Right-wing media have worked themselves into a tizzy over a controversy about a student reading his Bible in a Florida public school, but they aren't telling the whole story.
The CBS affiliate in Miami, FL, reported on May 5 that a fifth-grade boy at a public school in Broward County claimed he was banned from reading his Bible during "free-time reading" in his classroom:
A Broward County boy said he was banned from reading "The Good Book" during free-reading time in school. The boy and his father have hired an attorney, calling this a violation of the boy's Constitutional rights. Meanwhile, the Broward County School District says this is all a big misunderstanding.
The Miami Herald reported that Broward school officials "rejected the accusation" because the student was reading his Bible during a "classroom 'accelerated reading' program," not during a free-reading session. The Herald also noted that the boy's family is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a "conservative religious-rights group" that "targeted Broward County on Monday in an ongoing campaign contending that faith is under attack in America's elementary schools." (Indeed, the Liberty Institute has a "long history of hyperbolic assertions about the impending end of religious freedom.")
A statement from Broward County Public Schools on Monday, May 5, affirmed the county's commitment to religious freedom:
Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day.
On right-wing media, however, it's a much different story.
Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed the story on May 6, leading with its "Trouble With Schools" chryon. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the boy's father had previously been in touch with the school principal about when the boy was allowed to read the Bible in school, which included before and after school, during lunch, and at free time, but that "the teacher didn't like it" when the boy began reading his Bible during "his free time." Doocy continued:
DOOCY: Well the teacher didn't like it, and the kid said, if you have a problem with this, you need to call my dad. Well the dad wasn't there to pick up the phone and instead, the teacher left this embarrassing voicemail.
Fox News often promotes myths about student loan debt in the United States, misinforming about everything from the lack of protections borrowers receive, to the unsubtantiated claim that student loans drive up college costs, to the myth that struggling borrowers are taking a government handout. As the two-year anniversary of student debt surpassing $1 trillion takes place this week, here is a sample of the network's past student loan misinformation.
ABC host George Stephanopoulos announced on This Week that talk radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham is the network's "newest contributor." On her syndicated radio program The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham has repeatedly engaged in inflammatory and hateful rhetoric, lobbing numerous attacks against everyone from President Obama to people who receive government assistance to her favorite target, immigrants.
Here are 10 hateful moments from Ingraham in the past year:
1. Ingraham Used A Gunshot Sound Effect To Cut Off A Replay Of Rep. John Lewis' March On Washington Speech. During her coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in August 2013, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda." She then played a clip of a speech from Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, abruptly interrupting the playback of his comments with the sound of a loud gunshot. Following criticism of this sound effect, Ingraham defended her use of the gunshot sound, instead calling it a "blow up effect" and claiming that criticism of her using the sound effect on Lewis was an attempt "to crush free speech."
Three major newspapers in Kansas have ignored the role of funding from the Koch brothers in the passage of legislation that strips teachers in the state of their right to due process before they are fired, a longstanding right that gives teachers the ability to challenge dismissals.
Conservative media's incessant campaign to demonize the Common Core State Standards, often confined to the right-wing bubble, is now playing out in local politics.
Over the past year, the Common Core State Standards have been at the center of a heated national education debate. Released in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with input from parents, school officials, teachers, and experts, Common Core is "a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics." Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards, though news out of Indiana this week has reduced that number.
On Monday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation withdrawing the state from Common Core, even though the state had already started implementing the standards. A release from Pence's office stated, "I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level."
Pence's statement buys into one of the many myths popularized by conservative media about Common Core -- that it's a federal takeover of education, guilty of "central planning." Other prevalent myths are that it creates a class curriculum, teaches wrong answers, injects partisan ideology, dumbs down standards, and data mines children's information.
These myths and more have made the Common Core debate so vitriolic that states are actually changing the name of their standards because the mere phrase "Common Core" has become "toxic." New York is negotiating to delay Common Core-based tests, and an Oklahoma Senate panel voted to repeal Common Core earlier this week. As the Associated Press reported on Monday, "the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans."
These state-level decisions come on the heels of a robust campaign from various misinformers in the right-wing media who consistently use inflammatory language and stoke fears to mislead about the standards.
Here are the five most incendiary media figures and outlets fueling the Common Core outrage machine.
Fox News' misinformation on Common Core has been well-documented. The network appears to have no idea how the standards actually work, accusing them of everything from "sneak[ing] in partisan lessons" to creating doctors who might "operate on the wrong knee." Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck even falsely invoked Common Core to back an attempted book ban in North Carolina.
There is perhaps no louder voice against Common Core than conservative author and columnist Michelle Malkin. From her "Stop Common Core" Twitter list to her plethora of anti-Common Core columns at National Review Online, Malkin routinely uses inflammatory rhetoric to demonize the standards. She has given out "Biggest Common Core Jerk" awards and referred to "Common Core jerkitude" as a "bipartisan disease." She's referred to the standards as a "lab-rat testing experiment," called them a "Trojan horse for lowering [expectations]," and claimed they create "a Big Brother gold rush and an educational Faustian bargain." Her constant, erroneous insistence that Common Core is a "top-down" approach that the Obama administration is using to "corrupt education" leaves little doubt that Malkin will leave no stone unturned in her relentless and false attacks on the standards.
Roughly one year ago, conservative commentator and founder of The Blaze.com Glenn Beck turned his attention to Common Core on his BlazeTV show, claiming that "our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology" because progressives "jammed this through in the dead of night." Beck went so far as to declare that "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack."
Since then, TheBlaze.com has repeatedly distorted the conversation on Common Core often through hyperbolic headlines posted on the site:
NPR reported earlier this year that Beck "has often led the push" against Common Core:
The mainstream business wing of the Republican Party strongly backs Common Core, arguing that raising standards is vital to creating the next-generation American workforce. But in an echo of the rifts in the GOP nationally, the Tea Party branch has been critical of the new standards.
Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck has often led the push. On his show The Blaze, he often charges that Common Core will undermine student individuality and teacher autonomy, and that it marks a dangerous takeover of local control by federal bureaucrats pushing a leftist agenda.
"This is a progressive bonanza, and if it's allowed to be in our schools in any form and become the Common Core of America's next generation, it will destroy America and the system of freedom as we know it," Beck told his audience last year.
Dr. Susan Berry at the conservative news site Breitbart.com writes frequently about the supposed perils of Common Core. She has pushed the myth that Common Core dumbs down "standards and curricula for all students in order to achieve a social justice agenda." She has also turned to conservative groups like The Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to propagate the false assertion that Common Core is a "national takeover of schooling" and that the "Obama administration is intent on controlling what is taught at each grade level in schools across the United States."
Berry has claimed that the standards are "part of a world-wide initiative that may ultimately serve to make American values and practices secondary to global sharing." After Bill Gates appeared on ABC to discuss his foundation's funding of Common Core, Berry went so far as to ask: "The question is, why is a college dropout non-mathematician being asked to defend the Common Core math standards?"
Right-wing news site the Daily Caller has posted dozens of articles about Common Core, often with photos of school assignments and incendiary headlines like, "Here's PROOF Common Core aims to make America's children cry," and, "How MORONICALLY HARD can Common Core math make subtraction?" Many are sourced from Michelle Malkin's Twitchy website. Various myths accompany its inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that the lessons derived from Common Core amount to "authoritarian propaganda" and that Common Core critics oppose "centralized" education. Like Breitbart's Susan Berry, the Daily Caller has also turned to the conservative Heartland Institute to push the falsehoods about Common Core, including that it is "a national monopoly on education."
In the continued battle over Common Core, even supporters have acknowledged that implementation has not been smooth, and that the process needs improvement. But these media figures and outlets doing their damndest to ensure that the national conversation on Common Core is steered in a distorted direction only make it harder to have a reasonable discussion.
For more on the lies and truths about Common Core, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia Project.
Right-wing media are painting a false picture of the education debate in New York City, portraying Mayor Bill de Blasio as against "minority children" while ignoring his city-wide push for universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K), a program that has been shown to improve minority students' academic performance.
On February 27, de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from operating in city public school space rent-free. Having inherited 45 total co-locations from his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor approved 36 of them, including 14 of the 17 charter schools that applied. This decision resulted in a firestorm of attacks from conservative media who distorted facts to claim de Blasio is waging a "war on children."
Those attacks have shifted to "de Blasio vs. minority children," a frame circling multiple right-wing media outlets, including National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, and The Washington Times. NRO's Mona Charen accused de Blasio of "training his fire on the poorest and most vulnerable," while Thomas Sowell's column, published in the Examiner and the Times, claimed that "If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left's avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now."
Pitting de Blasio against minorities isn't a new smear tactic for right-wing media -- the New York Post accused de Blasio of a "war on minorities" roughly one week after he clinched the Democratic primary last September.
Multiple studies have found universal pre-K to be highly beneficial. According to the Center for American Progress, three longitudinal studies on early childhood education "showed not only immediate academic gains but also benefits into adulthood, such as reduced need for public assistance, lower crime rates, and higher earnings." CAP also noted that recent studies have shown pre-K to be effective in "boosting school readiness and academic achievement," including gains in language, literacy, and math skills.
The results from a study on Georgia's pre-K program released last week held that the state's program "produces significant positive outcomes for children, regardless of family income level or English language skills." The scientist who led the evaluation claimed that the study's findings "demonstrate compelling evidence for the impact of Georgia's statewide early education program on children's readiness skills."
What's more, universal pre-K has been shown to improve the academic skills of minority students. The New America Foundation stated in previewing an October 2013 report detailing the benefits of pre-K that "early education is one of the most powerful ways to close the achievement gap between low-income and minority children and their more-advantaged peers." In addition, New America Media, in an article titled "For Minority Kids, Preschool Narrows Education Gap," reported on the benefits of pre-K for African-American and Latino students:
Research on the Chicago Child-Care Centers initiative, published in mid-2011, also emphasizes the positive effects of early education. The study, conducted among 1,400 low-income African American children who were observed for 28 years, show an increased high school graduation rate (50% compared to 39%), lower participation in special education (14% versus 25%), and better results on standardized tests of language and mathematics.
Among Hispanics, data from the Universal Pre-K program in Oklahoma conducted during the early 2000s by the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) at Georgetown University, indicates that Latino preschoolers benefited the most from quality preschool. While all students showed improvements in letter and word recognition (+52%), spelling (+27%) and mathematical problems (+21), the progress among Latino children was even higher, at +79%, + 39 and + 54%, respectively.
Image via Herald Post using a Creative Commons License
Fox News has an enemy in the education debate, and that enemy is teachers unions.
In the weeks since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from using public school space rent-free, conservative media have sent themselves into a tizzy distorting the mayor's record, accusing him of waging a "war on children" and calling him "Comrade Bill." Perhaps no outlet was more indignant about de Blasio's decision than Fox News, whose hosts and pundits seemed incapable of discussing the story without blaming teachers unions, devoid of any evidence or support.
Watch below for Fox's "All Speculation, No Corroboration" approach to blaming teachers:
Fox's misguided outrage is unsurprising given the network's track record on unions. Its hosts and commentators have previously asked if "teachers unions [are] ruining your kids' education" and referred to labor unions as "parasites" that are "not doing anything" for workers. Fox host Dana Perino even suggested earlier this year that instead of making an "anti-NRA" film, filmmaker Harvey Weinstein could better "tackle gun violence if he would take on the teachers unions."
Multiple Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, including the New York Post, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal, have launched false attacks against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's record on charter schools to paint him as waging a "war on children" and "poor kids," all while ignoring the benefits of de Blasio's push for universal pre-K in the city.
The attacks on de Blasio from Murdoch's media came in response to the announcement on February 27 that he blocked three New York City charter schools from using public school space rent-free. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch himself kicked off the attacks with two incendiary tweets on February 27, asking how "de Blasio [can] do this" the same day President Obama unveiled his initiative for young boys and men of color, and falsely claiming that de Blasio's move "hurts poor families who only want a better school for their kids."
On Fox News, On The Record host Greta Van Susteren claimed the next day that "New York City democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, he just declared war on children," calling him "selfish, really selfish" and accusing him of "picking on the poor kids," asking, "Who could be that rotten?" On the March 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent Charles Gasparino accused "comrade Bill" of wanting "essentially to end charter schools." Later that day, The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson said that de Blasio "ax[ed] three planned charter schools," asking one of her guests, "Why is this an outrage in your mind that Mayor de Blasio is going to strip kids from going to charter schools?"
In print, the New York Post likened de Blasio's charter school move to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal (in which the governor's office engaged in political retribution), calling it "Chartergate" and writing that "de Blasio is taking good schools away from disadvantaged minority children to get back at his enemy." The Wall Street Journal editorial board called for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to defend the closed schools, claiming, "National Democrats are silent as Bill de Blasio kills charter schools."
But the facts tell a different story. According to The New York Times, de Blasio said "he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings." The Times explained that "[i]n reviewing 49 proposals to share school space approved under [former New York City Mayor] Mr. Bloomberg, he left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools." He did not "end" them or "kill" them or wage "war," as Murdoch and his media outlets claim. Furthermore, city officials told the Times that some of the plans, which were approved by Bloomberg, "would have required elementary school students to attend class inside high school buildings, and others would have required cutting programs for students with disabilities."
What right-wing media conveniently ignore in characterizations of de Blasio as picking on "poor kids" is his push for universal pre-K in New York City, which would mean greater early education access for every child regardless of their income status. The New York Times reported last week that de Blasio estimated "up to 29,000 [pre-K] seats could be opened at schools and so-called community based organizations" using his plan to fund pre-K through a higher state income tax. And as Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out in January, de Blasio's plan "reflects growing evidence ... that high-quality, universal access to pre-K can make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially those from low-income families."
Don't expect to get the facts from Rupert Murdoch's media outlets any time soon -- their history of inflated rhetoric about de Blasio ensures his education plans will continue getting the fact-free right-wing treatment.
When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.
On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, "I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together."
Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.
In a misleading tease for a segment about universal pre-kindergarten, Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that President Obama has vowed "to mandate universal preschool programs."
On the February 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson said before cutting to commercial break, "President Obama vowing to mandate universal preschool programs" and asked if the government has a "right to control your children." Obama's push for early education programs, however, does not include mandating them, as he specifically laid out in his State of the Union address when he asked Congress "to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four-year-old." And as Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic points out, "[P]articipation in the program would be strictly voluntary. Nobody is mandating that anybody go to preschool."