, who berates education bloggers (Valerie Straus of the Washington Post's "The Answer Sheet," specifically) for spending too much time blaming Obama and not enough time "focusing on real issues."

I scanned down a bit further and saw a posting by another of HuffPost's editors, Jonathan Daniel Harris. He openly states in the first sentence of his article that "I've never been an education activist." That is, of course, until (you'll N-E-V-E-R guess) he saw "Waiting for Superman." He titled his posting, in part, "Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?"

Insulted, disgusted, and overcome by nausea at this point, I simply couldn't go on any further.
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