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.
From the April 24 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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In the wake of the Roberts Court's latest attack on the constitutionality of race-conscious law, right-wing media are mischaracterizing the decision and Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in a dishonest attempt to frame civil rights precedent as "racial discrimination."
On April 22, the Supreme Court ruled in Schuette v. BAMN, a badly split opinion in which the Court's five conservatives rejected long-established equal protection law under the Fourteenth Amendment to uphold Michigan's voter-approved ban on affirmative action. Right-wing media immediately began misinforming about the case, ignoring the serious consequences it could have for minority rights in the United States. By effectively overruling the "political process" doctrine, which forbids setting up a separate and unequal tier of political participation for a disfavored minority, the conservative justices reopened the door to the rigging of political systems, previously disallowed because of its negative impact on communities of color.
NRO continued its misinformation campaign about Schuette in its April 22 editorial, claiming that affirmative action is itself a form of prohibited racial discrimination. The editorial went on to call Sotomayor's dissent in Schuette "legally illiterate and logically indefensible" and "offers a case study in the moral and legal corrosion that inevitably results from elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law." To bolster the claim that Sotomayor is preoccupied by "ethnic-identity politics," the editors whistled to the 2009 right-wing media smears that the justice was a racist because she once referred to herself as a "wise Latina." From the NRO editorial:
In a perfectly Orwellian dissenting opinion, which she read dramatically from the bench, Justice Sotomayor argued that the decision of the people of Michigan to end racial discrimination is itself an instance of racial discrimination and that the only way to mitigate such racial discrimination is through the mandatory maintenance of racial discrimination. In this opinion she was joined by Justice Ginsburg, with Justice Kagan recusing herself from the case. Justice Sotomayor argued that Michigan's Proposal 2, which mandates race-neutral state policies, is the sort of legislation used to "oppress minority groups." By outlawing racial discrimination, she argued, "a majority of the Michigan electorate changed the basic rules of the political process in that State in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities."
Justice Sotomayor is here arguing in effect that if a constitutional referendum doesn't go the NAACP's way, then its effects are invalid. This is not an exaggeration: Justice Soyomayor argues explicitly that Michigan's voters would have been within their rights to, for example, lobby university authorities to adopt race-neutral admissions standards but that by adopting a constitutional amendment insisting on race neutrality, thereby transferring the decision from the education bureaucrats to the people themselves and their constitution, they "changed the rules in the middle of the game." Her opinion is legally illiterate and logically indefensible, and the still-young career of this self-described "wise Latina" on the Supreme Court already offers a case study in the moral and legal corrosion that inevitably results from elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law. Justice Sotomayor has revealed herself as a naked and bare-knuckled political activist with barely even a pretense of attending to the law, and the years she has left to subvert the law will be a generation-long reminder of the violence the Obama administration has done to our constitutional order.
Right-wing media are continuing to misinform about Schuette v. BAMN, the latest Supreme Court rejection of well-established civil rights law.
On April 22, in a splintered decision, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court effectively overturned decades of civil rights precedent and gutted a core component of equal protection law by reinterpreting the political process doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment. This doctrine, based on Supreme Court cases from the civil rights era, prohibits restructurings of political systems to the specific detriment of a disfavored minority. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that the state of Michigan's 2006 ban on affirmative action violated this case law by removing this policy decision from the normal political system and writing it into the state constitution.
Contrary to right-wing media's framing of the case, Schuette was never about the propriety of affirmative action, although Michigan's ban has led to decreased minority enrollment and heightened racial tensions on campus. And as Justice Anthony Kennedy's controlling opinion in Schuette reaffirmed, race-conscious admissions policies in higher education remain constitutional. Still, Roger Clegg at National Review Online nevertheless called the case and its deleterious ramifications for the diversity of all future classrooms and students of color in particular "a big loss for racial preferences in the Supreme Court" and "a resounding win for the good guys."
Fox News' senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano took it even further, saying that "the elites who run university systems think they know better than the voters do." When host Eric Shawn asked Napolitano about the precipitous drop in minority enrollment on Michigan campuses since the ban went into effect, Napolitano brushed him off, stating the Schuette decision "lets the voters go either way." He went on to claim that race-conscious admissions were antithetical to "that thing the Civil War was supposed to have resolved":
Fox News attacked Denver public schools by claiming they were hiring "illegal alien" teachers who are unqualified to teach. But the teachers in question have legal status to work in the U.S., have an alternative license to teach from the state of Colorado, and are working toward being fully licensed.
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.
Breitbart Texas launched a transphobic attack on a Texas substitute teacher who was suspended because of her gender identity, depicting the teacher as mentally disturbed and suggesting that she became transgender because she was distraught over her divorce.
On April 8, Lumberton Independent School District suspended Laura Jane Klug, who had worked as a fifth grade substitute teacher, after parents complained to school officials about Klug's gender identity. Breitbart Texas picked up the story on April 9, using scare quotes to mock Klug's gender identity and touting a local conservative writer's claim that Klug is "an emotionally disturbed and confused older man":
A fifth grade substitute teacher was suspended this week by the Lumberton Independent School District (LISD) after it was discovered the teacher is a "transgender" male [sic]. The teacher who was recently hired by the school district now must wait until Friday to find out if "she" will be terminated from employment.
The issue of Laura Jane Klug's "gender identity" came up after parents became aware of students talking about it in school. Mr. Klug was asked by school officials not to return to "her" classroom until the school board could be convened to consider the matter according to KFDM TV.
David Bellow raises other concerns about Klug's mental state in an article posted today on TexasGOPVote.com.
"I looked [Klug] up on Facebook," Bellows wrote, "and what I found was an emotionally disturbed and confused older man. He has not always wanted to be a woman. According to a note he posted on his Facebook page on July 7th, 2011 titled "How Much More Can I Take?" Kurt Klug was emotionally distraught and seemingly ready to give in with his life because of the pain of his female wife leaving him. The pain and distraught of his wife leaving him must have driven him to decide that he wanted to become a woman. From 2011 until now, Kurt changed his name to Laura Jane Klug and started dressing up like a woman and acting like a woman."
Bellow and Breitbart's smears against Klug rely on the discredited trope that transgender people are inherently disturbed and disordered. Medical experts reject this notion. Being transgender, in the words of one expert, is "part of the human condition," and gender identity is an ingrained, intrinsic part of a person's identity. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, gender identity is usually established by the age of four. In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to drop the diagnosis of "gender identity disorder," replacing it with gender dysphoria, the possible emotional distress that can come from "a marked incongruence" between one's assigned sex at birth and one's gender identity.
But Breitbart has little use for such facts. The website -- which employs the rabid anti-LGBT extremist Austin Ruse --has previously mocked transgender people by running a trans-related article with a photo of a cross-dressing South Park character, betraying an embarrassing ignorance about what it even means to be transgender.
Launched along with Breitbart London in February, followed by Breitbart California on April 6, Breitbart Texas' transphobic attack on Klug comes days after Breitbart California came under fierce criticism for a sexist image of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) face transposed onto a scantily clad woman's body.
National Review Online's Heather Mac Donald attempted to justify her irresponsible and false claims about black students by highlighting the story of a 14-year-old boy accused of murder, conflating the story with recent data on racial disparities in school discipline and absurdly claiming that the story is evidence that black students do not suffer from discrimination.
In March, Mac Donald, who has a history of racially charged rhetoric, wrote an NRO column that misleadingly conflated the disproportionately high rates of suspension for black students with crime rate statistics and "family breakdown." The column also highlighted the story of 14-year-old Kahton Anderson, who was arrested for the shooting death of a 39-year-old bus passenger, to paint black children as inherently more likely to commit crimes, asking, "Did anyone doubt the race of the killer, even though the media did not disclose it?" later claiming it is "common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive in class."
In an April 4 post, Mac Donald again highlighted the Anderson story, saying, "Naturally, he was raised by a single mother" and using information reported by The New York Times which she claimed "is a case study in everything that the civil-rights complex assiduously denies." Mac Donald went on to portray Anderson as being representative of black youth in general:
The bus shooting was hardly unusual. Gunfire among these warring crews is routine; one crew member was shot to death last July. And as in Kahton's case, the lack of impulse control that results in such mindless violence on the streets unavoidably shows up in the classroom as well. It defies common sense that a group with such high rates of lawlessness outside school would display model behavior inside school. Multiply Anderson's homicide several-hundred-fold, and you get the nearly ten to one disparity between the murder rate among 14- to 17-year-old black males and that of their white and Hispanic male peers combined. Multiply his classroom infractions several-hundred-thousand-fold, and you get the three-to-one suspension disparity that so agitates the civil-rights and education establishments.
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.
Despite studies that consistently point to discrimination as the cause for disproportionately harsh discipline on students of color, a National Review Online article falsely suggested that unrelated black crime rates and "family breakdown" are to blame.
On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released new data, including this snapshot on school discipline which found "disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color."
In a March 24 post, NRO's Heather Mac Donald criticized the Department of Education study for highlighting the racial disparity in school discipline, claiming without evidence that the black crime rate, not discrimination, "explains the school-suspension rate":
Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age combined. Given such high crime rates, what do the civil-rights advocates and the Obama administration think is going on in the classroom -- docile obedience and strict self-discipline? In fact, the same weak impulse control that leads to such high crime rates among young black males inevitably means more disruptive behavior in school.
Mac Donald proceeded to discuss the recent story of a 14-year-old who opened fire on a New York bus, asking, "Did anyone doubt the race of the killer, even though the media did not disclose it?" She concluded her piece blaming "family breakdown" as another factor behind student behavior that leads to the disparities in discipline among children of different races, calling it "common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive":
None of the federal studies mention or control for single-parent households, of course. Instead, we are supposed to believe that well-meaning teachers, who have spent their entire time in ed school steeped in the doctrine of "white privilege" and who are among the most liberal segments of the workforce, suddenly become bigots once in the classroom and begin arbitrarily suspending pacific black children out of racial bias ... Given the black-white crime disparities, it is equally common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive in class as well.
The refusal to take student behavior and family breakdown into account in interpreting student discipline rates means that more millions of taxpayer dollars will be wasted suing hapless school districts for phantom racism and sending teachers and administrators back to anti-racism training. The advocacy and anti-bias training complex cleans up, while the root cause of student misbehavior still goes unaddressed.
Despite Mac Donald's claims, experts and studies find discrimination as a cause of the racial disparity in school discipline. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that research shows "[e]ven when they commit the exact same offense as white students, black students suffer more severe consequences," and the Education Department's snapshot showed similar discipline disparities even between students with disabilities, finding "[b]lack students represent 19% of students with disabilities served by [the Integrated Disability Education and Awareness Program], but 36% of these students who are subject to mechanical restraint."
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace praised Donald Graham as the show's "power player of the week" for his efforts to give financial aid to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children -- known as DREAMers. But Wallace's positive coverage of Graham's TheDream.US program stands in stark contrast to how Fox News has covered access to an affordable college education for undocumented students in the past several years.
Fox has exhaustively attacked laws that allow undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. In November 2010, the network attacked a court ruling upholding a California law permitting this, asking whether "illegal immigrants" should get what it called an "[i]llegal discount." In June 2011, Fox further attacked the law as "flawed" and complained that the Supreme Court declined to hear a case about the law. An O'Reilly Factor segment that same month falsely claimed that these students were getting "free tuition" and stated that 35 percent of students paying in-state tuition in California were undocumented, when in fact undocumented students made up only 0.34 percent of the population. In March 2011, Fox's Steve Doocy made up a story to argue against a New Jersey college allowing undocumented immigrants to attend classes and pay in-county tuition rates. And in October 2011, Fox & Friends promoted the efforts of two conservative Texas A&M students who wanted to repeal a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
In early December 2012, Fox News attacked a similar Massachusetts policy that would allow DREAMers to attend state colleges with the in-state tuition rate. Fox & Friends baselessly portrayed the policy as a burden on native and other immigrant students, and America's Newsroom hosted a member of a nativist extremist group to express opposition to similar policies in Oregon and Colorado.
More recently, Fox News used the falsehood that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes to claim it isn't fair for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. When O'Reilly interviewed Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in October 2011, the Fox News host suggested that it's "heartless" to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. On O'Reilly's show in June 2012, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham said that undocumented students in Colorado "should be paying an out-of-country tuition."
Watch Fox News Sunday's profile of Donald Graham and his efforts to provide college scholarships to DREAMers, which The Wall Street Journal called "a private sector analogue to states that have moved to offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants," below:
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."
Meet the Press host David Gregory invited conservative activist Ralph Reed to comment on the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) event just held outside Washington, D.C., but never mentioned Reed's comparison of President Obama to segregationist George Wallace during his CPAC speech.
On March 7, Reed said during his speech at CPAC:
REED: And in Louisiana right now, this administration is trying to block the right of minority children to receive state aid to attend either a religious or a charter school where they are safe and where they can learn. Fifty years ago, George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door and said that African-American students couldn't come in. Today, the Obama administration stands in that same schoolhouse door and refuses to let those children leave. It was wrong then, it is wrong now, and we say to President Obama, let those children go.
As Mother Jones reported, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made a similar comparison at CPAC. Wallace was famous for being pro-segregation as Alabama governor and in 1968 ran as a presidential candidate for a third party whose platform opposed civil rights. A Wallace staffer explained that "race and being opposed to the civil rights movement and all it meant was the very heart and soul of the Wallace campaign." And Wallace's 1998 Washington Post obituary stated that he "vilified blacks" in his campaign.
But in the approximately seven minutes Reed was on a Meet the Press panel that discussed CPAC and Republican politics, neither Gregory nor anyone else mentioned Reed's smear of Obama. Watch: