NOT TODAY, SATAN — Calling Out Edu Propaganda by Columnist Nick Kristof Published Today in The Times

I am correcting a poorly written and shameful op-ed/propaganda piece by NYT columnist Nick Kristof. I annotate Kristof’s op-ed, paragraph by paragraph (since the Genius annotator isn’t compatible with NY Times’s website).

Kristof’s op-ed: A Solution When a Nation’s Schools Fail
**Annotated version by Kenneth Campbell**

Pre-text: It should not come as a surprise to anyone that a columnist, supported by many affluent and prejudiced people, target the black community — through sheer ignorance and a desire to tell anything except the truth, yet hide behind a pitiful Trumpist talking-point. The link to the original piece written by Kristof is not included here as I have a strong policy against spreading propaganda.

Paragraph 1

BUCHANAN, Liberia — Imagine an elementary school where students show up, but teachers don’t. Where 100 students squeeze into a classroom but don’t get any books. *Where teachers are sometimes illiterate and periodically abuse students.* Where families pay under the table to get a “free” education, yet students don’t learn to read.

ANNOTATION

Kristof calls for the expansion of privately funded schools and charter schools in Liberia. Though he writes about “where teachers are sometimes illiterate and periodically abuse students” — I am not certain whether he’s referring to charter schools in the USA or Liberia’s education system. I know of cases where this exists in America’s charter schools — please interview parents and kids of the charter schools that asked you to write about this piece, Kristof.
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Paragraph 2

That’s public education in many poor countries.

ANNOTATION

That’s public education in America, boo. Please do your research.
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Paragraph 3

And it’s why the hostility of American teachers unions and some of their progressive supporters to trials of private management of public schools abroad is so misconceived. This country, Liberia, is leading an important experiment in helping kids learn in poor countries — and it’s undermined by misguided Americans, including some of my fellow liberals.

ANNOTATION

Is Kristof attempting here to distance the Democratic Party from its relationship with labor unions? If so, I look forward to reading his op-eds in the fall of the next presidential election when he pleads with teachers’ unions to support the Democratic nominee. Kristof would be wise to recall that in the USA, charter schools were marketed to the American public by Republicans as a temporary “experiment”. I’m uncomfortable by his use of the term “experiment” here because as we’ve seen in the USA, charters no longer wish to be labeled an experiment — they now instead want to convert all public schools to charter schools. Yet, they lie and insist this is not the case. (Even after they’re caught red-handed.) Seems strange that Kristof never called out rich charter school backers when their secret plan to charterize Los Angeles schools with a billionaire investor had been leaked. 
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Paragraph 4

“The status quo has failed,” George Werner, Liberia’s education minister, told me. “Teachers don’t show up, even though they’re paid by the government. There are no books. Training is very weak. School infrastructure is not safe.

ANNOTATION

Lest not forget; this is an op-ed, not any real piece of journalism. Kristof failed to ask why schools are unsafe, why some teachers may not show up, why there are few books, and why training is very weak. Kristof should express whether he supports charters’ plans to strip requirements for teacher certification or training in the USA.
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Paragraph 5

“We have to do something radical,” he added.

ANNOTATION

Kristof loves the phrase “radical” provided it doesn’t impact people like him or people who look like him.
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Paragraph 6

So Liberia is handing over some public schools to Bridge International Academies, a private company backed by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to see if it can do better.

ANNOTATION

This would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. Reports have shown that if billionaires in Seattle, for example, had paid their taxes, the schools might have the funding they need to be sufficient and productive. Instead, they dodge their taxes and fund international private “schools.” Sidebar: Will Kristof stand by and praise the work the Zuckerbergs have done in schools across the USA to-date? If so, please go home and sit down.
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Paragraph 7

So far, it seems it can — much better. An interim study just completed shows Bridge schools easily outperforming government-run schools in Liberia, and a randomized trial is expected to confirm that finding. It would be odd if schools with teachers and books didn’t outperform schools without them.

ANNOTATION

Okay, Kristof. We’ll remember that this is an op-ed and someone has got to pay that fee of yours — maybe the private company that completed this interim “completed” study can send me a nod or two, too? If anyone believes this, I’ve got a bridge to Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s unity school to sell you.
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Paragraph 8

If the experiment continues to succeed, Liberia’s education minister would like to hand over “as many schools as possible” to private providers. Countries in Asia and others in Africa are also interested in adopting this model.

ANNOTATION

Propaganda at its finest. Two snaps for Kristof.
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Paragraph 9

The idea of turning over public schools to a for-profit company sparks outrage in some quarters. There’s particular hostility to Bridge, because it runs hundreds of schools, both public and private, in poor countries (its private schools in other countries charge families about $7 a month).

ANNOTATION

In which quarter, outside of mostly white, affluent quarters does this not spark outrage? This column reads like someone selling colonialism to poor nations because there’s a discounted rate and it’s the new cost-efficient government spending trend. #ByeFelicia

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[break for photo of African children reading to bring ‘value’ to his point]

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Paragraph 10

“Bridge’s for-profit educational model is robbing students of a good education,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, America’s largest teachers union, declared last fall. Education International, which represents the N.E.A. and other teachers unions around the world, similarly excoriates Bridge and the Liberian government.

ANNOTATION

I am quite surprised that Kristof took a break from writing propaganda to issue this piece. Though, I am sure the Times’ editor asked him to.
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Paragraph 11

I understand critics’ fears (and share some about for-profit schools in the U.S.). They see handing schools over to Bridge as dismantling the public education system — one of the best ideas in human history — for private profit.

ANNOTATION

No, you don’t, Kristof. “I hear what you’re saying and I agree, but -” You can stop right there. Amusing to see Kristof praise public education but seek to publish this piece that only moves to erode faith in it despite public education being what he calls “one of the best ideas in human history”. Surely, Kristof will say that one of his other best ideas is “moving on from public education”. Wait for it….
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Paragraph 12

But I’ve followed Bridge for years, my wife and I wrote about it in our last book, and the concerns are misplaced. Bridge has always lost money, so no one is monetizing children. In fact, it’s a start-up that tackles a social problem in ways similar to a nonprofit, but with for-profit status that makes it more sustainable and scalable.

ANNOTATION

Kristof has a career in selling cars if writing propaganda fails. “They’ve always lost money, so no one is monetizing children.” — — do with that pathetic argument what you will. He calls for making schools “for profit” to make it more sustainable and scalable”. Remember when he called himself a liberal a few paragraphs ago? (Edit, he meant: ‘Liberal except for when it impacts people who look like me.’)
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Paragraph 13

More broadly, the world has failed children in poor countries. There have been global campaigns to get more children in school, but that isn’t enough. The crucial metric isn’t children attending school, but children learning in school.

ANNOTATION

Finally something Kristof and I can agree on. It seems strange that his op-ed isn’t instead directed at influencing post-industrialized and developed nations to commit more funding and scalable infrastructure support towards global education initiatives and fair taxation, contributions, and private-public initiatives that would pay for it, rather than attacks on public institutions.
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Paragraph 14

Here in Liberia in the village of Boegeezay in Rivercess County, I dropped in on a regular public school that officially had 16 teachers assigned to it. Initially, I saw four; a couple more trickled in hours later.

ANNOTATION

Edit: “So, in my junior year at university I spent my spring break changing lives in Africa by visiting schools and riding elephants. And, once I saw a school where there were only like four teachers because there was a conflict or food shortage or bombs or something. I guess that was like their version of a snow day?”
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Paragraph 15

I asked one girl in the school’s third grade if she could read the word “hands” (which was on her T-shirt); she couldn’t. I asked her what eight plus five equals. After a while, she guessed 12. Finally, I asked her to write the letter “E” in my notebook. She couldn’t.

ANNOTATION

Edit: “I bought a bunch of t-shirts from the Kardashian’s store and gave them to kids. I asked one girl if she ever heard of Kim and she said ‘no.’ I couldn’t believe it. I’m guessing that all of the kids in Africa have never heard of Kim K. O-M-G.”
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Paragraph 16

Americans wonder why 60 million elementary school-age children worldwide don’t go to school. It’s no wonder if you have to pay under-the-table school fees and know that years of “education” will get your children nothing.

ANNOTATION

Americans wonder why private schools and wealthy charter school backers in the USA actively work to undermine our governments and erode faith in public education. We ask why public education is so overly-political; yet the reason is because instead of reporting or covering the motivation of these individuals, there are characters like Kristof, who instead focus their pens on following the attack lines that affluent people have already drawn for him.

These affluent private education and charter supporters target communities of color in the USA and abroad for a purpose. While their books (when they are actually transparent) don’t always show a profit; their political profit amasses and their influence grows. They are not throwing millions of dollars into an entity without some expectation in return. Instead of paying their fair share of taxes, these individuals are pivoting their time, attention, and money into something far better: influence.
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Paragraph 17

In contrast, the Bridge schools I visited were functional. The teachers can themselves read. School begins on time, at 7:30 a.m., and continues until 3:30 instead of letting out around noon, as at many government-run schools. And students have books.

ANNOTATION

Wow, I wonder who paid for Kristof to spend so much time in Liberia interviewing all of the for-profit and government-paid teachers. A true shame that they could not afford to pay for observers or monitors or even administrators to provide some of the training that Kristof claims many of these teachers lack. Also a real shame that Kristof couldn’t take time to interview how charters in the USA pull kids out of school for entire days to attend political rallies paid for by millionaires so charter school operators can take home their half-a-million dollar paychecks paid by taxpayers.
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Paragraph 18

“Since Bridge arrived here, the difference is so great,” explained Prince Yien, the PTA chairman in one school I visited.

ANNOTATION

Okay, what else did the parent explain to you? Or, did your propaganda story only call for two sentences from the teachers’ union, with whom you disagree, and one sentence from a parent (likely out of context) with whom you agree to convey your point?
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Paragraph 19

Ruth Yarkpawolo, 9, a third grader, told me that the biggest difference since Bridge took over is that the teacher is present. Ruth is the first girl in her family to attend school, she loves science class, and she has ambitions that an education could facilitate. “I want to be a nurse,” she said.

ANNOTATION

Does Kristof encourage her to pursue a career as a nurse at a public hospital or a private institution? Based on his attack here of public institutions and their infrastructure, I’m going to assume the latter.

Oh, how different the world would be if people like Kristof dedicated stories to covering the ambitions of parents of kids like young Yarkpawolo here in the USA; parents who say charter school backers over-politicize education and restrict funding for public schools. (I doubt Kristof has time for them, though; much too busy vacationing and day-tripping to the occasional private for-profit school somewhere in Africa.)
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Paragraph 20

We can all agree that the best option would be for governments to offer better schools, with books and teachers in the room. Indeed, Liberia is trying to improve all schools, and it is winnowing out payments to “ghost teachers,” who don’t exist except on paper.

ANNOTATION

As soon as you think Kristof might finally do something good and cover the key issue here: the infrastructure inefficiencies, corruption, etc. he jumps the ship back onto his propaganda. (Or, maybe he’s cutting it short to board his private plane to Mar-a-Lago for tee-time.)
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Paragraph 21

But my travels have left me deeply skeptical that government schools in many countries can be easily cured of corruption, patronage and wretched governance, and in the meantime we fail a generation of children.

ANNOTATION

“But my travels,” “but her emails,” but my paycheck. If Kristof ever seriously wants to cover corruption in schools, he need not travel to Liberia; he can travel just a few blocks north of the NY Times building in Times Square and meet with some of the schoolteachers and parents.
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Paragraph 22

In the United States, criticisms of for-profit schools are well grounded, for successive studies have found that vouchers for American for-profit schools hurt children at least initially (although the evidence also shows that in the U.S., well-run charters can help pupils).

ANNOTATION

This paragraph is Kristof’s attempt at reining himself back in to the liberal spectrum. He’s gotten his tan, he’s feeling rejuvenated, and he’s feeling empowered after finding a solution to a problem caused by corrupt leaders and people who manipulate capitalism with more bad versions of capitalism and for-profit economic behaviors. (Note: bad capitalism is not the essence or root of capitalism.)
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Paragraph 23

The situation in countries like Liberia is different, and when poor countries recognize that their education systems are broken and try to do the right thing for children, it doesn’t help to export America’s toxic education wars.

ANNOTATION
Make no mistake — Kristof, like many affluent charter school and private education supporters, believe that children who don’t look like him or his kids deserve very different treatment.
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Paragraph 24 & CONCLUSION

So, a plea to my fellow progressives: Let’s worry less about ideology and more about how to help kids learn.

ANNOTATION

“Fellow progressives”? Say what now? “Fellow”? Oh, Kristof. You are hiding behind Betsy DeVos while calling on liberals to stand with you. That’s not going to work, luvvie. Let’s talk about morals and ideology and how they protect our kids. How these morals and ideologies are designed to protect children of color — but you are willing to eschew all rules and regulations when a black child is thrown into the equation. And, here you stand attempting to justify it.

Trump Campaign surrogates hid behind the “Fake News” slogan as a means to justify or ignore justification for their actions based on some sense of morals or ethics; Kristof is attempting to execute the same tactic by labeling his critics as holding a weak argument and hiding behind an ideological veil. This shameful propaganda reads like material from Trump Tower, not the +The New York Times.

I am disappointed in Kristof and The Times for publishing a piece that so poorly attempts to justify corruption and manipulation of public infrastructures in order to treat black people with less dignity and respect. Kristof would be wise to investigate the charter school movement in the USA and how it has misled the public, lied, lacked transparency, proudly bought elections, and affronted our democratic process for its political gain.

Though, I suppose that is not likely to happen after Kristof has been bought and paid for by the people that do it. He has an opportunity to correct this propaganda into a fine disagreement and argument against public infrastructure inefficiencies — and I would be willing to cooperate with him; but under no circumstance will I sit idly as he enables affluent individuals to target more people of color for his own personal gain. Not under my watch.