Last Week Tonight host John Oliver highlighted the standardized testing environment in many of today's schools, discussing the high stakes and stress often associated with testing in classrooms across the United States.
In contrast to recent calls for annual testing from some media outlets, Oliver spent nearly 18 minutes covering the current realities of standardized testing on the May 3 edition of HBO's Last Week Tonight, including high-stakes testing and value-added models that can negatively impact teachers and students. He also emphasized the connection to "publishing giant" Pearson, a company whom a Politico investigation found that "public officials often commit to buying from...even when there's little proof its products and services are effective."
Oliver also drew attention to the recent battle over testing in Florida, and to the stress some students face as a result of standardized testing. He specifically pointed to test instructions in Ohio, which include procedures for students who vomit on the test booklet.
Three Fox News figures touted "school choice" as an appropriate response to the recent riots in Baltimore, faulting the city's "awful" and "worst schools on earth" for the violence. But their allegations ignore evidence that Baltimore public school students have made significant achievement gains over the past several years.
Protests broke out in Baltimore over the weekend following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 from a spinal cord injury he sustained while in police custody a week earlier. Peaceful protests that devolved into violence led Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to impose a weeklong, citywide 10 p.m. curfew, and both the Baltimore Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Gray's death.
On Fox News, contributor Charles Krauthammer, frequent guest Rudy Giuliani, and host Gretchen Carlson touted "school choice" in separate discussions of the riots, insinuating that Baltimore public schools are to blame for the violence. On the April 28 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Krauthammer cited "the worst schools on Earth" as one of "two issues in the inner cities," concluding, "If you want to do something, let them choose their school."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board falsely blamed the Obama administration for the closing of for-profit college company Corinthian Colleges, ignoring mountains of evidence that the company engaged in exploitative practices against its students.
Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced on April 26 that it would immediately shut down its 28 remaining campuses, following reports that it has been "teetering on the brink of collapse for months." About 16,000 students in five states are affected by the move, which Mic.com called "the final act of a slow-motion disintegration."
On April 27, The Wall Street Journal editorial board defended Corinthian, claiming that the "feds and [California Attorney General] Kamala Harris put 16,000 students on the street." The editorial alleged that the Department of Education (ED) "began to drive Corinthian out of business by choking off federal student aid," that Corinthian was held at "government gunpoint," and that an ED "penalty scared away prospective buyers." The editorial concluded:
Though Corinthian has established an escrow account for refunds, the reserve likely won't be sufficiently capitalized to cover 16,000 students. Maybe there would be more money for students if Corinthian didn't have to spend so much defending itself from the government. But for the Obama Administration, protecting students has always been second to its mission of doing whatever it takes to put for-profit schools out of business.
The WSJ's attempt to blame the ED for Corinthian's collapse is misguided given that the for-profit company has been under investigation for years for "exploitative practices," including "predatory lending, deception in performance data and job placement rates, and bogus career services." Last summer, the ED cut Corinthian off from receiving federal aid, and penalized them with a $30 million fine earlier this month for 947 confirmed cases of "misrepresentation of job placement rates." California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against Corinthian in 2013, alleging that the company "targeted some of our state's most particularly vulnerable people -- including low income, single mothers and veterans returning from combat."
A group of former Corinthian students also announced earlier this year that they would "not repay any federal student loans they took out to attend Corinthian's schools," calling it a "debt strike." Officials from the ED, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Department of the Treasury met with those former students last month and listened to claims that "they were either lured into taking out loans with bogus promises of future job prospects or were simply signed up for loans by their school's staff without their consent." Think Progress further noted in its "inside story" on Corinthian:
The company's bait-and-switch approach to recruiting students -- or making sales to customers -- lured many ambitious people who thought they were investing in future economic security, workplace dignity, or job satisfaction. But ultimately, many of them were just buying a meaningless degree at a very high price.
This isn't the first time the WSJ has used faulty arguments to defend for-profit colleges, or even its first foray into deceptive reporting on higher education and student debt. This editorial echoes a larger trend within conservative media to ignore the realities of America's student debt crisis.
Image at top via Flickr user Jeramey Jannene using a Creative Commons license.
Both Fox's Sean Hannity and Univision host Jorge Ramos misrepresented the Latino vote by suggesting that if it weren't for the issue of immigration, Hispanics would favor conservative candidates. But not only do Latino voters prioritize multiple issues in addition to immigration, on those issues they are far more likely to support progressive reforms than Ramos and Hannity suggested.
On the April 15 edition of his Fox show, Hannity misleadingly claimed that Hispanics "generally speaking" were "conservative on social issues," and suggested that the sole reason Latinos might not vote for Hispanic GOP presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio was their anti-immigration stances. Ramos agreed, and claimed that the reason Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats was entirely due to immigration:
RAMOS: Republicans, I think, they've missed a huge opportunity, because when it comes to values, they're close to the Hispanic community, but Latinos honestly can't see beyond immigration.
Ramos went on to inaccurately oversimplify the Latino constituency by painting immigration as their "prerequisite" to supporting a candidate, which in his opinion would give Jeb Bush -- who has supported a pathway to citizenship --an edge with Latinos in the 2016 election.
Fox News' latent Islamophobia manifested itself during two segments criticizing a Wisconsin high school for asking history students to write about Muslim Americans based on materials covered in class.
On April 2, according to emails initially obtained by right-wing talk radio host Vicki McKenna, world history students at Union Grove High School were asked to write a short essay about daily life for Muslims living in the United States. Students were asked to write five paragraphs in which they "pretend" to be Muslim and briefly outline their daily routine along with any potential "struggles" they might face.
Fox News expressed its concern about the assignment during two segments on the April 15 edition of Fox & Friends, in which co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade wondered if it was appropriate for students to learn about Islam -- the world's second-largest religion -- in a world history class. At first, Doocy wondered if students wrote about "what Sharia law is," and how they were graded if they did, while Hasselbeck worried that students might not being learning enough about Christianity:
Doocy reiterated his alleged concerns about Sharia law during a later segment, in which he hyped common Islamophobic tropes about the religion being violent and intolerant:
DOOCY: I wonder if they actually, if they did study the religion in this world history class, if they wrote down things like, "If I criticize any part of the Quran, they will kill me," or, "If Muslims marry non-Muslims, they will be put to death," or, "If I'm caught stealing, they'll amputate my right hand." I wonder if they put that kind of stuff in, because that's all part of Sharia law.
The conservative Washington Times published a series of bizarre conspiracy theories and claims about the Common Core State Standards, alleging that the educational standards amount to "Islamic infiltration of America."
On April 7, The Washington Times published a piece by columnist and Fox News Radio analyst Bethany Blankley titled, "Common Core ties to Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia." Blankley conflated several stories unrelated to Common Core throughout the article, including the addition of two Muslim holy days to the New York City public school calendar and "public-school sponsored trips to mosques via taxpayer expense," to allege that the state standards are "but one of many parts of an intricate plan to infiltrate every area of American society with Islam." She also included a passage supposedly demonstrating Common Core's connection to foreign countries, relying on right-wing birther website WorldNetDaily for evidence:
Globally, Common Core originated from the "One World Education" concept, a global goal orchestrated by the Connect All Schools program. Its origin is funded by the Qatar Foundation International (QFI). The director of QFI's Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics is Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna.
According to the WND website, in 2011, QFI "partnered with the Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to facilitate matchmaking between classrooms in the U.S. and international schools through ... the 'Connect All Schools' project." QFI states on its website that the initiative was founded in response to Mr. Obama's infamous 2009 Cairo speech, during which the Muslim Brotherhood was seated in the front row.
Mr. Obama's mentor, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, received $49.2 million from Vartan Gregorian, a board member of the Qatar Foundation, who also is involved with Mr. Obama's White House Fellowships Commission. Gregorian is an integral part of Connect All Schools, through which Qatar invested $5 million to teach Arabic in American public schools
Such inexplicable conspiracy theories about Common Core, however, don't come as much of a surprise given Blankley's anti-Islamic agenda. On her personal website, Blankley has published several pieces supposedly uncovering "The Muslim Brotherhood's Infiltration of the American Government," in a series titled, "The Betrayal Papers," where she implicates everything from Common Core to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Department of Homeland Security.
Blankley's piece is just the latest in a long history of Common Core misinformation from right-wing media. Multiple conservative outlets have promoted tired myths to stoke fears about this set of state-based education standards in math and English voluntarily adopted by 45 states in 2010. The conservative media outrage machine has turned Common Core into something of a "rallying cry" over the past few years, thanks to the loud and often misinformed voices telling audiences to be angry or in some cases, to boycott the tests associated with the standards.
For more on the lies and misinformation about Common Core often propagated by conservative media, watch below:
Hispanic conservative media personalities rushed to defend whether GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz "deserve" to be labeled the most Hispanic candidate, ignoring polls that show Latinos care about policies, not personality, and both candidates advocate conservative policies at odds with the vast majority of Latino voters.
After former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced his intentions to explore a 2016 presidential run, Hispanic media outlets praised Bush as a "Hispanic candidate," ignoring his conservative policy stances at odds with most Latino voters.
When GOP Sen. Ted Cruz announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination, right wing Hispanic media figures began to scramble to crown which candidate was the "most Hispanic."
In a New York Post op-ed, the Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzalez defended Cruz from detractors who claimed Ted Cruz "does not speak for Hispanics," arguing that Cruz's family story and upbringing speak to his immigrant background. But during a guest appearance on Univision's Al Punto con Jorge Ramos, Miami Herald columnist Helen Aguirre defined Jeb Bush as "much more Hispanic" than Cruz, "in way of thinking and culture" (her remarks have been translated from Spanish).
On the April 7 edition of CNN's New Day, CNN contributor and conservative strategist Ana Navarro suggested that Bush may have some "Hispanic identity," arguing that he could beat many Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus if they were tested on "Spanish grammar, and reading, and comprehension, and Latin American history, and culture."
Right-wing media have praised former Florida Governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's 1999 executive action eliminating race-based affirmative action in higher education admissions. Now, a new report from The Washington Post finds that black student enrollment is in decline at two of Florida's largest four-year schools.
Fox News misleadingly slurred immigrants with legal permission to work in the United States as "illegals" during a segment highlighting attempts by disadvantaged school districts around the country to boost bilingual education initiatives.
On the April 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced a headline news segment by falsely claiming that a nonprofit group is "hiring dozens of illegals to teach disadvantaged students." Doocy acknowledged just seconds later that the prospective teachers could "apply for a work permit and earn a reprieve from deportation under the DREAM Act," but still felt it appropriate to label them with the "illegals" slur commonly used by Fox News:
The segment, which alludes to an April 4 report by the Associated Press about the recruitment of DREAMers as bilingual educators, mirrors a similarly misleading and smear-filled segment featured on Fox & Friends nearly one year ago in which co-hosts Doocy and Brian Kilmeade questioned Denver Public Schools' hiring of so-called "illegal aliens." As was the case today, the teachers in question actually held legal employment authorization.
From the April 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A segment on PBS' Newshour provided an example of how media should cover racial disparities in school discipline and educational achievement -- as well as a stark contrast with how right-wing media outlets have covered the same issues.
On the April 1 edition of PBS' Newshour, April Brown reported on the beginning of a new initiative in Washington, DC called the Empowering Males of Color initiative, and noted that some are concerned that the focus on boys of color leaves girls of color behind. The segment featured Kimberlé Crenshaw, a UCLA law professor, who pointed to the greater racial disparity in school discipline for girls than boys. The report went on to cover broader racial disparities in education, including the lower college graduation rate, and after-school programs such as Higher Achievement that are designed to help both boys and girls of color.
The Newshour segment was detailed and thoughtful -- providing a striking contrast with the way these issues have been discussed in right-wing outlets. Bill O'Reilly recently covered programs designed to reduce racial disparities in school discipline by declaring that "liberal mayors all over the country are making it easier for violent students to remain in public schools." National Review Online has published several articles that painted an image of black children as inherently more likely to need discipline: a post by Heather Mac Donald said it was "common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive"; another post cited the "lack of impulse control" of black students (as evidenced, she argued, by higher crime rates among black people). An NRO editorial described optional guidelines from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education to address these disparities as being the administration's "most foolhardy idea yet"; Fox News host Megyn Kelly bashed that same DOJ policy as "handcuffing our educators" and needlessly "bringing race into it."
Newshour's nuanced discussion on racial and gender disparities in education seems far out of reach for outlets like Fox and NRO, which fall at the first hurdle in attributing racial disparities to the characteristics of children of color, and not systemic injustice.
National Rifle Association News host Cam Edwards lashed out at a Daily Tar Heel editorial that argued guns are not the solution to campus sexual assault by claiming that the "burden" of stopping sexual assaults and other violent crimes as they occur "is on the victim."
According to Edwards, "it is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
In a March 22 editorial, independent student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel criticized national group Students for Concealed Carry for raising the issue of campus sexual assault in a gambit to loosen rules on carrying guns on public campuses in North Carolina.
The Daily Tar Heel wrote, "Concealed weapons would not significantly reduce sexual assault and would create inadvertent risks within other forms of interpersonal violence," and added that proponents of guns on campus "could reinforce rape culture because the burden of stopping assault would be further placed upon women." Noting that guns increase the risk of homicide in domestic violence situations, the Tar Heel concluded that "[t]o reduce sexual assault, focus should be maintained on preventative programs that challenge rigid gender roles and promote healthy relationships as well as intervention trainings that teach peers to be active bystanders rather than on measures that will not solve the problem."
On the March 27 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards said the editorial "could only be written by somebody on that college campus without a lot of thought and experience in the real world" and that he was "dumber [for] having read" the editorial.
In particular, Edwards took issue with the Tar Heel's argument that telling women that they should carry guns to prevent sexual assault places the "burden" of preventing such attacks on those women. Edwards repeatedly argued that the "burden" of stopping all violent crimes -- including sexual assault -- was in fact on the victim.
Tucker Carlson lauded Wyoming Catholic College's decision to reject federal funding and continue its discriminatory practices in the college's admissions and hiring processes.
The school recently chose to not participate in federal student aid programs, citing a desire to distance itself from the federal government's "influence and control." On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, host Tucker Carlson interviewed the school's president to discuss his institution's decision. President Kevin Roberts explained that the college was avoiding federal provisions that would require the educational establishment to respect basic protections for the LGBT community in the admissions and hiring processes.
Carlson: What are you concerned that the federal government would force you to do against your faith if you continue to take money?
Roberts: Well, as I said, we're a faithful Catholic college, which means that while we love all people and we have charity toward all, we would have problems with admissions and with employment with a transgendered person or someone with a same sex attraction who wanted to be active and an activist with that. And so, in spite of what people think the church may be changing in terms of the beliefs, we believe that in order to maintain church teaching on those principles that we ought not have strings attached to that federal money.
Carlson went on to ask Roberts if the school's move meant the institution could then set its own standards for hiring. Roberts responded saying Wyoming Catholic College would only selectively discriminate in its hiring and admissions processes:
Carlson: So, does this mean, because you're not going to be taking federal money, that you can have any employment standards that you wish?
Roberts: Well, within reason, right? We're not going to discriminate in other ways, but church teaching is very clear that if we were to have, say, a transgendered student want to apply it's not in line with church teaching. It does not mean we hate that person at all. We love them. But it simply doesn't square with the college we have founded in Wyoming.
From the March 25 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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