SAN FRANCISCO – Protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement heckled News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch during a speech at an education forum Friday, accusing the media mogul of trying to profit from public education.
Activists repeatedly interrupted Murdoch as he gave a keynote speech at a downtown San Francisco hotel about how technology could help transform the nation’s public education system.
“Equality in education, not privatization!” one woman shouted as security guards escorted her out of the ballroom of the Palace Hotel, which hosted the National Summit on Education Reform.
“Corporations own all the media in the world. Why should they not own all the education as well?” activist Joe Hill yelled sarcastically. Hill, who was dressed as the “Count” character from the TV show “Sesame Street,” also was pushed out of the meeting room.
Murdoch appeared unfazed.
“It’s OK, a little controversy makes everything more interesting,” he said to audience applause before continuing his half-hour speech.
About half a dozen hecklers were escorted out of the hotel after they disrupted Murdoch’s speech but said they were not arrested. They joined about two dozen protesters holding signs and chanting “Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Sesame Street!” outside the conference.
Speaking outside, Hill accused Murdoch and other corporate leaders of trying to “use the economic crisis to further privatize education and divert more public funds into private corporate interests.”
Murdoch appeared as part of a two-day education forum sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The organization champions school vouchers, charter schools, performance pay for teachers and digital learning.
“We need to tear down an education system designed for the 19th century and replace it with one suited for the 21st,” Murdoch said during his morning address.
“You don’t get change by plugging in computers at schools designed for the industrial age,” Murdoch said. “You get it by developing technology that rewrites the rules of the game by centring learning around the learner.”
Last year, News Corp. acquired Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that provides software and services to K-12 schools. In August, New York’s comptroller rejected a $27 million contract with the educational technology company because of the phone-hacking scandal involving News Corp.’s British newspapers.
On Thursday afternoon, more than 100 protesters, mostly San Francisco teachers, picketed outside the hotel, protesting Murdoch’s presence at the education conference.