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“Fox News Wants Kids To Fear Muslims”: Don’t Confuse Children With Facts Or Valid Information They Haven’t Been Told By Fox News

It appears that Fox News is not content with just feeding anti-Muslim crap to its older-skewing audience and now wants schools to teach children to fear Muslims, too.

On Tuesday’s episode of the Fox News show Outnumbered, the brain trust gathered to express outrage that a Georgia public school was teaching students about Islam in a way they viewed as being far too positive.

Fox’s Keith Ablow demanded the young students be taught in world religion classes that Muslims want “to destroy the United States,” adding, “How can you leave that out?” Fox’s Harris Faulkner chimed in, “Why wouldn’t you teach it in the context of the headlines today?

And Andrea Tantaros, who never misses the opportunity to up the hysteria, added that schools should teach students that Muslims have “been killing people for hundreds of years” and that they “have sought to destroy the West.”

So in sum, Fox News wants 11- and 12-year-old kids to learn about the best of the other faiths, but the worst about Islam. Unless, of course, these Fox hosts are truly arguing that the radicals of every faith should be taught to the kids as well.

For example, in discussing Christianity, the students would be taught about the Christian terrorists like the Army of God, “a network of violent Christianists” that openly promotes killing abortion providers like George Tiller, who was killed by a member of the group in 2009. They could also be taught about the Christian militiamen who are slaughtering Muslims in in the Central African Republic, including beheading a young Muslim man in that nation’s capital.

In teaching Judaism, the lesson plan would include the Jewish terrorists who just a few months ago burned down the famed “Loaves and Fishes” church in Israel. These Jewish radicals have also in recent years engaged in other attacks on Christian churches because they view anything that’s not Jewish in Israel as being idolatry, and as they put it, “idols will have their heads cut off.”

I’m sure that the Fox News types would object to a curriculum that included these radicals when teaching the basics of Christianity and Judaism. And they would be correct. The students should be taught about the mainstream beliefs and followers of each faith, especially when learning about these religions for the first time. By making radicals part of that lesson plan, however, they would be wrongly elevating these terrorists to the level of being a mainstream part of the religion. (Of course, incidents about religious extremism should be part of any current events curriculum.)

But the views of these Fox News personalities are almost tame when compared to some parents in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida that are upset their children are learning anything about Islam. Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor, was so outraged that students were being taught about Islam in world history class, he encouraged students last month to not do the assignments concerning Islam and instead “take an F because this history class is part of an ‘Islamic invasion.’” He also claimed that teaching kids about Islam was “absolute brainwashing” and declared, “We’re not going to stand for it.”

Likewise, a father in Georgia demanded last year that if students are taught about Islam, they must also be told about the Muslims he claims are “going around beheading people in America.”

Some parents didn’t expressly object to Islam being taught, but were concerned that Islam is being taught in school at the expense of Christianity. That sounds like a valid issue, but time and time again school officials have made it clear in these various states that Christianity and all other major religions are taught equally. In Georgia, for example, a school official explained that the curriculum on world religions has been the same for 30 years and teaches all major faiths in equal increments.

But the comment that probably best sums up how many of these parents feel comes from one in Georgia who stated: “I honestly don’t want my child learning about Islam at all.” And troublingly this sentiment is held by 44 percent of American adults who responded in a recent poll they don’t want to learn more about Islam. Apparently these people have learned all they need to know about Islam and aren’t open to changing their views. They don’t want to be confused with facts or valid information they haven’t been told by Fox News.

In a time when anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States is at record highs and with people like Donald Trump and Ben Carson ginning up the hate against Muslims, there was never a more urgent time for an accurate counter narrative to the scary images we see of terror groups like ISIS.

Thankfully, younger people have more positive view of Islam and Muslims than their older counterparts. In fact, a July poll found that 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would support a Muslim for president. Sorry, Ben Carson.

The hope is that those older people who have concerns about Muslims will at least be open minded enough to have a discussion about the issue. But at the very least we shouldn’t prevent young Americans from learning about what mainstream Islam truly is, as opposed to what ISIS and al Qaeda want you to believe the faith is about. Why give these terrorist groups exactly what they want?


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Education, Fox News, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fiorina’s Fast And Loose With The Facts”: Fiorina Relies On Speed And Specificity To Give The Impression Of Substantive Knowledge

I noted at Lunch Buffet that the fact-checkers are having a ball with Carly Fiorina’s performance last night. But it’s worth remembering that’s a real pattern with her. Back on August 20, WaMo intern Celeste Bott deconstructed a Fiorina appearance at Campbell Brown’s education summit in New Hampshire, and found the former CEO did not really know what she was talking about:

Many of her responses in the Q&A stuck to the same GOP talking points the other candidates mostly stuck to, criticizing the Common Core standards and an overinvolved Department of Education. Her biggest argument? Increased federal spending on education hasn’t led to substantive improvement.

“Let’s talk about what’s not working. It’s pretty obvious what’s not working. The Department of Education has gotten more money every year for roughly 30 years, and yet these income disparity gaps I described are getting worse. We’re not improving in terms of our achievement rates relevant to other nations. So we know factually speaking that when Washington spends more money, the quality of education in this nation does not improve.”

What Fiorina said, however, is factually inaccurate, even if it plays to common misperceptions about our “failing” public schools. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which education experts generally agree is the most reliable measure of K-12 attainment, reading scores for American nine year olds have increase by 12 points, or an entire grade level, and math scores have gone up 24 points, or two grade levels, since the early 1970s. And the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged students she says have widened have in fact narrowed: black and Latino students’ test scores have risen faster than white scores. Though the topline NAEP scores are flat, making it seem like there has been little progress, as the conservative American Enterprise Institute has pointed out this is a statistical quirk arising from the fact that in recent decades the percentage of students who are affluent and white (and generally score relatively high) has decreased while the percentage who are lower-income and minority (and generally score relatively low) has increased. In fact, NAEP scores for all subgroups have increased substantially, during the same period that federal spending and involvement has grown.

That wasn’t the only problem with Fiorina’s education rap.

A great deal of Fiorina’s responses centered around promoting school choice, going so far as to say that if elected, she would surround herself with people who have built successful charter schools. When asked about challenges to choice, she pointed to federal programs like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

“Federal government money is being used to pick winners and losers. You see a program like Race to the Top being used to determine, ‘Well, you’re doing it the way we want you to do it, so you get federal money’ and ‘You’re not doing it the way we want you to do it, so you don’t get federal money.’ That’s not going to work. The truth is more federal money ought to flow out of Washington D.C. into the states, and money at the state level ought to flow into the community level.”

Race to the Top, a so-called barrier to school choice, awarded grants to states for lifting their caps on charter schools, effectively providing incentives for states to offer more choices and create innovative programs, the very things Fiorina is advocating.

Bott concludes by noting Fiorina’s assertion that the federal government should get out of education policy and instead focus on its primary responsibilities, like “repairing roads and bridges.”

Wrong again, Batman!

In fact, the vast majority of roads and bridges in America are owned and maintained by state and local governments, with the federal government picking up only 24 percent of all surface transportation costs, mostly for interstate highways and mass transit systems.

As we saw again last night, Fiorina relies on speed and specificity to give the impression of substantive knowledge, even if it’s not actually there. But what else would you expect from some fast-talking politician who’s been in office playing these games for years?

Oh, wait….


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Education, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Snapshots Of A Racist Teacher”: What A Principal’s Bigoted Rant Shows Us About American Education

Over the weekend, Nancy Gordeuk, the founder and director of TNT Academy, a small private school in the Atlanta area, made racially offensive remarks at the school’s graduation ceremony.

After some confusion in the program, many in attendance thought the graduation had concluded, when it became clear that Gordeuk had neglected to let the valedictorian give his speech. Gordeuk tried to corral the audience back into the hall to finish the ceremony, but when that didn’t work, she yelled, “Look who’s leaving. All the Black people.” Immediately, all of the Black graduates got up and marched in a single file line out of the ceremony, while the white valedictorian cringed in embarrassment.

The utter outrageousness of Gordeuk’s outburst is only the most obvious of things to say about her remarks. I am also struck by the swiftness with which she moved to shame a whole demographic of people because she could not get them to respond to her requests. Though racial unity remains elusive for Black people — as well it perhaps should — a sense of linked fate does inhere in much of our political analysis. How we feel about this sense of shared destiny varies from person to person. But one of the quickest ways to raise the ire of Black people is to suggest that “all the Blacks” should or shouldn’t do any particular thing.

Still, that desire to shame Black people into submission is at the heart of so much public discourse about unruly Black people who cannot seem to follow simple instructions. Because Gordeuk said such inappropriate remarks in a roomful of children clad in graduation attire, among their doting family members, it is clear to see just how out of line her remarks are. But these malicious sentiments about unruly Black people who need to be shamed into doing the right thing have been pervasive in social discourse of late, particularly in light of continuing Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country.

Koritha Mitchell, associate professor of English at Ohio State, has written that Black people should respond to these long histories of white shaming tactics with what she terms a “critical demeanor of shamelessness.” Such a demeanor allows us to “recognize not only the power of dominant assumptions but also how little they have to do with you and the communities to which you belong.”

This principal had hoped to make Black attendees stay. Instead, after her remarks they left, and they did so shamelessly. We need to walk out on racist acts far more often.

This act of walking out, which the students did in community with family and friends who probably played a critical role in their educational success, also points to all the times that they perhaps could not walk out while learning in a school environment run by a woman with such antagonistic racial views. No child should have to learn in a racist environment. But far too many Black and Latino children do learn in such environments.

On the one hand, TNT Academy seems to be a kind of school of last resort for children who struggle in traditional academic environments. So for many students, graduating from this school culminates a challenging, but ultimately successful academic history. Starting such a school is to Gordeuk’s credit. But the nobility of that effort is deeply undercut by the fact that she is a rabid racist, who insulted her students and their families at their graduation. Many Black people can attest that we owe much of our educational histories and successes to racist educators.

This has certainly been true for me.

The sixth grade was the second time that a fellow student called me a nigger. This time it was over a scuffle at the water fountain. I may, in fact, have been in the wrong in the scuffle, over who was first in line at the fountain. That did not, of course, make me a nigger.

The mother of the child who called me that term taught at my school. Perhaps that was why our Black principal opted not to take more severe disciplinary action against that student, my classmate, her son. Years later, I ran into that teacher and her husband, my classmate’s parents, while I was out on a date. It was apparent when I met them that the father deeply despised Black people. When you grow up in the South, you learn very quickly how to assess these matters. Racist sentiments inhere in subtle gestures, the way that people avert their eyes, refusing to look at you, or conversely, stare at you with a steely disregard and a refusal to speak, that makes you begin to wonder whether there is something on your face or your body that shouldn’t be there.

Your skin is the thing of course –the source of their discomfort, the thing they hope will become the source of your discomfort.

I knew then that my initial impression of my classmate had been right — the N-word rolled off his tongue, because it was most probably in frequent use in his home.

Gordeuk’s son took to social media to defend his mother, and could not resist dropping a few N-words in her defense. It seems, given his clear lack of compunction about the public use of that term, that he uses this term readily and with ease. For Gordeuk’s part, she blamed the devil, who was “in the house and came out from [her] mouth.” If the devil exists, he is assuredly a white supremacist. But Gordeuk cannot get away with blaming her racism – and she did admit to her own racism — on the devil.

We must stop accepting an education system where an exceptional few Black students excel because of the grace of God, and the others are left to the devilish schemes of racist madwomen. That’s far too fine of a point to put on a more complicated, structural problem. Racism is never just a problem of individual attitudes — for this woman also created a school environment that helped these children to successfully graduate, after they didn’t fare well in traditional school environments. But given the virulence of her racism, it is easy to surmise that the school also has a racially hostile climate.

And herein lies the challenge. Many of my best teachers growing up were veritable racists. My sixth grade math teacher — I hated sixth grade — also owned a small clothing store in town. And Black people generally never shopped there because she watched Black customers like a hawk and was as unpleasant as possible when they came into the store to shop. In class, she mocked me each day, until I was reduced to tears. I never told my mother, for fear that I must be doing something wrong, or, conversely, fear that my mother would go and wreck shop.

From the fifth grade forward, there was never a year when my mother did not have to talk to a teacher or school administrator about racially charged remarks. Not one year. But I also remember that in almost every case, save fifth, sixth and eighth grade, I had positive interactions with the very same teachers who made inappropriate comments to me.

Sitting all these years later with the complicated reality that I’m educationally indebted to both benign and malignant racists alike, what is clear is that no child should have to navigate this kind of educational world. The incessant mocking from my teacher did not kill my spirit. But it was designed to do so — designed to extinguish the fire of a precocious Black girl, who always knew the answers and got them right.

I was one of the lucky ones. But the entire point of a good education is that your life chances should no longer be left up to luck.

It would be easy to dismiss Nancy Gordeuk as an especial and enduring breed of Southern racist, but what should we make of her son, who certainly is in a different generation than she? And what does it mean that her antics, while over-the-top, don’t seem drastically different from my own experiences more than 20 years ago?

Our children do not just need good textbooks and comfortable buildings in which to learn. They also need culturally competent, anti-racist educators who do not shame them and their families. We must also stop looking at Gordeuk as a relic of a racist past, since American racism is still very much present, and since many Black children will tell you about the range of racist aggressions and micro-aggressions they experience from educators each day.

I am glad the students of TNT Academy walked out on their graduation day. In doing so, they rejected the implicit lie of their own inferiority that Gordeuk’s comments tried to shame them into believing. They recognized the lie, and instead embraced the truth of their own value and capacity for achievement.

Down South, we say: Tell the truth and shame the devil. The truth is, Gordeuk’s shaming tactics didn’t work. Her students, heads held high, have commenced indeed.


By: Brittney Cooper, Contributing Writer,  Salon, May 13, 2015

May 14, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Education, Racism | , , , | Leave a comment

“The Impossible Dream”: Conservative Scolds Have A Vision, But They Don’t Have A Plan

The New York Times‘ two conservative opinion columnists — David Brooks and Ross Douthat — aren’t always in sync. But they certainly agree about the problems afflicting poor and working-class Americans.

Each has written a column in the past week commenting on Robert Putnam’s new book (Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis) about the growing quality-of-life gap between college-educated and high-school educated Americans. Brooks does a nice job of summarizing some of Putnam’s more alarming statistics:

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. … High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity. [The New York Times]

These and related trends are indeed troubling, and it’s good that Brooks and Douthat are highlighting them, are troubled by them, and want Republican politicians to address them. If GOP candidates for high office spent half as much time focusing on such problems as they do promoting tax cuts for the rich, we’d all be better off.

Yet Republican lawmakers don’t slight those issues simply because they’d rather ingratiate themselves to wealthy donors. They also skirt them because the way that conservative policy intellectuals think about class convinces candidates for high office that there’s nothing that can be done politically to address the problem.

As far as Brooks and Douthat are concerned, the primary driver of bad outcomes among the poor and working class is culture, not economics. Yes, life is economically harder for people lacking college degrees than for those who have them, but life was hard — and in many cases much harder — for everyone, and certainly for the poor, in the past. And yet families formed and stayed together at much higher rates than they do today. Here is Douthat’s pithy statement of the conservative view: “In a substantially poorer American past with a much thinner safety net, lower-income Americans found a way to cultivate monogamy, fidelity, sobriety, and thrift to an extent that they have not in our richer, higher-spending present.”

When liberals read claims like this, they freak out. That’s in part because they believe that economics is a much more important variable than culture in explaining the social pathologies of the lower classes.

I’m inclined to give the conservatives the benefit of the doubt on this. Culture does matter. The poor and even middle classes did struggle much more in the past, in purely economic terms, than they do today. And yet they did form families and keep them together at much higher rates.

But what policies follow from this? That’s where I fear Brooks and Douthat go off the rails.

Brooks is a little more strident about it, and Douthat a bit more circumspect, but their advice is roughly the same: We need to combat the libertarian drift of American culture since the 1960s by taking a stand against “relativism,” “nonjudgmentalism,” and “permissiveness.” That’s because, while the upper classes may be doing fine in the easy-going, live-and-let-live culture bequeathed to us by the counterculture and sexual revolution, the lower classes clearly aren’t. What they need is more public shaming and scolding of irresponsible behavior.

What would this look like, practically speaking? This is the sum total of what Brooks recommends: “Reintroducing norms” has three steps. First, an unnamed someone — a newspaper columnist, perhaps? — needs to revive a “moral vocabulary.” Then we need to practice “holding people responsible.” (How we aren’t told.) Finally, because elites aren’t exactly beacons of virtue these days either, we need to hold “everyone responsible.”

That’s it.

Douthat’s proposals, contained in a single sentence, focus exclusively on the moral failings of the upper class “for failing to take moral responsibility (in the schools it runs, the mass entertainments it produces, the social agenda it favors) for the effects of permissiveness on the less-savvy, the less protected, the kids who don’t have helicopter parents turning off the television or firewalling the porn.”

All of this might add up to a plausible strategy for changing pathological behavior if it were wedded to concrete policies or a practical plan of action. But as it is, it’s just a micro-sermon vaguely advocating a bit of paternalism with a dash of noblesse oblige.

(I realize that Douthat has championed specific family-friendly policies in the past, but I don’t see how tweaking the child tax credit would meaningfully effect the kind of complex social pathologies he highlights in his recent column. A few extra dollars a month isn’t going to make it possible for a single mom to become a helicopter parent, let alone make it likely that a media executive will produce more wholesome entertainment.)

Back in the 1970s, founding neoconservative Irving Kristol proposed a more aggressive and explicitly political response to the post-’60s rise in permissiveness: government censorship of pornography and other forms of vulgarity. Nothing like this got enacted, of course, and it would be even less likely to catch on today. (A government-run firewall against porn, anyone?) But at least it was a policy proposal that, if it became law, might have contributed in a modest way to a change in mores.

By contrast, what Brooks and Douthat are advocating is guaranteed to have no such effect, because it can’t even be described as a policy proposal. That makes their writing on the subject an outgrowth of the libertarian drift of American culture rather than a strategy for combating it.

Brooks and Douthat know where they are and where they want to go, but they have no politically actionable ideas for how to get from A to B.

What do the conservative scolds want? The impossible.


By: Damon Linker, The Week, March 17, 2015

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Education, Poor and Low Income | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Handy Way To Shift The Discussion”: How Republicans Will Use Scott Walker’s Lack Of A College Degree To Stir Class Resentment

Since we’re now all fascinated by Scott Walker, there’s been some discussion in the past few days of the fact that Walker would be the first president in many decades who didn’t have a college degree. He left Marquette after four years, and though he apparently was quite a few credits short of graduating, most people would regard it as an unwise career move when you’ve come that far. Nevertheless, Walker did fine for himself, and some conservatives are now holding up his example as a triumphant rebuke to liberal elitism. Anticipating the scorn Walker will receive from those elitists, they rattle off lists of the high-achievers who didn’t get a degree, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

From what I can tell, the only liberal who has actually said that Walker’s lack of a degree is problematic was Howard Dean, in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. But Dean’s one comment keeps getting cited (see Glenn Reynolds or Deroy Murdock or Charles C.W. Cooke or Chris Cillizza) as evidence that “liberals” are looking down their snooty noses at Walker, and by extension, at the majority of Americans who don’t have a college degree.

Which leads me to believe that this is a vein Republicans may be tapping into repeatedly, particularly if Walker becomes the GOP nominee. It wouldn’t be anything new, though if he himself indulged in it, Walker could come by resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals a little more honestly than, say, George H.W. Bush, graduate of Phillips Andover and Yale, who sneered in 1988 that Michael Dukakis represented the “Harvard boutique.” Walker also recently started battling the University of Wisconsin (beloved within the state, but about which voters in Iowa have no similar feelings, I’m guessing), which should help him portray himself as a crusader against the tenured enemies of real Americans.

Anti-intellectualism has often been an effective way for Republicans to stir up class resentment while distracting from economic issues. It says to voters: Don’t think about who has economic power and which party is advocating for their interests. Don’t aim your disgruntlement at Wall Street, or corporations that don’t pay taxes, or the people who want to keep wages low and make unions a memory. Point it in a different direction, at college professors and intellectuals (and Hollywood, while you’re at it). They’re the ones keeping you down. You got laid off while the CEO took home $20 million last year? Forget about that: The real person to be angry at is a professor of anthropology somewhere who said something mean about Scott Walker because he doesn’t have a degree.

There are going to be more than a few Republicans who see in that argument a handy way to shift the discussion away from economic inequality while still sending the message that they’re on the side of ordinary folks. Here, for instance, is Rush Limbaugh yesterday:

The stories are legion of all the great Americans, successful, who have not graduated from college. And of course the two names that come to people’s mind right off the bat are me and Steve Jobs. And then some people throw Gates in there. So there are three people who have reached the pinnacle, who have not gone to college, and those two or three names get bandied about all the time in this discussion.

But it doesn’t matter. To the elites, that doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified to be in the elite group. And the elite group in Washington is what we call the ruling class or the D.C. establishment, both parties, or what have you. And it’s especially bad in the Drive-By Media. That is one of the most exclusive and I should say exclusionary groups of people that you can imagine.

If you look at it as a club and look at the admittance requirements, it is one of the most exclusives things to get into. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, doesn’t matter how much money you make, whether you’re more successful than they are, whether you earn more than they do, whether you have a bigger audience than they, doesn’t matter, you are not getting in that club.

Something tells me that somewhere at the RNC there’s an intern who just got an assignment to monitor every bit of mainstream and social media she can for any moment where a liberal says something condescending about Walker. Then Republicans can wave it about like the bloody shirt of liberal elitism. It’s a lot easier than coming up with an economic plan that doesn’t involve upper-income tax cuts.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 17, 2015

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Education, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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