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A think tank's credibility tanks

By Nancy Salvato
web posted April 24, 2006

I was amused, as I'm sure are many others, to read about a group of education researchers involved in what is being called, "The Think Tank Review Project". Driving my laughter was the discovery that the funding for this endeavor comes from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. The Board of Directors for this organization reads like a "who's who" of NEA and Midwest Education Association executives.

Evidently, the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado will be joining forces with "Think Twice" which has already begun monitoring the Buckeye Institute, Ohio; Center of the American Experiment, Minnesota; Heartland Institute, Chicago; Wisconsin Policy Research Institute; the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan; the CATO Institute; Manhattan Institute; Heritage Foundation; and others.

Interestingly, topics garnering their attention are findings which support privatization in education, the very ones which the NEA fights tooth and nail to discredit publicly in the media. These include: Charter Schools and Public School Choice; Vouchers and Tuition Tax Credits; Deprofessionalization of Teaching; NCLB and Accountability/Testing; Sorting and Stratification of Opportunities; Privatization and EMOs; Education of English Language Learners; Virtual/online learning; School Funding; and Home Schooling.

Because of the source of their funding and the objects of their interest, one would have to be suspicious of this group's motivation. Furthermore, sowing the idea that traditional think tanks have little credibility among academic researchers hoists another red flag about whose interests are being served by this project.

Any person who visits a think tank on the web can read the "about us" section to know what ideological agenda is being served, be it conservative or liberal. Although think tanks advance agendas, they certainly do not disguise their "ideological arguments" as research, as is suggested by co-director Kevin Welner, who because he heads the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has his own agenda.

It is laughable that Welner criticizes "think tanks" for an ideological bias, while his group accepts money from the NEA to discredit the very think tanks which discredit the education monopoly which serves the union. It is hard to believe his statement that, "The project's reviewers are independent scholars who probably do not know the source of the project's funding and are not pressured by the Great Lakes Center." The grand unveiling of this project is so transparently disingenuous; it should be dismissed at a blink of an eye.

One can only hope there are no public funds going toward this blatantly special interest endeavor…but with bridges being built to nowhere, what are the chances of that?

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2006





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