Beck spins anecdotal OFA claim into school “indoctrination” yarn

Glenn Beck ran with the right-wing claim that President Obama -- through an Organizing for America internship program -- was attempting to use the public schools to “indoctrinate” students. Beck's claims were based on a series of distortions and false assertions.

Beck baselessly inflates anecdotal story to suggest Obama using schools to recruit students for campaign

Beck: “They are now recruiting our high school students.” From the February 1 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: I just showed you the necessary ingredients for eroding freedom, and one of the keys, long-term, is education. Oh, that's ridiculous, Glenn, they're not, they're -- really? Education's not controlled by the progressive agenda or even by the administration? Really? Well, then tell me a little bit about this. Obama, through Organizing for America, has announced new internships at high schools. They are now recruiting our high school students to, quote, “build on the movement that elected President Obama by empowering students across the country to help us bring about our agenda.” End quote.

Beck: “This is the actual form that your kids are handed at school.” Although Beck appears to be echoing a blog post in which Atlas Shrugs' Pam Geller refers to only one instance -- brought to her attention by one of the blog's readers -- in which an Ohio school teacher distributed the OFA applications, Beck never mentions that his segment is based on a solitary anecdotal story. In fact, holding up some papers, he asserts, “This is the actual form that your kids are handed at school.”

“Che indoctrination”: Beck suggests recommended readings for internship will be read in schools

Beck falsely suggested that OFA's internship reading recommendations will be read to children in schools. Although the suggested readings are part of the internship curriculum -- not recommended as school curriculum -- Beck stated:

BECK: During the first week, in the curriculum -- national intern organizer curriculum -- suggested readings: Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. That's on the reading list. In the first week. Now, if you want your kid reading this book, you're either a progressive, a Marxist, or you don't know what's in it. Things like, don't worry about it, the ends justify the means. Really? Wow, I didn't learn that from my president. Any other president. This is the second step in the Che indoctrination. First, you get the kids in the T-shirt, and then you read them Saul Alinsky in school, recommended by the president. Maybe we should start printing Saul T-shirts right now. What do you say?

Beck suggested that the recommended readings amount to teaching kids unethical behavior. In addition to referring to the readings, particularly Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals and Zack Exley's The New Organizers, as “Che indoctrination,” Beck stated:

BECK: I want you to know. If my kid is going in for -- to be an intern for a campaign, and it teaches them about civics, duty, honor, standing up for things that are principled, learning more about our country and its founding, that's great. But if you're teaching my kid that the ends justify the means, that tearing people apart without evidence, without any kind of substance, something that they did in their past, and if you think that's OK -- just smear 'em to get elected as long as you win -- I don't think America should be OK with that.

Beck: “Obama loves [Alinsky] for the schools.” Suggesting that there is something underhanded about recommending reading Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, Beck stated:

BECK: Here's the real cruxt [sic] of this issue. You want to read the book, read the book. You want your kids to read the book, read the book. I have no problem with it. Serve for Obama. Do it. But how come this administration always dismisses people like Saul Alinsky? They dismiss all of these radical '60s influences -- the Bill Ayers of the world, who, by the way, never apologized for the bombing of the Pentagon -- in fact, he said he didn't do enough -- and is currently working in education.

How about Saul Alinsky? A Marxist who was passed off in the media just, what, a year ago? Year and a half ago? Oh, nobody pays attention to him. Who is this guy? Since then, we find out that Obama loves him for the schools and Chris Matthews has just said this.

MATTHEWS [video clip]: Well, to reach back to one of our heroes from the past, from the '60s, Saul Alinsky.

BECK: One of the heroes from the '60s. And again, Obama's Organizing for America sends this out for your kids.

Yet conservatives have also advocated the use of Alinsky tactics. As Media Matters for America has pointed out, counterpoint to the idea that reading Alinsky amounts to liberal indoctrination is the fact that a number of conservatives have not only confessed to reading Rules for Radicals but also to actively using Alinsky tactics:

  • Tea Party leader Michael Patrick Leahy has written a book based on Alinsky's work in which he "argues that today's conservative radical should follow the tactics of Saul Alinsky, but apply the morals and ethics of Martin Luther King."
  • The Los Angeles Times reported that conservative activist James O'Keefe found an “unlikely source of inspiration” in Alinsky and that O'Keefe “took to heart” Alinsky's principle to "[m]ake the enemy live up to its own book of rules."
  • On Glenn Beck, David Horowitz advocated for conservatives to follow “what Saul Alinsky argues” -- i.e., “shout[ing] things whether they are true or not” and “stag[ing] a die-in" -- in order to “catch the other side off guard” and win the health care debate.
  • The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported: "[I]n Kansas City, Missouri, a group of conservative organizers will conduct a most unusual training session. They will teach the 'Rules for Radicals' laid down by the god of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. The idea: learn to recognize the footprints of the enemy."
  • The Washington Independent's David Weigel has reported that “Alinsky has found a thriving and surprising fan club in the modern conservative movement,” with “many 'Tea Party' activists say[ing] they're cribbing from Alinsky.”

Beck suggested that an NEA website's recommendation of Rules for Radicals -- for “association representatives” -- amounts to indoctrination

Beck: "[I]t's not just if you want to be an intern. ... The government is training radicals instead of educating children."

BECK: Oh, and it doesn't stop there, because it's not just if you want to be an intern. How about this one? The NEA has issued a new recommended reading on their website. Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. That's fantastic. The average American -- are they with Saul Alinsky, the ends justify the means? Should the average American just blow all of these things off as unrelated coincidence? That the government is training radicals instead of educating children.

But the recommendation is for the NEA's “site leaders,” not children. The part of the National Education Association's website on which the recommendation appears is called “Association Representative Resources” and is described as follows:

This area of the NEA website is dedicated to recognizing and developing effective site leaders, whether they be called “Association Representatives,” “Building Representatives,” “Shop Stewards,” or any other name.