For those concerned about News Corporation’s influence on elections it is re-assuring to learn that Rupert does lose some of his political fights.
One of the biggest growth areas in what Tony Abbott calls ‘the Anglosphere’ is the commercialisation of the public education system. The creation of charter schools, the growth of online education, private sector emphasis (eg Microsoft) on educational content are all part of a multi-billion dollar market.
Over the past year there has been a major election battle in California for the Los Angeles School Board. Along with members of the secretive industry lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Rupert’s companies campaigned to get sympathetic candidates elected to the Board. News acquired Wireless Generation, an online for profit education software and testing company for $US360 million in 1920. It has now developed a ‘digital K-12 curricula to be sold and taught on a specialised Amplify Tablet’ according to the Centre for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch. See http://www.prwatch.org/node/12014.
The market, according to Rupert, is a $500 billion sector in the US alone. Totally coincidentally, about the same time Tony Abbott was also talking up the online education potential in Australia although the commitment didn’t seem to get much attention during the recent election campaign.
Anyway News donated $250,000 to support three of the Los Angeles’ Board candidates – all of whom were part of a Coalition for School Reform which advocates the privatisation of large parts of the public education system. Amplify CEO, Joel Klein, kicked in another $50k. Klein you will recall was brought to Australia by Julia Gillard to trumpet the successes of the New York school system. It was a small investment because if the LA Board bought tablets and subscription fees for just half of their students News would rake in more than $130 million a year. There were many other donors to the Education Board race and one of the Coalition candidates, Antonio Sanchez spent $2.2 million on the race. He was defeated by a fifth grade school teacher, Monica Ratcliff, and only one of the three Coalition candidates was successful.
$250,000 is probably insignificant in the context of the losses the News’ print media outlets are currently incurring although we won’t really know until the year end result is finally released a month after the due date. But it is instructive to see that Rupert uses his money as well as his mouthpieces in campaigns of concern to him.
With continuing speculation about the Australian Senate election outcome the blog’s friend John Spitzer reminded the blog that gaming elections as undertaken in Australia by the self-styled ‘truthseeker’ analyst has a strong theoretical basis in Arrow’s theorem – so named because it is based on work by the Nobel Prize winning economist, Kenneth Arrow, for his PhD thesis and later elaborated in a book, Social Choice and Individual Values (1951).
Wikipedia, to save readers looking it up, sums up the theorem as: “In social choice theory, Arrow’s impossibility theorem, the General Possibility Theorem, or Arrow’s paradox, states that, when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no rank order voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specific set of criteria.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow’s_impossibility_theorem.
And on the subject of elections, it is noteworthy that donations to Cathy McGowan’s campaign in Indi against sitting member Sophie Mirabella came from all over Australia. Some donations, seemingly influenced by some poignant educational memories, came from people who had taught Ms Mirabella while she was at school.