At the Foundation for Excellence in Education summit one thousand representatives from business groups, education departments, state legislatures, and free-market think tanks descended on San Francisco's Palace Hotel to discuss and debate the state of American education, writes Alexander Zaitchik at Media Matters.
The show was stolen by the events surrounding media mogul Rupert Murdoch's speech. Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp. and summit keynote speaker explained his view on how technology could help transform the nation's public education system.
The presence of the controversial businessman provoked protest. Members from the Occupy Wall Street movement heckled Murdoch during his speech, accusing the media mogul of trying to profit from public education, writes Terence Chea at the Associated Press.
"Equality in education, not privatization!" one woman shouted as security guards escorted her out of the ballroom of the Palace Hotel.
"Corporations own all the media in the world. Why should they not own all the education as well?" activist Joe Hill yelled sarcastically.
"Upward mobility in America is in jeopardy unless we fix our public schools," the billionaire told the Washington D.C. audience shortly before the launch of News Corp.'s Education Division.
Murdoch argued that digitizing America's classrooms and viewing K-through-12 as a business marketplace will better serve underperforming students.
"Let's be clear: Technology is never going to replace teachers," Murdoch stated.
News Corp.'s Education Division won a major contract last year when Wireless Generation landed a no-bid $27 million deal to track student performance throughout New York state, writes Zaitchik.
However, the recent phone hacking scandal that disgraced News International meant that many contracts were annulled, including this one. Zaitchik suggests that this decision by the New York State Comptroller sets a worrying precedent for News Corp. Their foray into education would have to be tread lightly as business ethics and reputation is of pivotal importance in the industry.
Murdoch's words, that can be seen in full here, were met with some enthusiasm.
James Guthrie of the George W. Bush Institute argued that sweeping education reform would add "trillions to the economy" and future federal budgets, but he wouldn't want to see that money invested in more teachers.
"We're too labor intensive, we have more teachers than agriculture workersâ¦ We need to inject technology forcefully into the equation," he stressed.