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Wake-up call

Equal time for unequal convictions


When expressing personal opinions during these polarized times, it is necessary to attach a disclaimer or "spoiler alert" if you are willing to fight for equal time to air views with which you disagree and which, when revealed, would surprise your co-believers. "I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it" is a popular quotation that, as Shakespeare wrote, is "more honored in the breach than the observance.”

Advocating for free speech for your opposition arouses suspicion in both your allies and foes. They think there's something wrong with you. They assume you're leading a fraudulent double life and that you are a traitor to your professed core values.

National Public Radio is driven by progressive ideology and never sympathetically entertains or allows conservative opinions to be ably presented, especially when of a political nature. Stating that fact does not make one a reactionary. Or necessarily a critic.

Uri Berliner was a senior staffer for 25 years at NPR and a respected editor. He believes that in keeping with the ideals of democratic debate, contrary positions and schools of thought should be exposed. For expressing that NPR should be more balanced, he was suspended. On principle, he then resigned.

Did he do so out of brazen defiance or bold courage? Or both?  

The vultures, who are always on call, began hovering right away: "Never let a crisis go to waste.” 

That canonical phrase is in the playbook of all political camps. Faster than a speeding bullet, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized the chance to exploit the internal NPR squabble. She demanded the defunding of public broadcasting, because "it is doing the Left's bidding and taking down strong conservatives" and "refuses to represent the voices of half the country.”

Berliner rebuffs that punishment. He wants to repair, not hurt NPR. "An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR,” he said, citing specific and glaring examples of stories of questionable authenticity being favorably covered, and other topical events of indisputable import being ignored because of editorial predisposition. The Hunter Biden laptop story, for instance, may be a fabrication of his enemies, but being newsworthy, the public should be permitted to have information to think about.

"We don't want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories … [and] are just pure distractions,” explained NPR. Access to potential truth, even if it doesn't pan out, is never a "distraction.”

It is dangerous to preempt the deliberations of a governed people.

Politico, running interference, claims that the real reason that Berliner was targeted by the NPR boss was that his comments, which appeared in Free Press, "violated the network's policy prohibiting unauthorized work for other outlets.”

There is no legal duty to provide equal time to opposing views. It is no longer a pretended function of government regulation. The Fairness Doctrine is beyond the efficacy of resuscitation. It was buried more than a decade ago.

Liberty will not flourish by regulatory fiat. 

What is needed is an intellectually trained and civically engaged population. On controversial issues, we should force ourselves to do our due diligence in the hope the outcome will confirm and comport with our tentative notions. 

But how can that capacity be inculcated in the general public, which is boobytrapped by the vanity, passions and dictates of self-interest at the expense of everything and everybody else?

NPR is broadcast journalism from a liberal lens. But a conservative tabloid prints multitudinous features about public education, claiming to be muckraking reformers. They are something else.

In a recent editorial, the tabloid, aka the New York Post, suggested that parents want to have their kids in overcrowded classes with only minimal individual attention to their instructional needs, and that they think that's preferable to having fewer kids in each class, which would free the teacher to concentrate on the unique instructional needs and emotional support of each child. 

The Post cited a single parents' group as representative of all parents, omitting any input from the myriad established and creditable organizations, researchers and historians who take the opposite view. Are there really "negative consequences" of a smaller teacher-student ratio?

The editorial failed to include a cross-section of parent advocacy groups, almost all of whom passionately and unequivocally favor lower class size. It praised the "common sense" of their "newly formed" source.

But did the editorial quote that source accurately? Since its writer skipped over longstanding parent groups to quote an apparent ad hoc latecomer, did the tabloid, founded by Alexander Hamilton, seek knowledge of their possible motivations and whether the group is actually linked to any identified or unknown influencers? 

As stewards of responsible journalism, it shouldn't lace straight news stories with their editorial bent. One-sidedness in marked editorials is in practice fair enough, even when it's not fair at all. Truth and lies are legitimately up for grabs on that page.

The Post condemned the court-ordered mandate, which is enlightened and overdue, as an imposition" on city schools after a major lobbying push by the teachers' union,” and referred to the "painful tradeoffs" of complying with the law.

Equal opportunity for a quality education must not be subjected to being traded off. It is non-negotiable. Not to be bartered or auctioned or held ransom.

They called the class-size mandate "an earth-shattering" law. They're right, but not in the sense they had in mind. They said it "hamstrings" the public school system.

It does not debilitate. It invigorates.

They warn that the binding law (compliance is not optional) could "force" the hiring of 12,000 teachers. If that happened, it would be reason to celebrate, not bemoan. Reducing class size will help fix many other education-related problems, not complicate or prolong them.

It's been many years since New York's highest court recognized the state constitution's mandate. State Senator John Liu was the driving force behind legislation in 2022 to allow a six-year timeframe for compliance. But despite hefty boosts in school funding, the mayor and Department of Education remain resistant to the rule of law, which in other instances they are quick to tout.

The Post has a great sports section, but it hates the United Federation of Teachers more than they care about the union members’ children's education. To advance their union-busting agenda, they are disposed to sacrificing the greater good of those kids and their futures.

All parents wish the best for their kids. No doubt Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks are on board in that regard also. So probably is the tabloid's editorial board, to a large extent.

But they must not be lured into false equivalences and diversionary secondary issues that deter them from thinking clearly and soundly.

The tabloid and NPR shill for rival camps on the ideological spectrum. 

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