Glenn Beck released a new book last week on everything that is supposedly wrong with education in America. The title, Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education, gives most of it away.
Most people know Glenn Beck from his previous stint on Fox News or from the various media outlets associated with his network, The Blaze. His co-author Kyle Olson, on the other hand, appears to be up-and-coming in the right-wing media sphere. Currently, he is the publisher, founder, and CEO of EAGnews.org, a “news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary.” He is also a contributor to Townhall, and just last week launched a new conservative website called Progressives Today with “Dumbest Man on the Internet” Jim Hoft.
In Conform, Beck and Olson take on everything from teachers unions' to the Common Core State Standards to school lunches to abortion in a book characterized by anecdotal evidence, sweeping generalizations, and quotes from anonymous bloggers. The focus of their ire is what they call the “controllists,” defined as “the teachers' unions and their progressive friends in the media and the state legislatures.” In 222 pages, Beck and Olson lob a number of outlandish attacks against the various evils they perceive in public education, relying on such conservative actors as Michelle Malkin, the Heritage Foundation, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the Heartland Institute to do so.
Here are the eight most ridiculous attacks from Conform:
1. Longer School Days Help Teachers Encourage “Teen Sexual Activity.”
Beck and Olson seem convinced that teachers are not only “promot[ing] sexual activity among children,” but would use longer school days to “encourage teen sexual activity,” among other radical ideas (emphasis added):
Educators back then knew that some parents were too shy or awkward to broach the subject, so schools made sure kids would have basic knowledge to build on as they grew and developed their own points of view.
Today the trend seems to be to promote sexual activity among children, rather than gradually preparing kids for the facts of adult life.
There's also the issue of what our kids would learn with even more hours at school. Many of these educators would relish the opportunity to spend more time feeding students a steady stream of radical, anti-American political ideas, encouraging teen sexual activity, and deemphasizing the importance of traditional values and religion. [Conform, pgs. 126 & 138]
2. “Most Teachers Get A Raise For Not Dying Over The Summer.”
In Chapter 3, which purports to counter the myth that “Public Schools Are Underfunded,” Beck and Olson take issue with teacher compensation:
In most school districts across the nation, all teachers are given automatic, annual raises every year based on years of service and number of graduate classes completed. To put it bluntly, most teachers get a raise for not dying over the summer-- their classroom performance, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with it. [Conform, pg. 15]
3. Teachers Don't Need Tenure Because “Parents Will Hold [Principals] Accountable.”
Chapter 6 asserts that teachers don't need tenure because if a good teacher is fired, parents will take care of that:
What should protect teachers is what protects anyone who must continually justify their job: success. Good teachers continue working, bad ones go away. And if a good teacher is fired without cause or because of some political grudge or ideological difference with a principal, you can be sure that parents will hold that principal accountable. [Conform, pg. 34]
4. Teachers' Colleges Are “Not Very Hard” To Get Into And Are “Marxist Brainwashing Factories.”
Beck and Olson have numerous thoughts on teaching colleges in Chapter 8, among them that teaching colleges are “not very hard at all to get accepted into,” and that they are “Marxist brainwashing factories” (emphasis added):
On the flip side, it's not very hard at all to get accepted into our nation's teaching colleges. Once you're in, you don't have to do extremely well to graduate and gain certification to teach in a K- 12 school. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “entrance requirements to most colleges of education are too lax, and the requirements for graduation are too low.”
Newly minted teachers emerge from college with few English skills, little respect for the discipline, and heads filled with ideas about the fundamental unfairness of America and how capitalism and individualism are terrible things.
Meanwhile, reformers keep pushing for the expansion of alternate teaching certification so that at least some prospective educators can find jobs and help kids learn without having to first be processed through Marxist brainwashing factories. [Conform, pgs. 49, 50, 52, & 56]
5. “Radical Educators” Use Civil Rights To “Further Their Marxist Agenda.”
Continuing on the “Marxism” train, Chapter 9 opens with the allegation that “America's historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators” who use “racial inequities” “to further their Marxist agenda” (emphasis added):
America's historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators.
It's all part of their effort to take control over what our children learn and think with the hope that future generations will be more accommodating to efforts to dismantle our nation's capitalistic economic system and impose state control and socialism.
Radical educators are very clever to use civil rights, and the racial inequities that have plagued our society for centuries, as a tool to further their Marxist agenda. That's because few Americans disagree with the fundamental arguments of the original civil rights movement-- that barriers needed to be removed so that people of all races can have an equal chance to achieve the American dream. [Conform, pgs. 59 & 60]
6. Common Core Helps Progressives Remove Parents From Their Children's Lives.
Beck doesn't have the best track record when it comes to Common Core. Indeed, he has been one of the most vocal right-wing media figures leading the charge against the state-led, voluntary education standards. Conform, however, makes the new, bizarre assertion that the Common Core State Standards somehow lead to a removal of parents from their children's lives (emphasis added):
Since most parents don't understand the Common Core techniques, students are becoming more dependent on their schools and teachers for their education, and less on help from their parents. This is like a dream come true for progressives who hope to continue to minimize the role of parents in the lives of their children.
Do these really sound like “rigorous” changes to you? Or does it sound more like a systematic approach to dumb down our kids and further remove parents from the process so that students will be easier to indoctrinate and control? [Conform, pgs. 93 & 95]
7. “Controllists” Want To Serve School Meals So That Kids Will Be In School More And To Teach Kids That Everything Is Free.
In one of their odder arguments, Beck and Olson claim that “controllists” use the school meals program to “make the case that kids must be in school more” and that school meals will teach kids “the concept of 'free' public handouts” :
By serving one or two meals a day to students, schools and controllists can begin to make the case that kids must be in school more so that they can eat properly.
All this fits perfectly with the controllists' strategy of teaching children that all good things originate with the state. Once kids learn that their parents are not responsible for providing any meals because the government covers that cost for everyone, it's not hard to take the next step and teach them the concept of “free” public handouts for everything, including education, health care, and housing. [Conform, pg. 136]
8. Former President George W. Bush and Governor Chris Christie Are “Progressives.”
Amidst their criticism of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the idea of kids staying at school later in the day, Beck and Olson assert that former President George W. Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) are “progressives” :
NCLB was the brainchild of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy, both big-government progressives.
Some progressives are seeing the opportunity this gives them and are pushing this concept beyond school hours. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christies [sic] has started a pilot program to provide free “after school dinner” for kids in six Camden schools. [Conform, pgs. 75 & 136]
Researcher Connor Land contributed to this review.