On July 22, the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) annual meeting will once again see corporations and state lawmakers gather to discuss and vote on model legislation meant for introduction in state legislatures across the country. On the eve of the three-day conference in San Diego, Media Matters looks back at five examples of great reporting by local news teams who pulled back the curtain and held ALEC accountable for hosting lobbyists and legislators in secret meetings -- where they wrote corporate-supported bills blocking minimum wage hikes, attacking unions, and eliminating environmental regulations -- and previews this year's agenda.
From the May 31 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
Loading the player reg...
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:
Washington Post's The Fix falsely referred to the Common Core State Standards as "federal" and "national," a scare tactic often used by right-wing media to smear the education standards.
Earlier this week, the Oklahoma House Education Committee voted to ban Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, "persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students 'what is bad about America.'" According to Think Progress, the bill banning AP U.S. History "would also require schools to instruct students in a long list of 'foundational documents,' including the Ten Commandments, two sermons and three speeches by Ronald Reagan." As Tulsa World pointed out, the committee hearing also included discussion about the "legality" of teaching any AP courses in the state's public schools, largely from opponents of Common Core.
In a February 17 post at The Washington Post's The Fix blog, Hunter Schwarz wrote that Oklahoma lawmakers "are considering dumping the Advanced Placement program because of its similarities to Common Core," and falsely referred to the standards as both "federal" and "national" (emphasis added):
It's more controversial in a red state like Oklahoma that's more distrustful of federal standards being imposed; the poll found Republicans are more likely to view Common Core negatively than Democrats, 58 percent to 23 percent.
But there are some major differences between AP and Common Core. For one, schools aren't required to offer AP courses and students aren't required to take them to graduate. Even without banning the program statewide, AP can be a local community decision.
AP is also well-established. About one-third of public high school students in the class of 2013 took an AP exam, and the class of 2013 also scored a 3 or higher on more than a million tests -- a score typically accepted by colleges for credit, according to the College Board, which oversees the program. The University of Oklahoma accepts scores of 3 or higher in nearly 40 subject areas.
Although fighting against national education standards has become popular among some Republicans, equating Common Core to AP isn't a direct comparison, and it's likely to be a tougher slog because of it.
The myth that the Common Core State Standards are a federal initiative has been long debunked, despite its frequent use by conservative media to stoke fears about the standards. Voluntarily adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia, the Common Core is a set of standards in math and English that was developed by a bipartisan group of governors, state school chiefs, and teachers, among others. As the standards have taken hold in many states, some controversy has surrounded their rollout, with even Common Core supporters calling its implementation "botched."
The right-wing media outrage machine, however, 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. The misguided notion that Common Core is a federal program comes as no surprise from conservative media voices, but is an unfortunate find in The Fix's education coverage.
Right-wing media lobbed harsh criticism and conspiracy theories at Jeb Bush in response to his decision to "actively explore" a 2016 presidential bid, even urging more conservative Republicans to run against him.
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News' morning show Fox & Friends celebrated Back to School week by pushing for armed teachers, rehashing tired myths about healthy school lunches, using slurs for immigrant children, and hosting discredited Fox personality John Stossel without disclosing his problematic history on the issue of education.
On its September 2 broadcast, Fox & Friends hyped the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) in Texas, which has recently armed some of its teachers, hosting a parent with two children enrolled in that school district who supports the program. The segment, which echoed similar Fox & Friends segments on August 27 and August 30, neglected to mention, however, that experts and educators agree that arming teachers is a dangerous practice, a habit the network shares with National Rifle Association.
In keeping with Fox's long-standing tradition of attacking first lady Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch program, co-host Heather Childers reported on Fox & Friends' September 4 broadcast that two New York school districts are pulling out of the program because kids say "the portion sizes are too small and it doesn't taste good."
CHILDERS: Two more schools finding the first lady's healthy lunch program hard to swallow. Two districts in New York are now ditching the menu that Michelle Obama revamped in 2010. The reason? It has increased the cost of the lunches and the number of students buying has drastically dropped. So why are less kids chowing down? They say that the portion sizes are too small and it doesn't taste good.
On September 2, Fox & Friends also hosted a student who is "taking a stand" against these school lunches, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming that students should be able to decide on their own lunches because "they're the customer."
During a "News by the Numbers" segment on September 3, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that educating "illegal immigrant children" would cost $761 million and noted that there are "1,000 in my district alone." Unsurprisingly, Kilmeade neglected to point out that undocumented school-aged children in in the United States have a legal right to access public education on equal terms.
On September 4, Fox & Friends turned to Fox Business Network host John Stossel to attack the Common Core State Standards (a practice the network has regularly engaged in) and to push for-profit elementary schools. This discussion, however, made no mention of Stossel's questionable involvement with teaching materials funded by two foundations described as "the dark money ATM of the right."
Curiously missing from Fox & Friends this week was groundbreaking news out of New York City, where the show broadcasts. September 4 marked the first day back to school for New York City students, as well as the first day of expanded pre-kindergarten "for more than 50,000 of the city's very smallest children." CBS New York reported, "City officials said 51,500 full-day pre-K students were enrolled as of Monday, up from 20,000 last year. They said the number will be up to 53,000 by the end of the month."
In his continued crusade against the Common Core education standards, Glenn Beck encouraged people across the country to boycott tests associated with Common Core, later declaring, "The day we're all willing to peacefully go to jail like Martin Luther King, we will win."
In a live broadcast to nearly 700 theaters nationwide, Beck and his fellow anti-Common Core "warriors" joined forces Tuesday night to "make Common Core history" (emphasis original) in a two-hour live movie titled We Will Not Conform. Those "warriors" included conservative commentator and notorious Common Core misinformer Michelle Malkin, hosts Dana Loesch and Pat Gray from Beck's The Blaze, "self-proclaimed historian" David Barton, Townhall columnist Terrence Moore, Jay Spencer of Liberty University (a sponsor of the event), and representatives from state-based groups waging war on Common Core.
The participants also included Matt Kibbe and Ellen Wheeler from FreedomWorks, a group which "started out as the Koch-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy" and came under scrutiny last year "due to bizarre internal feuding and questions about its finances." Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey told Media Matters at the time that "the group wasted money by paying Glenn Beck $1 million ... to fundraise for the organization."
This live event is just the latest salvo in Beck's campaign against the state-based education standards, which were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Beck and co-author Kyle Olson released a book in May called Conform, which, in addition to baselessly attacking teachers and public schools for 222 pages, argued that Common Core helps progressives remove parents from their children's lives. The day before the event, Beck compared Common Core to slavery.
From the July 21 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
Loading the player reg...
The Daily Signal revealed its biased reporting on education by only covering negative Common Core news since the site's launch one month ago.
On July 1, Education Week reported on a survey it completed with Gallup that showed about two-thirds of school district superintendents said they believe that the Common Core State Standards "will improve the quality of education in their communities," and that the standards were "just about right" in terms of level of difficulty.
This news on the standards from educators was summarily ignored by the Heritage Foundation's new digital news site, The Daily Signal, which has a dedicated section to the subject of Common Core. The Daily Signal purports to provide "straight-down-the-middle journalism" according to Geoffrey Lysaught, vice president of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation, but one month after its launch, the website's coverage of Common Core has limited its reporting to bad news for the state-based education standards.
Ignoring the positive Gallup and Education Week research on Common Core, The Daily Signal instead published a piece the same day based on findings from the Friedman Foundation, an organization that aims to "amplify the national call for true education reform through school choice."
In the past month, The Daily Signal's Common Core reporting has focused on Common Core opposition from states and governors, like Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, and portrayed them in a negative light. Meanwhile, Jindal is a contributor to the site and an outspoken opponent of Common Core.
In addition to The Daily Signal's skewed reporting on Common Core, the outlet also misinforms on the actual standards by referring to them as "national standards" when in fact, the Common Core is a set of state standards that were developed by education commissioners, governors, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and state leaders. It comes as no surprise that The Daily Signal is distorting Common Core given the Heritage Foundation's mission to push conservative, though apparently misinformed, education policies.
Right-wing media outlets ran misleading headlines about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent move against Common Core, erroneously claiming that he has withdrawn the state from the education standards. Jindal may be able to block a standardized test connected to Common Core, but he can't eliminate the standards entirely without help from the state legislature or the state school board.
On June 18, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Jindal announced plans "to try and roll back Louisiana" from the Common Core State Standards, a set of education standards adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Recent "political turbulence," fueled by misplaced conservative media outrage, has led a few states to withdraw from Common Core.
The Times-Picayune noted that the Louisiana legislature, the state school board, and "almost all other high-ranking state education officials" have said they want to keep Common Core. It also reported that while Jindal may be able to block the standardized test, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Jindal himself acknowledged he can't unilaterally abandon Common Core.
Nevertheless, conservative media outlets, many of whom have been leading the anti-Common Core rage machine, deceptively spun Jindal's announcement as "withdrawing" Louisiana from the standards. The Washington Times, for example, ran a headline that read, "Bobby Jindal pulls Louisiana out of Common Core." A post at Erick Erickson's RedState.com also claimed that Jindal was "pull[ing] Louisiana out of Common Core," while Michelle Malkin's Twitchy posted "Jindal withdraws La. from Common Core standards."
The Times-Picayune also reported that "Jindal also notified the National Governors Association that he was removing Louisiana from the Common Core development group. That does not end the use of the standards but is more of a symbolic gesture."
Jindal's announcement was especially notable given that he was initially considered a "staunch supporter when Louisiana signed on [to Common Core] four years ago." As the New America Foundation's Anne Hyslop pointed out, "most of Jindal's objections appear to stem not from the quality of the standards or tests or from the bidding process, but from concerns over federal overreach."
Notorious misinformer Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News to push various myths about the Common Core education standards while promoting his upcoming live movie We Will Not Conform.
On June 12, Fox's Sean Hannity hosted Beck, a former Fox host and founder of The Blaze network, to discuss the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. "Political turbulence" surrounding the standards, however, has led a few states to opt out of Common Core, following months-long smear campaigns from right-wing media figures, including Beck and Fox. Beck even wrote an "angry and ignorant" book titled Conform, which spent 222 pages lobbing ridiculous attacks against the standards and public education in general.
On Hannity, Beck plugged his July 22 live movie, which will also feature fellow Common Core misinformer and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. After Hannity explained that Beck was "going to show in this movie how to defeat Common Core," Beck claimed that Common Core opponents are "winning on this." He then propagated a series of myths about the standards, including that Common Core is about "control, manipulation, [and] propaganda" and that it takes away freedom from teachers, despite polls showing that teachers support it. Beck even likened Common Core to education in China because it "use[s] propaganda in the classroom" to "shape these minds to get them to be good little boys and girls for the state."
Given that he launched his campaign against Common Core by stating, "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack," Beck's live movie promises to be yet another absurd ruse in his constant, fact-free crusade again Common Core.
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]
Conservative media's incessant campaign to demonize the Common Core State Standards, often confined to the right-wing bubble, is now playing out in local politics.
Over the past year, the Common Core State Standards have been at the center of a heated national education debate. Released in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with input from parents, school officials, teachers, and experts, Common Core is "a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics." Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards, though news out of Indiana this week has reduced that number.
On Monday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation withdrawing the state from Common Core, even though the state had already started implementing the standards. A release from Pence's office stated, "I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level."
Pence's statement buys into one of the many myths popularized by conservative media about Common Core -- that it's a federal takeover of education, guilty of "central planning." Other prevalent myths are that it creates a class curriculum, teaches wrong answers, injects partisan ideology, dumbs down standards, and data mines children's information.
These myths and more have made the Common Core debate so vitriolic that states are actually changing the name of their standards because the mere phrase "Common Core" has become "toxic." New York is negotiating to delay Common Core-based tests, and an Oklahoma Senate panel voted to repeal Common Core earlier this week. As the Associated Press reported on Monday, "the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans."
These state-level decisions come on the heels of a robust campaign from various misinformers in the right-wing media who consistently use inflammatory language and stoke fears to mislead about the standards.
Here are the five most incendiary media figures and outlets fueling the Common Core outrage machine.
Fox News' misinformation on Common Core has been well-documented. The network appears to have no idea how the standards actually work, accusing them of everything from "sneak[ing] in partisan lessons" to creating doctors who might "operate on the wrong knee." Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck even falsely invoked Common Core to back an attempted book ban in North Carolina.
There is perhaps no louder voice against Common Core than conservative author and columnist Michelle Malkin. From her "Stop Common Core" Twitter list to her plethora of anti-Common Core columns at National Review Online, Malkin routinely uses inflammatory rhetoric to demonize the standards. She has given out "Biggest Common Core Jerk" awards and referred to "Common Core jerkitude" as a "bipartisan disease." She's referred to the standards as a "lab-rat testing experiment," called them a "Trojan horse for lowering [expectations]," and claimed they create "a Big Brother gold rush and an educational Faustian bargain." Her constant, erroneous insistence that Common Core is a "top-down" approach that the Obama administration is using to "corrupt education" leaves little doubt that Malkin will leave no stone unturned in her relentless and false attacks on the standards.
Roughly one year ago, conservative commentator and founder of The Blaze.com Glenn Beck turned his attention to Common Core on his BlazeTV show, claiming that "our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology" because progressives "jammed this through in the dead of night." Beck went so far as to declare that "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack."
Since then, TheBlaze.com has repeatedly distorted the conversation on Common Core often through hyperbolic headlines posted on the site:
NPR reported earlier this year that Beck "has often led the push" against Common Core:
The mainstream business wing of the Republican Party strongly backs Common Core, arguing that raising standards is vital to creating the next-generation American workforce. But in an echo of the rifts in the GOP nationally, the Tea Party branch has been critical of the new standards.
Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck has often led the push. On his show The Blaze, he often charges that Common Core will undermine student individuality and teacher autonomy, and that it marks a dangerous takeover of local control by federal bureaucrats pushing a leftist agenda.
"This is a progressive bonanza, and if it's allowed to be in our schools in any form and become the Common Core of America's next generation, it will destroy America and the system of freedom as we know it," Beck told his audience last year.
Dr. Susan Berry at the conservative news site Breitbart.com writes frequently about the supposed perils of Common Core. She has pushed the myth that Common Core dumbs down "standards and curricula for all students in order to achieve a social justice agenda." She has also turned to conservative groups like The Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to propagate the false assertion that Common Core is a "national takeover of schooling" and that the "Obama administration is intent on controlling what is taught at each grade level in schools across the United States."
Berry has claimed that the standards are "part of a world-wide initiative that may ultimately serve to make American values and practices secondary to global sharing." After Bill Gates appeared on ABC to discuss his foundation's funding of Common Core, Berry went so far as to ask: "The question is, why is a college dropout non-mathematician being asked to defend the Common Core math standards?"
Right-wing news site the Daily Caller has posted dozens of articles about Common Core, often with photos of school assignments and incendiary headlines like, "Here's PROOF Common Core aims to make America's children cry," and, "How MORONICALLY HARD can Common Core math make subtraction?" Many are sourced from Michelle Malkin's Twitchy website. Various myths accompany its inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that the lessons derived from Common Core amount to "authoritarian propaganda" and that Common Core critics oppose "centralized" education. Like Breitbart's Susan Berry, the Daily Caller has also turned to the conservative Heartland Institute to push the falsehoods about Common Core, including that it is "a national monopoly on education."
In the continued battle over Common Core, even supporters have acknowledged that implementation has not been smooth, and that the process needs improvement. But these media figures and outlets doing their damndest to ensure that the national conversation on Common Core is steered in a distorted direction only make it harder to have a reasonable discussion.
For more on the lies and truths about Common Core, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia Project.