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MSNBC's Morning Joe brings all-star education panel to Tampa that doesn't feature any teachers



Scarborough MSNBC host Joe Scarborough brought an odd sight to Tampa this morning, taking over Alexander Elementary School for a three-hour talk on education issues for his A.M. show Morning Joe.

The biggest portion of his show, concluded just a few minutes ago, was an all-star panel convened to discuss education issues. And it didn't feature a single professional educator.

Instead, former Pensacola-area Congressman Scarborough talked with activist Al Sharpton, singer/advocate John Legend, Los Angeles Urban League head Blair Taylor, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and co-host Mike Barnicle.

What was most striking, in fact, was the lack of local voices on the broadcast. Area education notables, including the Hillsborough County schools superintendent, the Florida Teacher of the Year and the chair of Hillsborough County's school board sat in the audience's front row, little more than smiling props brought in to watch the discussion.

It was topsy turvy scene; while a selected audience of more than 200 educators looked on, Scarborough's panel talked in more detail about schools in Harlem and Los Angeles than Florida, leaving open the question of why the show chose to come to Tampa in the first place. Eventually, co-host Mika Brzezinski took questions from the crowd for the panel, leading to an even odder sight; experienced educators asking a group of politicians, activists and TV anchors for answers on the nation's pressing education problems.

Morning_joe_starbucks The show also unveiled a partnership with Starbucks in which a portion of proceeds from the sale of the coffee chain's Morning Joe blend of coffee -- or perhaps another product, they weren't quite clear on that point -- will go to help the show's Great Expectations education initiative. How exactly that will happen -- how much money, and where will the money go and who decides -- that wasn't really explained.

But Brzezinski sure looked sharp holding up a bag of the coffee on air, in a pose even Scarborough admitted "looked like the Home Shopping Network."

Ironically, the biggest local voice scheduled for the show -- former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- spoke to the program from a studio in New York City, touting the Florida Senate's recent vote for a bill expanding the state's voucher program and linking teacher pay to the performance of students.

It's an important piece of legislation -- one that could mark a conservative transformation of the state's school system. But Scarborough's show didn't spend much time talking about the details of the law, beyond cheerleading its general provisions -- not coincidentially, Scarborough, Barnicle and Bush all seemed to support the legislation.

The assembled audience mostly registered its feedback by applause, clapping when panelists stressed parental involvement, paying teachers more to get good personnel and better media coverage of education issues.

In the end, Scarborough's Tampa show felt like a good idea hijacked by a focus on big names and a lack of participation by people who are actually educating the nation's children.

Next time the show holds a town hall meeting on education, I really hope they allow some teachers and professional educators to have more than a few words in the spotlight. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:06pm]


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