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October 18, 2011 > Rupert Murdoch heckled at Calif. education forum

Rupert Murdoch heckled at Calif. education forum

By Terence Chea, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Oct 14 - 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 centering 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.

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