Saturday, July 9, 2011

Selective Shaming

Mark Steyn
If only government were as accountable as British tabloids.

Something rather weird happened in London last week. For some time, the Guardian, a liberal, broadsheet, “respectable” newspaper, has been hammering the News of the World, a populist, tabloid, low-life newspaper, over its employees’ penchant for “hacking” the phones of royals and celebrities — Prince Harry and Hugh Grant, for example. This isn’t as forensic as it sounds: Until recently, most British cellphones were sold with the default password set to either 0000 or 1234, and most customers never bothered to change it.

But last Monday it emerged that the News of the World had also hacked into the telephone of a missing schoolgirl subsequently found dead, as well as those of family members of the July 7 Tube bombing victims and of British servicemen killed in Afghanistan. Nobody much cares if the Aussie supermodel Elle Macpherson and other denizens of the demimonde get their voicemails intercepted, but dead schoolgirls and soldiers changed the nature of the story, and events moved swiftly. On Thursday, Rupert Murdoch’s son and heir announced the entire newspaper would be closed down. The whole thing. Gone.

The News of the World wasn’t any old fish-wrap. Founded in 1843, it was by the mid–20th century the most-read newspaper in the English-speaking world, selling 9 million copies a week. Even in today’s emaciated market, every week more than 2.6 million Britons bought News of the Screws (as it was affectionately known). Last Sunday, it was the biggest-selling newspaper in the United Kingdom and Europe. This Sunday, it’s history. To put it in American terms, consider those George Soros–funded websites claiming they pressured Fox into “firing” Glenn Beck. This is the equivalent of pressuring Mr. Murdoch into closing down the entire Fox News network.

I confess to feeling a little queasy at the sight of bien pensant liberal opinion gloating at having deprived 4 million people of their preferred reading matter. If one were so inclined, one might be heartened by the swift responsiveness to pressure of the allegedly all-powerful bogeyman Murdoch. But you can’t help but notice that this supposed public shaming is awfully selective. In the week of the News of the World revelations, it was reported that the Atlanta Public Schools system has spent the last decade systemically cheating on its tests. Not the students, but the superintendent, and the union, and 38 principals, and at least 178 teachers — whoops, pardon me, “educators” — and some 44 of the 56 school districts. Teachers held “changing parties” at their homes at which they sat around with extra supplies of erasers correcting their students’ test answers in order to improve overall scores and qualify for “No Child Left Behind” federal funding that could be sluiced into maintaining their lavish remuneration. Let’s face it, it’s easier than teaching, right?

The APS Human Resources honcho Millicent Few illegally had an early report into test-tampering destroyed. So APS not only got the federal gravy but was also held up to the nation at large as a heartwarming, inspirational example of how large urban school districts can reform themselves and improve educational opportunities for their children. And its fake test scores got its leader, Beverly Hall, garlanded with the National Superintendent of the Year Award, the Administrator of the Year Award, the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Keystone Award for Leadership in Education, the Concerned Black Clergy Education Award, the American Association of School Administrators Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, and a zillion other phony-baloney baubles with which the American edu-fraud cartel scratches its own back.

In reality, Beverly Hall’s Atlanta Public Schools system was in the child-abuse business: It violated the education of its students in order to improve its employees’ cozy sinecures. The whole rotten, stinking school system is systemically corrupt from the superintendent down. But what are the chances of APS being closed down? How many of those fraudulent non-teachers will waft on within the system until their lucrative retirements?

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