Archives for category: Bias

Far-right extremists concocted a cascading series of so-called culture wars that have no basis in fact or reality. Their purpose is to undermine public trust in teachers and public schools, paving the way for divisive “school choice,” which defunds public schools.

Teachers are intimidated, fearful that they might violate the law by teaching factual history about race and racism. Students are deprived of honesty in their history and social studies classes. Schools are slandered by extremists. Needless divisions are created by the lies propagated by zealots whose goal is to privatize public funding for schools.

First came the furor over “critical race theory,” which is not taught in K-12 schools. CRT is a law school course of study that examines systemic racism. The claim that it permeates K-12 schools was created as a menace threatening the children of America by rightwing ideologue Chris Rufo, who shamelessly smeared the teachers of America as purveyors of race hatred that humiliated white children. Rufo made clear in a speech at Hillsdale College that the only path forward was school choice. The entire point of Rufo’s gambit was the destruction of public trust in public schools.

Then came a manufactured brouhaha over transgender students who wanted to use a bathroom aligned with their sexual identity. The number of transgender students is minuscule, probably 1%. And yet again there was a furor that could have easily been resolved with a gender-neutral bathroom. Ron DeSantis made a campaign ad with a female swimmer who complained that she competed against a trans woman. What she didn’t mention was that the trans woman was beaten, as was she, by three other female swimmers.

And then came the nutty claim that teachers were “grooming” students to be gay. Another smear. No evidence whatever. Reading books about gay characters would turn students gay, said the critics; but would reading about elephants make students want to be elephants?

Simultaneously, extremists raised loud alarms about books that introduced students to dangerous ideas about sexuality and racism. If they read books with gay characters, students would turn gay. If they read about racism, they would “hate America.” So school libraries had to be purged; even public libraries had to be purged. One almost expected public book burnings. So much power attributed to books, as if the Internet doesn’t exist, as if kids can’t watch porn of all kinds, as if public television does not regularly run shows about American’s shameful history of racism.

As citizens and parents, we must stand up for truth and sanity. We must defend our schools and teachers against libelous claims. We must oppose those who would ban books.

Of course, parents should meet with their children’s teachers. They should partner with them to help their children. They should ask questions about the curriculum. They should share their concerns. Learning benefits when parents, teachers, students, and communities work together.

Nancy MacLean, professor of history at Duke University, and Lisa Graves, board president of the Center for Media and Democracy, warn readers not to be fooled by billionaire Charles Koch’s efforts to rebrand himself as a nice guy who has mellowed, who no longer wants to fund divisive, hateful organizations. A nice guy.

The media fell for it. The new, nice Charles Koch.

MacLean and Graves write: Don’t believe it. Koch won’t stop until democracy is dead.

They write:

Koch, the single most influential billionaire shaping American political life, never changed course. And the head fake he pulled off in 2020 succeeded in securing for his vast donor network—and the hundreds of organizations they underwrite—the freedom to operate, virtually without scrutiny, over the two years since. In that time, far from ceasing their efforts to divide the country, they have ramped them up. Like a snake shedding its skin as it grows, Koch was merely rebranding—yet again after exposure—and grouping his numerous operations under a sunny new name: Stand Together.


In August, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported that Koch-funded organizations spent over $1.1 billion in the 2020 election cycle. At the same time his book claiming to have changed course was in press, Koch spent almost 50 percent more than the record amount the Koch network had raised in the 2016 cycle: $750 million. Koch did not endorse Trump, though his spending buoyed the top of the ticket and helped maintain a GOP Senate majority to secure Koch-backed policies and judicial nominees embraced by Trump.

One of these organizations, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, claimed it was involved in more than 270 races in the 2020 election, reaching almost 60 million voters with door-knocking, phone calls, postcards, digital ads, and more. AFP also played heavily in the battle for U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, in January 2021—even as Koch was still getting favorable coverage for his supposed withdrawal from divisive electoral politics. AFP Action, the super PAC arm, alone raised and spent $60 million nationwide in that election cycle.

Meanwhile, other key organizing enterprises, think tanks, litigation outfits, campus centers, and more that were previously backed by the Koch network continue operating today, sometimes under new names, and with expanded funding. These include endeavors we consider unethical, only some of which we have the space to highlight here.

Take, for example, Koch’s longest running quest: enchaining democracy by rigging the rules of governance to free corporations from customary oversight and to prevent the will of the vast majority of Americans from securing federal, state, and local policies to improve their lives. With the connivance of Trump, the generalship of Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, and the well-funded campaigning of Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network, the arch-right billionaire succeeded in capturing a supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court. Koch had told his allied billionaire backers that this was one of his top priorities for the Trump Administration—along with the dramatic tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that he also secured.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, a climate hero and senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, exposes how they did it in a recently published book, The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court. The long effort to reshape the judicial system, going back to the notorious Lewis Powell Memo of 1971, culminated in the Trump Administration’s appointment of more than 230 “business-friendly” federal judges, including three Supreme Court Justices, in a project overseen by longtime Koch allies Leo and Donald McGahn, who served as Trump’s legal counsel until 2018. The 6-3 stacked court is already delivering bombshell decisions for the coalition that put it in power, from undermining our options for mitigating devastating climate change and limiting the power of agencies to regulate corporations, to revoking people’s Constitutional freedom to decide whether and when to bear children. The current court term with the Koch-backed faction in control is expected to soon overthrow affirmative action and other hard-won reforms.

The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) also continues its long campaign to shackle democracy on behalf of its corporate backers. Passing voter ID restrictions that make it harder for Americans to exercise their right to vote became a top ALEC priority after the United States elected its first Black President, Barack Obama. That measure was first voted on at an ALEC task force meeting co-chaired by the National Rifle Association in 2009.

ALEC is one of the nation’s leading promoters of charter schools, vouchers, and anti-union legislation. You can learn more about ALEC by reading Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution.

Please open the link and read the article. Learn about the “new” Charles Koch, same as the old one.

If you are looking for a good read, read Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, which provides the context for understanding the links between the Koch brothers, Milton Friedman, and free-market economics. Suffice it to say that one of their goals was to privatize Social Security. Still working on that.

One of the regular readers of the blog alerted me to the fact that there were several comments today (January 5) that contained vulgarity and profanity that are not allowed on this blog.

These disgusting comments were written in response to a post I wrote on June 1 called “I Am Woke, You Should Be Too,” in which I asserted that I care about justice, equality, freedom, and other fundamental ideals of our society. I took issue with those who would censor the views of those who disagree with them. I specifically criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for passing laws to silence those who don’t agree with his censorious views.

I wrote:

One of the hot-button words that has been appropriated by rightwing politicians is “woke.” They are trying to turn it into a shameful word. I looked up the definition of WOKE. It means being aware of injustice and inequality, specifically when referring to racism. I strive to be aware of injustice and inequality and racial discrimination and to do whatever I can to change things for the better. Shouldn’t we all do that?

My acronym for WOKE is “Wide Open to Knowledge and Enlightenment.”

What would you say about someone who is not WOKE? They are “asleep,” “unconscious,” “indifferent.” They are “Mind Closed, Mouth Open.”

Yes, I am WOKE. I want Dr. King’s dream someday to be true. It is not true now.

Apparently, this post was reprinted on a rightwing site. Consequently, I have received quite a few hostile, vicious, profane comments, especially today.

I regret that several such profane comments got past me today. I was busy and did not carefully screen every comment.

I apologize for allowing profanity on this site.

I will try to block them as soon as possible.

Yes, I am woke. I am proud to be woke. I hope someday everyone will care passionately about justice, equality, and freedom. Curse all you want. But not on this blog. I will delete them as soon as I see them. I won’t back down.

Diane Ravitch

Jan Resseger, as always wise and compassionate, reviews the impact of the billionaire-funded culture wars on children and families. The particular focus on erasing the histories of children of color and demonizing LGBT families is harmful to them.

She writes:

Conversations about public schooling have been utterly sidetracked this year by fights about Critical Race Theory, “Don’t say gay!” laws, and whether somebody is “grooming” children at school? Where did these culture wars come from?

A NY Times analysis earlier this week tracks book banning in public schools as part of an epidemic of culture war disruption: “Traditionally, debates over what books are appropriate for school libraries have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator, and resulted in a single title or a few books being re-evaluated, and either removed or returned to shelves. But recently, the issue has been supercharged by a rapidly growing and increasingly influential constellation of conservative groups. The organizations frequently describe themselves as defending parental rights. Some are new, and others are longstanding, but with a recent focus on books. Some work at the district and state level, others have national reach. And over the past two years or so, they have grown vastly more organized, interconnected, well funded — and effective. The groups have pursued their goals by becoming heavily involved in local and state politics, where Republican efforts have largely outmatched liberal organizations in many states for years.”

The reporters track research from PEN America: “(T)here are at least 50 groups across the country working to remove books they object to from libraries. Some have seen explosive growth recently: Of the 300 chapters that PEN tracked, 73 percent were formed after 2020. The growth comes, in part, from the rise of ‘parental rights’ organizations during the pandemic. Formed to fight COVID restrictions in schools, some groups adopted a broader conservative agenda focused on opposing instruction on race, gender and sexuality, and on removing books they regard as inappropriate.”

How is the culture war uproar affecting public schools? In a recent newsletter, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) trackedresearch concluding: “Preparing students to participate in civil and respectful ways in our diverse democracy has long been a core mission of public schools.” Today, “U.S. high schools are struggling to fulfill this mission as they increasingly encounter hyper-partisan efforts. Those efforts have sought to spread misinformation, to encourage harassment of LGBTQ+ students, and to limit opportunities for productively discussing controversial topics. Such challenges are particularly pervasive in politically diverse areas where one party does not dominate.” The researchers surveyed 682 public high school principals and subsequently followed up by interviewing 32 of those principals. NEPC reports:

  1. “Public schools increasingly are targets of political conflict. Nearly half of principals (45 percent) reported that the amount of conflict in their community was higher during the 2021-2022 school year than it was pre-pandemic… Teaching about race and racism was the area where principals were most likely to report challenges from community members, followed closely by LGBTQ+ content.”
  2. “Political conflict undermines the practice of respectful dialogue. A majority of high school principals report that students have made demeaning or hateful remarks toward classmates for expressing either liberal or conservative views and that strong differences of political opinion among students have created more contentious classroom environments.”
  3. “Conflict makes it harder to address misinformation. Misinformation—much of it tied to partisan organizations and causes—makes it more challenging to encourage productive and civil dialogue. After all, it is difficult to develop a shared sense of how to move forward when different people are working from different sets of ‘facts.’ Nearly two thirds of principals (64 percent) say parents or community members have challenged information used by teachers at their schools. The share of principals saying parents or community members challenged teachers’ use of information three or more times nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022.”
  4. “Conflict leads to declines in support for teaching about race, racism, and racial and ethnic diversity. High schools increasingly struggle to teach students about the full spectrum of American experiences and histories, especially when it comes to issues related to racism and race… ‘My superintendent told me in no uncertain terms that I could not address issues of race and bias etc. with students or staff this year,’ said a principal in a red community in Minnesota. ‘We could not address the deeper learning.'”
  5. “Principals report sizable growth in harassment of LGBTQ+ youth. The survey results also suggest that schools are increasingly facing challenges related to teaching students to treat one another with dignity and respect… Fewer than half of principals said school board members or district leaders made statements or acted to promote policies and practices that protected LGBTQ+ student rights.”

“Parents’ rights” are the rallying cry for many of today’s culture warriors who want to protect the dominant culture and shield their children from uncomfortable controversy. But in a recent and very personal Washington Post column, “When Children Ask About Race and Sex, We Have No Choice But to Answer,” Danielle Allen, a political theorist and the Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and an African American mother, explains the point of view of many other parents and children. Allen examines why it is so urgently important for teachers to be able to respond to children’s own observations and questions when the students themselves initiate conversation about the same fraught subjects the NEPC researchers describe organized parents trying to ban from the schools.

Allen describes a conversation her own two-year-old daughter launched about race, while the child sat in seat of the grocery store cart as they were in the midst of shopping. The child declared, “Mommy, I think it’s not good to be Black.”

Allen reflects upon what her toddler had already observed about race in America: “My daughter’s statement was a question. Its subtext went like this: ‘I’ve noticed something, Mommy. It seems like it’s not good to be Black. But can that be right? You’re Black. I love you. How can these things fit together? And what does this mean for me?'”

Allen continues: “What I can assure you of is that even before any of our kids, of any racial or ethnic background, get to school, every Black family in the United States is having to teach its children about race and the history of enslavement and stories of overcoming that have played out generation after generation. The same must be true for kids raised in LGBTQ families, with regard to the history and contemporary experience of gender and sexuality… This means that the only way you can keep knowledge and questions about these histories, experiences and perspectives out of the school curriculum in early grades is to keep Black people or members of LGBTQ families out of school.”

Or, according to NEPC’s research, many school districts are enrolling Black and Brown children and children from LGBTQ families while the school districts may be imposing policies to silence such children, to make their realities invisible to other students, and to refuse to help them answer their own hard questions.

Public schools are required by law to serve all the children whatever their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. It is not the business of school board members, school superintendents, school principals, or teachers to cater to any one group of parents’ rights advocates, no matter how well organized or well funded is their lobby.

Here, writing for The Progressive, is retired high school teacher, Peter Greene, who understands educators’ obligation to protect the interests of all the students who fill our nation’s public school classrooms: “Schools must balance the needs and concerns of all of their many stakeholders. Parents absolutely have rights when it comes to public schools, but so do non-parents, taxpayers and other community stakeholders. It’s up to the school district to balance all of these concerns, while also depending on the professional judgment of its trained personnel. It is a tricky balance to maintain, requiring nuance and sensitivity. It is correct to argue that ‘schoolchildren are not mere creatures of the state.’ But framing the issue as parents versus school has served some folks with a very specific agenda.”

When Congress debated whether to pass a statute protecting gay marriage, Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler tearfully pleaded with her colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote against it. Every Democrat and 39 Republicans voted for it, and Rep. Hartzler was distraught.

Her nephew, Andrew Hartzler, disagreed with her vote. He is gay. He grew up in a strict conservative household. He told his parents he was gay when he was 14, and they sent him to conversion therapy. When he finished high school, his parents insisted that he attend Oral Roberts University, thinking that he would not encounter any gay students. They were wrong. More conversion therapy.

He was interviewed on MSNBC, CNN, and other news outlets. Watch him tell his story.

Recently, the power lines in Moore County, North Carolina, went down, damaged by gunfire, and officials suspect they were intentionally sabotaged, leaving 40,000 or so people without power. Some suspect that the power was shut down to prevent a drag show from happening.

Crooks&Liars points to domestic terrorism and mentions an activist who had loudly denounced the drag show. The activist, a former Army officer, had previously been questioned about her participation in the January 6 insurrection. She posted on Facebook that she knew why the power went out.

The Washington Post reported that the FBI is investigating.

At Sunrise Theater on Saturday night, drag queen Naomi Dix was about to introduce an act when the lights went out. Dix said that participants immediately suspected that the power outage might be connected to those opposed to the performance (Dix spoke to The Post on the condition that she be identified only by her stage name out of fear for her safety).


Dix, 31, said she tried to keep the audience of about 300 people calm and upbeat. She asked them to turn on the flashlights on their cellphones, then led the crowd in singing “Halo” by Beyoncé.

I am not sure when drag shows became popular (probably in Ivy League men’s colleges, where men played women’s roles, or in Shakespeare’s time, when women were not permitted to act on stage). But they seem to be popping up in small towns, suburbs, and big cities, not just gay bars. Recently the Washington Post reported on a city-sponsored Christmas parade in Taylor, Texas, that included floats with drag queens—and caused conservative ministers to launch their own parade, limited to floats with “family and Biblical values.”

I had intended to write a post about Billy Townsend’s latest post, where he declared his solidarity with the drag queens, but I could not help noticing stories about drag queens in other places. Recall that Club Q in Colorado Springs was holding a drag show when the killer burst in and murdered five people. The guy who jumped on the killer and stopped him was there with his wife and family to see the drag show. Evidently, drag queens are funny and make people laugh, and many straight people enjoy their performances.

For many years, audiences in New York City were entertained by the shows written and performed by Charles Busch. They were hilarious send-ups of traditional fare, and they attracted large audiences.

Millions of people love the Billy Wilder’s comedy “Some Like It Hot,” where Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dress up as women to escape angry mobsters. To put it plainly, they pretended to be drag queens.

I remember attending Dame Edna’s Broadway performances, which were drag shows, and Dame Edna is not gay. The Australian performer has been married four times (to women) and has four children. His fourth wife is Lizzie Spender.

Yet despite the long tradition of drag shows, some states are now passing legislation to ban them or to ban children from attending them (whatever happened to parental rights?)

Billy Townsend wrote:

Drag performers are infinitely better, braver, and more productive human beings and citizens than the cosplaying Nazis stirred up by Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and Kanye and Elon et. al to torment and/or kill them.

This is both obvious and surprisingly difficult for even decent people to say bluntly. I’m not sure that I’ve ever said it. Perhaps that’s because I’ve never perceived a real need to plainly state the obvious until now.

Our community needs to protect the people harassed and death-threatened while minding their own business and making their own joy on Saturday. And it should celebrate their creativity and courage.

I’ve only seen a handful of drag shows in my life. Those I’ve seen were less “sexual” than a Muppet Show number. So I won’t dignify any bullshit excuses anyone may offer for saying, “Yes, but …” when considering how to address out of town Nazis attempting to terrorize Lakeland citizens just days after a MAGA boy shot up a drag show in Colorado.

I don’t have much else to say.

The Ledger and Lakeland Now both have good accounts if you want to read them.

But I would avoid sharing the pictures. That’s what the Nazi boys want. Even if you share the pictures in anger and revulsion, you’re sharing their propaganda/transgressive recruitment value. Think about how you amplify them.

Also, I think it’s important to note that the drag event organizers praised the response of the Lakeland Police Department as fast and protective. It’s very important for institutions of power to do their jobs for all citizens. And we should definitely acknowledge/praise when they do.

This is a time that demands choices, both in rhetoric and deed. I thank Lakeland’s brave drag performers for reminding me of that.

The Nazis can fuck off.

That pretty much sums up my view.

Governor Ron DeSantis believes he should control everything, not just state government. He has made schools one of his top issues, by promoting a medley of policies.

He ridiculed mask mandates. He got the legislature to pass a bill banning “WOKE” activities and “critical race theory” in schools, colleges, and the workplace. Federal courts have already struck down parts of this law (e.g. demanding that college professors teach only the views approved by DeSantis). He got the legislature to pass a law called “Don’t Say Gay” that prohibits any teaching about gender in K-3 and throws into question the legitimacy of any mention of gender in other grades. He stands in opposition to any workplace training in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Have you ever heard of a state governor endorsing candidates in local school board elections?

At the last election, DeSantis endorsed 73 local school board candidates who share his hard-right views. More than half won. Most of the same candidates were endorsed by the fringe group “Moms for Liberty.” Where the DeSantis candidates won a majority, they wasted no time in firing the superintendent. Teachers in DeSantis-led counties must be very careful in teaching about race, racism, gender, American history or anything likely to offend the ideologues who control the board.

Politico reported on the swift actions taken by DeSantis-endorsed school boards:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis put his weight behind dozens of conservative school board candidates across Florida during the midterms. Now they’re in office — and are purging some educational leaders who enforced Covid-19 mandates.

New board members in two GOP-leaning counties essentially sacked their school superintendents over the span of one week. The ousters were spurred by how the superintendents carried out local policies like efforts to support the rights of parents, an issue inflamed by schools imposing student mask mandates last fall in defiance of DeSantis.

And while not tied to the 2022 election, the school board in Broward County earlier this month fired its superintendent through an effort led by five members appointed by DeSantis. All combined, school boards with ties to DeSantis pushed out three superintendents in November alone — and each of them served over districts that implemented student mask mandates.

“We had a wave in school districts that spit in parents’ faces,” said state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who earlier this year sought to punish schools with mask mandates. “And now the people who did that are gone.”

In Brevard and Sarasota counties, embattled school leaders have faced immediate pressure from newly-installed board members and offered to leave voluntarily rather than risk a vote on their terminations.

The boards in both counties now have conservative majorities who sought a change in leadership immediately after the midterms. Although school boards are nonpartisan posts, lines between Democratic and Republican candidates were drawn in many counties through endorsements from each party as well as outside groups. The newly-elected board members in these cases support parental rights while opposing critical race theory and teaching gender orientation in schools.

DeSantis in particular used his clout to endorse more than two dozen school board candidates during the 2022 election cycle, a rare move for a Florida governor that came with $1,000 cash contributions from DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers. Most of the candidates DeSantis endorsed won their elections and are now transforming the make-up of school district leadership and will have huge influence over policies affecting hundreds of thousands of students in the state.

Both Sarasota and Brevard’s school boards put the superintendents on the chopping block the same day that new members endorsed by DeSantis and conservative organizations like Moms for Liberty were sworn into office.

A poster helping those who want to run for a school board position is seen in the hallway.
A poster helping those who want to run for a school board position is seen in the hallway during the inaugural Moms For Liberty Summit at the Tampa Marriott Water Street on July 15, 2022 in Tampa, Fla. | Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Sarasota board members called Superintendent Brennan Asplen’s job into question at a meeting Tuesday night specially called to discuss his contract. After fielding about four hours of public comment, mostly in support of the superintendent, board members vented criticisms over student performance in reading, how he handled masking students and a perceived lack of transparency from Asplen.

Understanding he may not have a job much longer, Asplen offered up his resignation on Monday night — the day before the board met to weigh his ouster. But the superintendent also fought at the meeting to keep his job by attempting to punch holes in the critiques from board members.

“I have a feeling I’m going to be fired after tonight because I just can’t hold this back,” Asplen told the board from as a preface.

Asplen said that some of the board’s comments were “ridiculous” given that he had been at the school since 2020, a timeframe that included the Covid-19 pandemic. And yet despite the coronavirus uprooting education, Sarasota earned “A” grades from the state both years. The superintendent also claimed he was being shut out by board members since the election and noted that he enacted a mandatory student masking policy for only three weeks, and that was due to Sarasota’s board voting 3-2 in favor of the mandate.

Here is an account of the firing in Sarasota, where the superintendent revealed that he is a “conservative Republican.”

The New York Times reported an unprecedented increase in hate speech on Twitter since Elon Musk bought the social media platform. Musk fired everyone in the department responsible for moderating the content of tweets and seems now to be making personal decisions about who should be allowed to return to Twitter and who should be removed. In the past day, he suspended Kanye West (Ye) for posting Star of David with a swastika in its center. West was recently interviewed by Alex Jones, where he said that Hitler was “good” and should be remembered for the many positive things he did.

The Times wrote:

Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.

Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.

And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.

These findings — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms — provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how conversations on Twitter have changed since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion deal for the company in late October. While the numbers are relatively small, researchers said the increases were atypically high.

The shift in speech is just the tip of a set of changes on the service under Mr. Musk. Accounts that Twitter used to regularly remove — such as those that identify as part of the Islamic State, which were banned after the U.S. government classified ISIS as a terror group — have come roaring back. Accounts associated with QAnon, a vast far-right conspiracy theory, have paid for and received verified status on Twitter, giving them a sheen of legitimacy.

These changes are alarming, researchers said, adding that they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform….

Last week, Mr. Musk proposed a widespread amnesty for accounts that Twitter’s previous leadership had suspended. And on Tuesday, he ended enforcement of a policy against Covid misinformation.

Having gone to college many years ago in Massachusetts, I have an idyllic view of small-towns in New England. Thus, I was shocked to read this article from InDepth New Hampshire about hate groups that are active in Franklin, New Hampshire. True, NH has its Free Staters, rabid libertarians who want no government at all, but you will read here about a different type of extremism, based on hate.

What’s happening to our country? when I read articles celebrating the last election as a rebuke to Trumpism, I remind myself that many important votes were very close. In many states, reason won by 50.4%. Or 51%.

A new hate incident in Franklin, this time white supremacist graffiti painted on a downtown building, has city leaders looking for answers.

Mayor Jo Brown said the city’s task force to combat hate, formed after a Jewish business owner was targeted by a hate group this summer, is working on stifling hate with education and positivity…

It is not clear who is behind this week’s graffiti, Brown said. This is the second time this year Franklin leaders have dealt with hate-influenced issues. Over the summer, members of the notorious hate group, NSC 131, targeted Miriam Kovacs, owner of the Broken Spoon, which is a Jewish-Asian fusion takeout restaurant.

NSC 131, also known as the Nationalist Social Club, is a neo-Nazi hate group active in New England. The group has a chapter active in New Hampshire. In the past year, the group has targeted businesses on the Seacoast for harassment, and even threatened former Nashua Democratic state Rep. Manny Espitia.

State Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo, D-Newmarket, recently spoke about receiving a racist email from a different group. Attorney General John Formella is investigating the email from a man who identified himself as the founder and president of a group called the New England White Network.

NSC 131 was founded in eastern Massachusetts and its members are tied to violent Neo Nazi groups like The Base, Aryan Strike and Patriot Front. The group has off-shoot chapters in Europe and some southern states. NSC 131 graffiti has been spotted all throughout southern New Hampshire, and the group has made appearances at Nashua City Hall and Nashua School Board meetings, among other incidents.

This summer, the group hung two banners over a highway in Dover that read: “Keep New England white” and “Defend New England.”

The group is virulently anti-Semitic and calls for expelling Jewish people from the United States. The group also calls for violence against Jews and minorities.

“110 and never again. Jews have been expelled from 109 countries make America 110. Any nationalist of action will agree, 110 and never again,” on NSC 131 poster wrote on Telegram.

Josh Cowen is a veteran voucher researcher, having worked in the field for more than 20 years. He is a professor of education policy at Michigan State University. After two decades as a researcher, he concluded that vouchers are a disaster for the children who use them.

Today, he writes an inside guide to voucher research. All pro-voucher research is actually disguised advocacy for vouchers, especially if it funded or produced by the organizations listed here.

I hope you will share this post with your friends on social media, post blogs about it, and get it into the hands of journalists. The public deserves transparency.

Josh Cowen writes:


The entire base of evidence to support school vouchers comes from a small, interconnected and insular group of research-activists with direct ties to Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, the Waltons and other privatization financers.

If you stopped reading this post right now, that’s the take-home message right there: the case for vouchers relies entirely on data and evidence contributed by what amounts to industry-funded research and advocacy on behalf of the cause.

But if you’re a journalist, an educator, or just a committed public school supporter (thank you!) and you want the links and the details, read on.

WHO’S WHO IN THE VOUCHER RESEARCH/ADVOCACY WORLD?

If you’re a professional journalist either in the education space or a broader policy/politics issue, you’ve probably heard of some of these people and certainly their institutions before. But you’re busy, you’ve got deadlines to meet and editors to approve your copy, and it’s not always easy to connect some of the important dots in this area.

But they need to be connected. The single most difficult task I’ve found in my writing on school vouchers has been to explain to journalists how the question of whether vouchers “work” for kids is not some obscure academic ivory-tower debate in which both sides have a nuanced, complicated and reasonably well-founded point.

There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.

So the next time you see a press release, or are given a quote, or talk off record to a voucher supporter saying that vouchers work, try this little exercise and see what you find for yourself:

STEP 1: DOES THE RESEARCH COME FROM ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS?

• American Federation for Children: the 501(c)(4) advocacy organization co-founded by Betsy DeVos to lobby for vouchers. DeVos was so close to this group she had to recuse herself as Secretary of Education from contact with the group in her first year in government.

• Cato Institute: A Right-wing advocacy think tank co-founded by Charles Koch (although Koch later sued for lack of direct control of the group).

• EdChoice: Formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, named for conservative economist who first proposed vouchers. Enough said.

• ExcelInEd: The advocacy group founded by Jeb Bush to expand vouchers and other conservative education priorities from the model Bush developed while he was governor of Florida.

• Goldwater Institute: A self-described libertarian think tank in Arizona that is chiefly oriented toward litigation on behalf of a number of different conservative policy priorities—most recently school vouchers.

• Harvard University Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG): A research center at Harvard run by Professor Paul Peterson, also of the Hoover Institution, and the father of modern-day pro-voucher research.

• Heritage Foundation: the most influential Right-wingthink tank in the country, devoted in part to privatizing schools and exploiting culture wars. Also directly tied to voter suppression efforts, per deep reporting by The New Yorker.

• University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform: A university-based doctoral training department responsible for producing nearly all of the currently active voucher research-advocates working at the institutions above today. This department was founded by a $10 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation in the early 2000s.

STEP 2: IS THE AUTHOR, CO-AUTHOR OR SOURCE FOR BACKGROUND OR ATTRIBUTION ONE OF THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE?

The Original Voucher Research-Advocates

Jay P. Greene Currently Senior Fellow at Heritage, former founding head of the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, received his PhD under Paul E. Peterson.

Paul E. Peterson Currently Professor at both Harvard and the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University, and the primary intellectual force behind the original positive voucher studies of the late 1990s.

Their Students, Colleagues and Acolytes

Lindsay Burke Currently at the Heritage Foundation and a member of GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin’s transition team.

Corey DeAngelis Currently Research Director for DeVos’s American Federation for Children group. But so much more: a regular Fox News contributor and active campaigner with far-Right governors like Kari Lake in Arizona and Kim Reynolds in Iowa.

Greg Forster Currently at EdChoice and a co-blogger with Jay Greene.

Matthew Ladner Currently at ALEC, EdChoice, Goldwater, and the Charles Koch Institute.

Martin Lueken Currently a research director at EdChoiceand former PhD student of Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf at University of Arkansas.

Mike McShane Currently a research director at EdChoiceand former PhD student of Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf at University of Arkansas.

Neil McCluskey Currently “Director of Education Freedom” at the Cato Institute and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of School Choice—a publication edited by Robert Maranto of the University of Arkansas.

Patrick Wolf Currently interim-head of the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, former colleague of Jay Greene and a former PhD student of Paul Peterson.

Not all of these organizations or individuals occupy the same problematic position. For example, I happen to make a point of reading everything McShane publishes, for example, because I respect his writing and the way he talks about the world even though I fundamentally disagree with his conclusions.

And the University of Arkansas group also includes a robust and insightful group of researchers examining the needs of teachers in the Ozarks and other high-poverty areas. I’m a great admirer of Professor Gema Zamarro and her students, who are doing some very important work on the role that the COVID0-19 pandemic played in teacher workforce conditions.

For that matter, some of what we know about the devasting effects of vouchers in Louisiana actually comes from Patrick Wolf’s reports. I’ve written with him myself on studies like one showing how critical strong oversight is to voucher program performance. Wolf is in fact the only person on the list abovewith a long and commendable history of publishing negative voucher impacts in top academic journals. The point here is not to disparage the individuals but to judge the insular and self-citing base of research that supports vouchers.

The point here is to be critical consumers of this line of research. Think of it this way: no news editor would release a story on an explosive topic going on the say so of a single source. At minimum that editor would require two and usually more sources. The problem for voucher advocacy research is that it is usually the only source for positive voucher impacts available. And it’s been that way for a decade or more.

What’s the take home point? It’s this: not all voucher advocates publish exclusively pro-voucher studies, but all pro-voucher studies come almost exclusively from pro-voucher advocates.

STEP 3: WHO FUNDED THE WORK YOU’RE READING OR THE SOURCE YOU’RE CITING?

One or more of the following funders—the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Kern Family Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—funded the original studies supporting school vouchers.

The Bradley and Koch Foundations—along with Heritage—are directly involved in Big Lie, election denialism, and voter-suppression funding, as reported by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker in painstaking detail last summer.

The next time you read a report, or talk to a source for attribution, ask first about their funding sources. If they decline to provide those sources, consider declining to report their results or their viewpoint. It is common for philanthropists to request non-disclosure of their donations—that is their right. But it is your right as a reporter, and certainly the right of your readers, to decline to print their material.

Transparency is just the name of the game for credible research. You can see my own research funding right here. You can see that I once upon a time also received grant funding from the Walton Foundation. And from Bloomberg, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. My only current active funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences—awarded to my research team while Betsy DeVos was education secretary!

Do I believe those organizations swayed my earlier research? Of course not. And the advocates above would say the same thing. But I don’t get to decide what to think and neither do they. That’s for the reader to judge, and that can’t happen without full transparency.

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

This all may seem like inside baseball. A bunch of current and former voucher researchers arguing about who’s who and what’s what. A bunch of annoying and self-centered PhDs.

But in some sense that’s the entire point.

Whether an educator, reporter, researcher, policymaker or just avid reader of Diane’s blog here, you would be hard-pressed—if not find it absolutely impossible—to find a single study of voucher participant effects (how vouchers impact outcomes) that did not come from one of the few organizations or few individuals listed above, or a handful of others with direct ties to Greene, Peterson, or Arkansas.

That’s a problem, because what that means is that hundreds of millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of school children are being affected every day by the advocacy of a small group of people. In many cases advocacy disguised as objective and credible research.

As a counter point, consider this humble list of studies showing far more nuance and at times outright negative results from voucher programs. To create that list, I made a simple rule: no studies from organizations listed in Step 1 above. Notice the variety of names and the diversity of venues and outlets. That’s what a credible research base looks like.

A LITMUS TEST: IS THE PRO-VOUCHER EVIDENCE I’M READING POLITICAL/IDEOLOGICAL?

If at this point you’re still not convinced that the entire structure of pro-voucher research amounts to industry-funded research—think the Sacklers funding research on oxycontin’s addictive properties, or ExxonMobil funding research on fossil fuel environmental effects—there is also this:

Many of the organizations and individuals noted above also contribute to other areas of politically engaged conservative education reform.

Consider that Greene alone has published in the last 12 months studies arguing against the provision of gender-affirming care, against “wokeness”, and against Diversity, Equity and Inclusionoffices in both K12 and higher education.

Greene even put right in print for you to see that these culture war issues are useful to Right wing activists pushing the privatization of schooling.

In other words, pro-voucher research exists right alongside—and is often published by—the same people and organizations pushing other far-Right education outcomes. You need to know that to have a full picture of what voucher research truly says.

Pro-voucher research is pro-voucher advocacy, and pro-voucher advocacy is part of the larger effort to undermine public education, undermine a more humane approach to tolerating difference and diversity in our schools, and in many cases undermine free embrace of democracy itself.