Fox News’ Laura Ingraham escalates GOP war on learning: ‘Time to fund government education’

Anyone familiar with the way Fox News gradually warms up its audience to an idea could see it coming. First, the network aired endless segments touting the myth that teachers were training kindergartners to hate white people with what’s called “critical race theory.” Next came false claims that schools that accept LGBTQ teachers and students were “preparing” children for sexual abuse by paedophiles. After planting the idea that public schools are a scary place to turn their grandkids into self-hating sexual perverts, the final game was finally rolled out on popular prime-time show “The Ingraham Angle”: It’s time to end public education altogether.

“A lot of people are saying it’s time to cut government education funding or at least cut it by giving vouchers to parents so they can say, ‘No, we don’t do that anymore,'” he said. said host Laura Ingraham on Thursday. “And I think it has to happen. We have to stop funding this madness.”

This isn’t the first time Fox News has floated the idea of ​​shutting down public education altogether.

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Lisa Kennedy, host of the “Outnumbered” daytime show, floated the idea in April, calling it now a “great time in our country’s history where we are rethinking whether or not we have public schools,” and suggesting “We shouldn’t have the government involved in education.

There is some truth in the saying that “knowledge is power”. This is precisely why the militant right does not want the general public to be endowed with knowledge.

For journalists who have watched the world of right-wing activism and think tanks closely, this escalation in anti-education rhetoric comes as no surprise. Kathryn Joyce of Salon, for example, has reported on the growing movement in right-wing elite circles to destroy public education as we know it so that it can be replaced by right-wing propaganda and/or no education at all for low income people. Americans who cannot afford to pay for private services.

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There is some truth in the saying that “knowledge is power”. This is precisely why the militant right does not want the general public to be endowed with knowledge. As I have written before, ignorant people are downright easier to submit to an authoritarian regime. They more readily believe in fascist propaganda and lack access to the critical thinking skills that can undermine the arguments of authoritarian leaders.

Schools are also a major threat to the anti-egalitarian politics of the right. At its core, the promise of public education is one where any smart, hard-working person can advance in society, getting good grades and getting into a good university. It’s an ideal too often honored in the breach, as Ivy League schools are still largely dominated by privileged children. But it is also true that large numbers of Americans, equipped with moxie and public education, have overcome class and racial barriers to become leaders in business, public service, medicine, science and politics. Right-wing elites would love to reverse this trend – and the gutting of public schools is key to that.

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As Joyce has covered Salon extensively, the GOP has tackled the “problem” of universal education from two major angles. One angle, which Ingraham’s rant touched on, is to simply destroy schools by canceling them. The main avenue in this area has been “vouchers,” that is, a system for channeling money from public schools to private schools run mostly by right-wing religious organizations. In Arizona, for example, the Republican-led government is offering $7,000 to any family that takes their child out of public school to enroll them in schools that “reflect their values.” The purpose of the program is not particularly obscure: push enough children – and funding – out of public schools into the right-wing private school system and the public school systems will completely collapse. After that, people who can afford to pay for private education will get it, but everyone else will remain virtually illiterate.

This strategy received a major boost from the Supreme Court, which recently ruled against the state of Maine’s restriction on the use of public funds for religious indoctrination. Now the state will be forced to spend taxpayer money on tuition for schools that explicitly reject enrollment of LGBTQ and non-Christian students, and openly proselytize in the name of a fundamentalist vision and right of Christianity.

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The other strategy, particularly visible in Florida, is to replace real education with taxpayer-funded right-wing propaganda.

Right-wing think tanks have developed “alternative” curricula that lie to students, downplaying the impacts of racism on American history and falsely claiming that the United States was founded to be a Christian nationalist society. (In fact, the founders were adamant about the importance of secular government.) In Florida, a series of laws – the most famous being the “don’t say gay” bill – were passed to prevent teachers from to offer information based on reality. on everything from health to history. In the face of public outrage over their campaign to ban the books, Republicans swore loud and clear that the left was overreacting and that there was no intention to censor teachers or deny the education of children.

Public disapproval is the biggest obstacle to the GOP’s goal of decimating public education.

These assurances were, of course, total lies.

As reported by the Miami Herald, teachers in Florida are now tasked with giving students highly misleading “lessons” in American history that falsely teach both that the United States was meant to be a nation” Christian” and that the founders who owned slaves opposed slavery in one way or another. Assurances that the ‘don’t say gay’ law would somehow ban explicit sex education in the lower classes – which it already wasn’t – also turned out to be lies. . Teachers are told to date LGBTQ students with abusive parents. The pressure to conceal the existence of LGBTQ people has become so bad that teachers are forced to conceal the existence of same-sex spouses and the existence of pro-LGBTQ school clubs is in jeopardy.

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This strategy is of course accompanied by a large dose of harassment from educators.

In Oklahoma, for example, the Republican governor uses ‘audits’ to abuse Tulsa public schools that have the temerity to teach their own history, including that of the biggest white supremacist riot in history. It’s a two-pronged approach: censoring teachers who tell the truth and forcing them to replace the truth with silly right-wing lies.

Public disapproval is the biggest obstacle to the GOP’s goal of decimating public education. Not just Democrats either, who may be the majority of voters, but whom Republicans have sidelined through gerrymandering and other shady tactics. Most Republican voters also tend to support the concept of public education. A majority even tell pollsters that the story should be based on facts and not a bunch of right-wing lies. After all, most Republican voters, like most Americans, can’t exactly afford an elite private education, even with a voucher program that is certain to disappear as soon as its function (end public schools) will be filled. They don’t want their own children to grow up illiterate and unable to get decent jobs because of it.

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That’s why the GOP propaganda apparatus – with Fox News in the lead – has tackled the issue from the sidelines. Instead of making outright “libertarian” arguments against public schools, they instead feed on their audience’s fear of difference and, above all, their fear that their own children and grandchildren will grow up to reject their worldview. narrow and sectarian. There has been a steady stream of nonsense demonizing the modern program for being “different” from what Fox News audiences grew up with. The common core, which is a banal way of organizing national educational standards, has been portrayed as an evil foray by the right-wing media, largely by pushing the idea that the “old” ways of learning things like the math is somehow better than the new strategies that have been confirmed by repeated research. The gender stereotypes of haughty feminists are applied to teachers and teachers’ unions to stoke hatred of educators in right-wing audiences.

Schools are places where children leave their nuclear families and are often exposed to ideas – and more importantly, people – that are different from what they experience within the four walls of a family home. Even conservatives generally agree, on some level, that this is a good thing. Becoming an adult means being able to deal with people outside of your immediate family. But after decades of escalating anti-education rhetoric meant to provoke the insecurities of Republicans who don’t want their own children “woke,” Fox News clearly thinks their audience is ready to consider the possibility of ending education. public education. Sure, that might mean your kids can’t be hired and are illiterate, but hey, at least they won’t back down when you crack a racist or homophobic joke, right?

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