What do you do when your corporate brand has become repugnant to consumers?
You REBRAND, of course! And that’s exactly what uber-rich widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, paid a boatload of celebrities to do last night all over your TV.
The program was called XQ Superschools Live, and it took over four major networks.
It’s ironic really. Using an almost 100 year old medium to push “schools of the future.” They tweeted and Facebooked all over it, but the focus was on the old boob tube.
Why? Because the audience they wanted wasn’t so much the young. They wanted the old – those deep pocketed investors who might be startled by all the flash and bombast and ask their grandkids if this was “cool.”
It was the most pathetic display of desperation I have ever seen in my life.
If there is any justice, Tom Hanks, Yo-Yo Ma, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and Common will have to spend the rest of their lives to regain even a fraction of street cred.
They were nothing but a series of singing and dancing sell outs. This was a modern day minstrel show. A bunch of highly paid shills pretending to represent the common folk.
I’m talking raised fists at the end of dance numbers meant to evoke all the power of authentic activists like Black Lives Matter without really having any grassroots support or message.
To be honest, my overwhelming response was pity.
Did anyone really think this was going to connect with an audience?
And speaking of that audience, if you had no idea who XQ or corporate education reform was, you probably watched the screen in bemused confusion. What the heck was this crap? It was platitudes about improving high schools broken up by song and dance numbers. It made the MTV Video Music Awards seem like a college dissertation.
Yet, to the initiated, you could see the subtle nods to privatization and charter schools, the shade thrown on traditional public schools.
Rethink high school?
Sure! Let’s do that! Let’s rethink inequitably funding it. Let’s rethink high stakes standardized testing. Let’s rethink Common Core, stealing local control, teacher autonomy and a host of the kinds of top down bull crap XQ tried obscure while selling an issue of Tiger Beat.
So now that it’s over, what have we learned?
1) Corporate education reformers are THAT desperate to distance themselves from Donald Trump.
His wholehearted endorsement of their agenda has done them serious life threatening damage. He has exposed their racist, privileged, corporatist policies for exactly what they are. No amount of celebrities will replace that in the public consciousness.
2) Rich people cannot set education policy.
Steve Jobs widow may be a very nice lady. But she has no freaking clue about public education. Nor is she honest enough to engage actual classroom teachers in the discussion to find out.
Instead of relying on the billionaires of the world, we should tax them. Then we can afford to fully fund our schools and let the people actually in the classroom decide what’s best for the students in their care. Let parents decide. Let school boards decide. Not a privileged tech philanthrocapitalist.
3) Celebrities will do anything for money.
The things these Hollywood elite prostitutes did last night to sell snake oil would make porn stars blush. I will never look at any of these people the same. Some of them I knew were true believers because of other projects. Heck! As much as I love Common’s new album, he does rap about Corey Booker – so warning there. Viola Davis is an amazing actress but she was in the parent trigger propaganda film “Won’t Back Down.”
Being famous doesn’t mean you know a damn thing. We recognize their faces. We associate them with past roles and characters we loved. We think their political stands are authentic when they are often just a pose. We’ve got to stop respecting these people just because they’re celebrities.
What will the long-term effect of last night’s propaganda be?
I don’t know.
I seriously doubt anyone really bought that. But you know what they say – no one ever went broke betting on the stupidity of the public.
And that’s what this was – a high stakes wager on American gullibility.