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's eagerness to attack Common Core, however, has been well documented. The network has previously characterized the standards as a partisan agenda designed to “indoctrinate” children, suggested that the standards will use data mining to track children, and claimed they will mark incorrect math answers as correct. None of these claims are true. It appears that the network sees the North Carolina censorship debate as yet another opportunity to demonize Common Core, yet even that attempt falls flat.
What Fox doesn't seem to understand is that Common Core is a set of standards that define the proficiency levels students should reach at the end of each grade. It is not, as Hasselbeck claims, a “classroom curriculum” and does not mandate how those standards should be reached. Instead, Common Core leaves decisions about classroom content to the states. As the Common Core State Standards Initiative explains:
Myth: These Standards amount to a national curriculum for our schools.
Fact: The Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.