North Carolina newspapers have largely missed the connection between a Koch-funded education non-profit organization contracted to help shape new statewide history curriculum materials, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative model legislation mill that wrote the bill mandating the new course work.
In 2011, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill known as the "Founding Principles Act," which would require high school students to pass a course on "Founding Philosophy and the Founding Principles of government for a free people." The bill was generated as a piece of model legislation by ALEC, a conservative group that brings corporations and politicians together to vote on and construct bills to be used in multiple states. According to the Huffington Post, North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction, which has been tasked with drawing up the curriculum required by the Founding Principles Act, proposed on December 3 to "'highly recommend' social studies material from the Bill of Rights Institute," an organization which "receives funding from the billionaire Koch brothers."
Of the four largest papers in North Carolina (by circulation), The Charlotte Observer, the News & Record, The News and Observer, and the Winston-Salem Journal, only the Raleigh-based News and Observer produced an original report on the connection between the Koch brothers and the new history curriculum. Its story was reprinted by The Charlotte Observer and the Winston Salem-Journal, the latter of which added quotes from local teachers. The News & Record only ran a short Associated Press story that referenced the original News & Observer article.
As the News and Observer reported, the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) was contracted to help create course material. What all of the state papers missed, however, was the BRI's own connection with ALEC. According the Center for Media and Democracy, BRI was an ALEC member and part of ALEC's Education Task Force. Documents obtained by The Guardian show that BRI's ALEC membership lapsed in April 2013, though the institute was listed as providing research materials for the new curriculum in February of the same year.
Fox News misrepresented the latest news about a controversy over the Advanced Placement (AP) history curriculum in Jefferson County, Colorado, falsely portraying a vote by the county's school board as a decision to "mak[e] history courses more patriotic." In fact, the board voted to change the way the school district reviews its curricula, but it did not adopt the supposedly "patriotic" changes to the AP history curriculum, which Fox has been promoting.
Hundreds of Jefferson County high school students have walked out of class over the past few weeks in response to the proposed changes to the AP history curriculum. The original resolution, introduced by school board member Julie Williams, "stated that AP history classes should promote 'patriotism and ... the benefits of the free-enterprise system' and should not 'encourage or condone civil disorder.'"
Fox News has reported on this story several times, including hosting Ken Witt, the conservative president of the school board, to scapegoat teachers unions for supposedly "using students" as "political pawns," despite a statement to the contrary by the president of the local teachers union. Fox host Gretchen Carlson even told students "that if they 'don't like it here,' then they should just 'get out.'" Fox's disapproval of these protests stands in stark contrast to the network's previous lauding of students who stood up against things like healthy school lunches and rules regarding religious texts.
On the October 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Heather Nauert reported on the Jefferson County school board meeting the night before, claiming that the board "voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic" while an on-screen graphic read "A Win For Patriotism":
NAUERT: The controversial history plan that sparked massive protests in Colorado still alive this morning despite students, parents, and teachers protesting for days. The Jefferson County School Board voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic. There was a bit of a compromise, though. The board will let students and teachers get more involved in that process. [emphasis added]
Nauert's report, however, is misleading. Though she is correct that the vote allows for input from students and teachers, according to reporting from local TV station KUSA and the Associated Press, the board in fact voted 3-2 "to revise procedures for reviewing curriculum but did not specifically approve a review of AP U.S. History." The report continued:
Ultimately the board adopted a compromise proposal penned by Superintendent Dan McMinimee to revise current review procedures to include students, teachers and other community members. But the committee that was approved is not course-specific and has not been charged at this point with reviewing AP U.S. History, according to Marlene Desmond with Jeffco Public Schools.
While another Associated Press report acknowledged that Williams "refused a call to withdraw her original proposal," The Washington Post emphasized that "it's not immediately clear whether the committee will review the history course, only that the meetings must be held in public." In addition, NPR reported that after two weeks of protest in the county, "the original language about patriotism was dropped," though "the resolution still calls for a committee to review course materials."
Meanwhile, FoxNews.com published an Associated Press story that also described the events accurately.
News of a massive student protest in Colorado against a "conservative-led school board proposal" has prompted Fox News to rethink its stance on student freedoms.
Earlier this week, hundreds of students across six high schools in Arvada, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms amid news of a "conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority." The Associated Press reported that the curriculum proposal would establish a committee to ensure certain history materials "don't 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law'":
Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read "There is nothing more patriotic than protest."
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
On September 25, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Witt, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, which oversees the Arvada schools, to discuss the protests. Amid chyrons like "Political Pawns" and "Teachers Are Using Students," Witt alleged that the real issue was not the history curriculum proposal, but rather the upcoming teachers union contract :
WITT: That's the unfortunate situation that's going on. I believe that there is a significant amount of union conflict right now that we would like to not have. The issue is that it's easy to get children out. It's easy to use kids as pawns and it's not right. We have a union contract that's expiring in August of this year.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck parroted Witt's allegations, saying, "What concerns me is that what I'm hearing from you, and correct me if I am wrong, is that there is someone else behind this planting it and using these students for their own gain."
Fox News promoted an effort to ban Isabel Allende's award-winning novel The House of The Spirits, thanking a North Carolina mother for a "keeping up the good fight" and using her campaign to lob yet another off-base attack at the Common Core educational standards.
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck reported that "parents are outraged over a new book being assigned to their high school students containing references to abortion and prostitution," and was quick to tie the book to the Common Core educational standards -- falsely labeling them the "Common Core classroom curriculum." She welcomed North Carolina mother Chastity Lesesne on to discuss:
The campaign to censor The House of The Spirits in North Carolina's Watauga County school district has sparked national scrutiny in recent weeks. As Michael Keegan, president of the free speech advocacy organization People for The American Way noted, Lesesne's censorship attempt ignores that "The House of Spirits is an internationally renowned work that is taught in high school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs throughout the country." Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union-NC Legal Foundation, also warned of the "the slippery slope of banning books that promote critical thinking and classroom dialogue" and urged district officials to vote "in favor of the freedom to read."
Promoting censorship is an unusual position for Fox given that the network has previously cited First Amendment concerns as reasons to reject anti-bullying policies, allow anti-gay discrimination, contest a private company's decisions, and even offer a pro-fracking film undeserved awards.
Fox News used a selectively edited video to falsely claim an Obama administration education initiative, Common Core, would reward students for getting math problems wrong.
Co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed that the video revealed students could answer math questions incorrectly and still "get it right" under Common Core, simply if they "explained" their wrong answer to their teacher. Guest co-host Anna Kooiman furthered the attack by suggesting a student who learned math under Common Core might become "a doctor and operat[e] on the wrong knee."
But the unedited video of August's comments reveals that she very specifically stated that wrong answers would be corrected, and that the school simply wants to ensure that students understood the process behind coming to the correct answer:
AUGUST: Even if they said, '3 x 4 was 11,' if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in words and in oral explanations, and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we're really more focusing on the how.
OFF-SCREEN: You're going to be correcting them, right?
AUGUST: Absolutely, absolutely. We want our students to compute correctly. But the emphasis is really moving more towards the explanation, and the how, and the why, and 'can I really talk through the procedures that I went through to get this answer, and not just knowing that it's 12, but why is it 12? How do I know that?
While Doocy described the program as "a new national curriculum the Obama administration is imposing on schools," Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards that delineates what skills students should acquire at each grade level. States have the option to decide whether or not to adopt the Common Core standards, and school districts determine their own curricula to comply. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the program. Many private and religious schools have opted-out.
Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B. Fordham institute and Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute explained in the National Review that according to Fordham Institute research, compared "with existing state standards ... for most states, Common Core is a great improvement with regard to rigor and cohesiveness."
The New York Post reported this morning that a public elementary school in New York City will require its students to learn Arabic. The story describes the school is "a so-called 'choice' school and no kids, even those living nearby, are forced to attend it," and even quotes a student and parents that are very supportive of the program. Nonetheless, right-wing media figures are already responding to this reporting with their usual anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry.
Right-wing blogger and anti-Muslim hate group leader (and Fox News regular) Pamela Geller described the Arabic language program as "Islamic supremacism on the march in the public square," and suggested that it would be a "public school madrassah."
Right-wing author Matthew Vadum responded to the news that Arabic would be taught at a public school by making a reference to explosives:
And right-wing blogger Andrea Ryan of Gateway Pundit had this to say:
Now, they want our children be able to read the Quran, listen to the draconian precepts of sharia, and watch Al Jazeera inveigh against Christianity, democracy, equality, and freedom in its native Arabic language. When Communism aimed its missiles and armies at our nation President Reagan didn't fold and force our children to learn Russian.
Leave it to the Liberals to try to completely destroy all that is good about our culture and turn it into something distorted, ugly, and dangerous.
Far from being "dangerous," learning Arabic is actually important for our national security. In remarks to a January 2006 summit of U.S. university presidents, George W. Bush introduced a language initiative to teach students -- starting in Kindergarten -- languages important to national security, such as Arabic:
[O]ne of the reasons why the Secretary of Defense is here. He wants his young soldiers who are the front lines of finding these killers to be able to speak their language and be able to listen to the people in the communities in which they live. That makes sense, doesn't it, to have a language-proficient military -- to have people that go into the far reaches of this world and be able to communicate in the villages and towns and rural areas and urban centers, to protect the American people.
We need intelligence officers who, when somebody says something in Arabic or Farsi or Urdu knows what they're talking about. That's what we need. We need diplomats -- when we send them out to help us convince governments that we've got to join together and fight these terrorists who want to destroy life and promote an ideology that is so backwards it's hard to believe. These diplomats need to speak that language.
So our short-term strategy is to stay on the offense, and we've got to give our troops, our intelligence officers, our diplomats all the tools necessary to succeed. That's what people in this country expect of our government. They expect us to be wise about how we use our resources, and a good use of resources is to promote this language initiative in K through 12, in our universities. And a good use of resources is to encourage foreign language speakers from important regions of the world to come here and teach us how to speak their language.
You're going to hear a lot about the specifics of the program. What I'm trying to suggest to you that this program is a part of a strategic goal, and that is to protect this country in the short-term and protect it in the long-term by spreading freedom.
From the December 15 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the December 5 edition of TBS's Conan:
In his October 20 Washington Times column titled, "The United States of Mexico? Endgame of multiculturalism looms: Hispanic reacquisition of the Southwest," Jeffrey Kuhner wrote that American high school students learning Spanish "is a form of national self-hatred and self-abnegation." Kuhner also wrote that the students, who were given an assignment to learn the Mexican national anthem, were "being indoctrinated to revere and pledge their loyalty to a foreign government," and called the lesson "treasonous." From the Times:
American students now pledge allegiance to Mexico. They sing its na- tional an- them. And it is sanctioned by the state of Texas. Sound absurd? It is. Last month in a Spanish class at Achieve Early College High School in McAllen, Texas, students recited the Mexican pledge of allegiance and were instructed to memorize the Mexican anthem. Moreover, they had to wear red, white and green - the colors of the Mexican flag - as they fulfilled their class assignment. Public high schools no longer promote American patriotism, but they are doing a superb job of cultivating loyalty to Mexico.
This is treasonous; American students are being indoctrinated to revere and pledge their loyalty to a foreign government. Such is the logical consequence of multiculturalism and modern liberalism.
Decades ago, students learning Spanish would recite the pledge of allegiance to America or sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in that foreign language. No more. Our education establishment thinks displays of patriotism are signs of "nativism" and "xenophobia." Textbooks regularly teach that America is a nation founded upon racism, sexism, imperialism and genocide. Therefore, students must be taught to appreciate - and respect - foreign peoples and Third World cultures. This is a form of national self-hatred and self-abnegation.
Moreover, this is part of the Hispanicization of America. Since 1990, nearly 20 million illegal aliens have crossed our porous southern border. If one adds legal immigration, the foreign-born population is nearly 40 million. America essentially has imported an entire subculture the size of a major European nation. This is the most dramatic cultural transformation in one generation in history. Our political class is engaged in a dangerous social experiment - one that threatens to destroy our country.
"EXCLUSIVE," blares Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, this morning as they blow the lid off a shocking story out of Texas:
BLAZE EXCLUSIVE: TX HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MADE TO RECITE MEXICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM, PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The lede is no less gripping:
Students in a Texas public high school were made to stand up and recite the Mexican national anthem and Mexican pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment, but the school district maintains there was nothing wrong with the lesson.
The story centers around a sophomore in said Spanish class who objected to the lesson and complained to the principal. This same student videotaped the students reciting the pledge and the anthem en español, thus providing the critical evidence that high school students in Texas are actually being taught things.
It's a huge story -- most of the country has been laboring under the false impression that Texas public schools are mere fronts for the dissemination of anti-knowledge, in which students are fed garbage like "intelligent design" and right-wing revisionist history in the name of learning. The Blaze has helped tear away this veil of misinformation by conclusively demonstrating that students in Texas schools are actually learning things of value, like second languages and the cultural heritage of their southern neighbor.
Equally shocking was The Blaze's revelation that the teacher is not only of Mexican descent, but is actually proud of her heritage and uses that pride to inform her teaching of Mexican culture:
When Brenda made clear she would not stand up and recite the pledge, she was given an alternative assignment: an essay on the history of the Mexican revolution.
Meanwhile, other students continued with their presentations, which took place over the course of several days.
When Brinsdon talked to Santos -- a first-year teacher at Achieve -- about her new assignment, the teacher told her she grew up in Mexico.
"She told me that she loved Mexico," Brinsdon said.
Let's all take a moment to thank Glenn Beck and The Blaze for not falling victim to conventional wisdom and actually reporting on the successes of the Texas education system and the pride and dedication of public school teachers working to improve young Americans' understanding of one of our most important allies.
Or, better yet: díganles "gracias."
Last year, Washington Post education reporter Bill Turque made clear what he thought of how his paper's editorial board covered then-Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
In a blog post, Turque wrote that the Post's editorial support for Rhee had been "steadfast, protective and, at times, adoring."
The item was quickly removed from the Post's website, but Turque is hardly alone in his views.
Two of the Post's journalists covering education recently shared with Media Matters their own concerns about the way the paper's editorial page has covered Rhee.
Jay Mathews, a 40-year Post scribe who writes the Class Struggle blog and a weekly column, pointed to editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao's coverage of recent allegations of potential cheating on standardized tests. Mathews noted that Armao is his former boss and praised her work on education in general, but he said that on the testing issue, he could not "understand why her reporting instincts have failed her." Mathews criticized what he called Armao's "failure to address seriously what seems to me are problems that cannot be overlooked," later adding, "Her failure to see that, I find troubling and puzzling given my great respect for her as a person and a journalist."
Valerie Strauss, who pens the Post's Answer Sheet blog, told Media Matters:
"I didn't agree with very much of the editorial stance when it came to the Rhee era. But certainly, as an editorial board, it had a right to take a stand and stick to it. That's what editorial boards do." She added, "There were times when they could have been more critical, they could have looked harder and been more even-handed about how they presented information."
Rhee's tenure at the helm of D.C.'s schools -- from 2007 to 2010 -- was contentious. She implemented a controversial reform program designed to improve achievement. She angered some parents and education officials and fired hundreds of teachers. (Rhee reportedly once invited a PBS camera crew to film her firing a principal.)
Rhee had something to show for her work -- gains in student achievement. The Post editorial page -- along with other Rhee supporters -- has pointed to rising test scores as evidence of her success.
The announcement that Sesame Street plans to introduce a Muppet named Lily, an impoverished girl whose family faces ongoing hunger issues, is prompting much snark and derision in the right-wing media.
For instance, The Blaze's blog had this to offer:
Uh-oh. It's time to redistribute Cookie Monster's cookies.
Question: When did Sesame Street become so focused on teaching societal issues? From Bert & Ernie's gay marriage fiasco, to Big Bird's birtherism and growing unemployment. What "injustice" might Mr. Snuffleupagus stand for?
One of my colleagues (who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) points out that "Snuffy" actually comes from a broken home and represents a lesson in divorce for kids. I had no idea.
Here's something else Barack Obama and democrats can be proud of.
With a record number of Americans on food stamps, record unemployment, increased debt and record poverty, Sesame Street will introduce a poor, starving muppet to educate on the growing number of starving children in Obama's America.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Eric Bolling hosted Larry Schweikart to attack a bill recently passed in California that would require schools to teach about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans; during the segment, Schweikart compared the gay community to the "association for polygamists." This follows Fox's repeated attacks on the bill and smears about gay Americans.
From the June 6 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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A judge has ordered a graduation ceremony for a public high school in Texas to be changed to exclude planned opening and closing prayers. While this adheres to the Constitution of the United States, that's not good enough for Fox & Friends who, today, hosted one of the would-be-praying graduates and his parents to push back against the separation of church and state. The show did not mention that there was no prohibition against students making religious references during their individual speeches. This follows Fox's long history of fabricating a "war on Christians."