Power, the media and school educational policy and practice: “uninitiated, aside from the obvious redbaiting, there’s a hidden dog whistle in there”

Anderson [2007] has illustrated the role of the media on school educational policy change and practices, showing the implications here for power, and how this operates in the context of the media spectacle. Especially, he highlighted the implications here for school practitioners and school “reform”. He showed that educational policymakers must be aware of the influence of the media on what they’re attempting to achieve, and be proactive in offsetting this influence.

Within the Australian context, Sally Thomas’ [2006] study provided a detailed account of the relation between media representations of educational policy, and the process through which policy is developed. Her study chiefly is concerned with the assessment of a major review of the Queensland school curriculum, known as the Wiltshire review. Inter alia, the Thomas [2006] study provides an analysis of the mass mediated context in which it took place, and, therefore, the issues and public pressures with which it was required to deal. She well illustrated the links between public perception and policy formation, and insisted, as did Anderson [2007J, educationists should better understand, and perhaps, directly intervene in the media representation of education issues and policy. Of course, essentially, this is what our present book intends, however, with the added immerging issue of dog-whistle journalism and politics thrown into the mix. This research, however, occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s. By the 21st century’s second decade, researchers and commentators were turning their attention to the influence of the emerging media phenomenon of the dog whistle.

“We support higher standards and rigor in the classroom, but every day, concern among caregivers is growing over Common Core. The feds are taking over and rushing this. Let’s face it, centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education. Education is best left to local control,” so said Republican maestro, Bobby Jindal through a written statement [O’Donoghue: 2014, npj. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, an American politician, the 55th Governor of Louisiana between 2008 and 2016, and who previously served as a US Congressman and as the vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, was speaking out against federal “intrusion” into state school educational policy. Our book will refer to the Common Core (State Standards) in Chapter Six. Here we’re concerned about the uptake by researchers and commentators on dog-whistle journalism and its impact on school educational policy.

Vandy [2014, np| contended for the “uninitiated, aside from the obvious red-baiting, there’s a hidden dog whistle in there”. Moreover, “to the Republican establishment, the reasons for the push for charter schools are obvious” [Vandy: 2014, np). “But what about rank-and-file Republicans?” Vandy [2014, np] asked. It was to these people that the dog whistle was directed, and it was all about racism and segregation: “Here’s a hidden meaning to the call for “local control” of schools that you might not understand unless you’re familiar with the resistance to desegregation” [Vandy: 2014, np].

Then, for example, there was the ongoing imbroglio in Australia concerning the Safe Schools/bullying/sexuality education curriculum negotiated between the Australian Commonwealth and the states and territories. Because of Australia’s particular form of federalism, the Australian Commonwealth needs to engage in some delicate individual negotiations with states and territories in respect to school educational policy [Rodwell: 2019b|. No account of the curriculum policy development here would be adequate without reference to the alleged politicized media and dog whistling during the negotiations of these curriculum policies, which are provided in greater detail in Chapter Five of our book.

Globalization and the spread of the dog whistle: various views: “shuttered factories, unchecked immigration”

What is globalization? It depends on whom you ask. Often the word is used as a synonym for “the system of global economic interconnection that has been critiqued for decades by liberal groups like labor unions, environmental organizations and opponents of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank” [Stack: 2016, np]. But for the far right, politicians such as

Trump, the term encapsulates a conspiratorial worldview based on antisemitism, in short, part of a network of fake news [Stack: 2016, np], Clearly, when it comes to analyzing the impact of globalization on school educational policy, and determining the nature of any dog-whistle journalism and politics, the view that one holds on to what constitutes globalization will colour the response to many questions.

Contemporaneous to the rise of neoliberalism, Theodore Levitt in 1985 coined the term “globalization” to describe changes in global economies. The term was applied quickly to a diverse range of other enquiries including school education [Spring: 2015, 3-4]. Soon, for many observers, globalization and neoliberalism walked hand-in-glove.

Some commentators allege Trump’s November 2016 presidential election victory was powered in part by forceful opposition to what he described as an economic and political system rigged against the American people for the benefit of shadowy forces in the news media, the banks and the government. Trump and his allies often describe that system with one word: “globalization”, and for many the term became a dog whistle. The media spread the message internationally that the term globalization “is a word that conjures many images, none of them good: shuttered factories, unchecked immigration and a distant cabal that, believers say, controls the economy and the media” [Stack, 2016, np]. Consequently, “analysts who track extremist groups in the United States have expressed alarm at the use of the word by the president-elect. They say it carries multiple meanings — from benign to sinister — and often serves as a ‘dog whistle’ start for racist, anti-semitic and antigovernment conspiracy theorists” [Stack, 2016, np].

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