Tuesday’s edition of Fox & Friends promoted a false claim from right-wing site the Daily Caller, asserting that parents in Loudoun County, Virginia, are forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to learn what their children are being taught in school.
In fact, the county partnered with Second Step, a company that provides materials for social-emotional learning (SEL) to teach children about conflict resolution and understanding other people. The company’s materials are not even a secret, as a lot of sample lesson plans and supporting material is posted on both the school district’s and the vendor’s websites. (It is also well known that SEL education is a vital tool for students on the autism spectrum.)
Instead, the Daily Caller’s article simply exploited a legalese statement attached to Second Step’s official presentations, which essentially restated that the material is copyrighted, and thus the presentation “may not be broadcast, downloaded, photographed or recorded in any manner whatsoever.” (But despite that seemingly scary legal language, both the company and school district have posted plenty of material for people to actually look at for themselves.)
Furthermore, the Daily Caller and Fox News tied this allegation to the schools teaching “critical race theory,” a topic that Fox has campaigned against for the past year — essentially using the term as a “catch-all” phrase for any right-wing culture war grievances. Notably, the network’s push is deliberately tied to mobilizing Republicans for the midterm elections, starting with this year’s Virginia gubernatorial elections.
The story was first promoted by the show’s reporter Lawrence Jones, who asked, “What is the school district hiding?” Shortly after Jones’ appearance, the co-hosts promoted the story by insisting that this proved critical race theory was not merely a “trumped-up culture war.”
But in reality, the story is painfully dishonest, and this continues to be a Fox-promoted culture war.
But oddly enough, the Daily Caller then disproved its own narrative by admitting in the next sentence right after it quoted from the copyright notice: “Downloadable files of part of the curriculum are available on LCPS’ website, per Second Step’s copyright policy.” (Links in original.)
The first link in that statement leads to a treasure trove of sample materials for the K-8 levels, with such supposedly subversive themes as “Emotion Management,” “Empathy & Kindness,” “Recognizing Bullying & Harassment,” and “Managing Relationship & Social Conflict.” Along with K-5 and middle school curriculum overviews, further materials include samples of student handouts and interactive lesson features, including video content.
The only evidence that the Daily Caller cited in order to allege that the materials are “CRT-inspired” was that Second Step’s website has a page on “anti-racism and anti-bias” resources. (The Daily Caller singled out the phrase “anti-racist,” describing it as “a term coined by activist Ibram X. Kendi.”) The page is actually a set of links to other sources of information, such as an Anti-Defamation League report on antisemitism, as well as PBS documentaries on the histories of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans.
The Daily Caller also raised suspicions about another page that also has no direct relevance to racial justice issues or political activism, but instead discusses emotions and interpersonal relationships. (Link in the original.)
It also creates a “common language” to “create lasting systematic change.”
“When we all use the same words — for emotions, situations, and behavioral dynamics — it promotes empathy and understanding between students, teachers, staff, parents, and the community,” the curriculum reads. “Second Step provides a shared emotional vocabulary that can create lasting systemic change.”
This is what the scare campaign of “critical race theory” actually means to Fox News and other right-wing outlets: any notion of a diverse and inclusive environment.