It is an article of faith in some quarters that all American public school teachers are raving Marxists, bent—as Marxists are—on indoctrinating children in their anti-American ways. Many teachers are certainly “Progressives” (insert any other left of center term that pleases you instead), perhaps in a greater proportion in education than in the general population. This is no doubt more likely in unionized states where teacher’s unions—and many of their members—tend to be wholly owned subsidiaries of the Democrat Party. Or is that the other way around? It’s hard to tell these days.
In many schools, political correctness—which is nourished by leftist thought–is deeply entrenched. However, I suspect that in most schools, teachers simply go about their work each day without overt attempts to convert their charges to any particular political faith. I don’t have facts and figures on this, and from time to time, horrific stories of berserk Progressive indoctrination pop up, but for the most part, in most of the country, teachers probably focus on teaching.
I teach in a conservative, right-to-work state and a plainly conservative school district. There is no continual, overt political proselytizing I can detect, but I’m quite sure some Progressives would consider the mere existence of Conservative thought in a teacher to be prima facie evidence of Conservative bias and indoctrination.
I am unabashedly patriotic (USAF and police veteran), pro-American, pro-Constitution and pro-individual liberty and while I never preach, I remind my students, from time to time when it’s appropriate of their good fortune to be born—or to live—in America. Some Progressives—and there are a good number on the faculty—are scandalized by this.
It may be useful to examine an example of my overt conservatism, but pay attention: there will be a writing assignment later! This is, after all, English class.
Our state standards require teaching students about how the media shapes (warps) the news, so each year I present a unit on the media and the many ways in which it expresses left wing bias. In the many years I’ve done this unit, I have challenged my students to provide an example—just one—of right wing bias on the part of the Mainstream Media (MSM) in their news reporting. It would be an interesting contrast, but alas, I am still waiting.
The unit consists of various examples of biased news stories. I begin the unit with a brief primer on Progressive and Conservative philosophies. This is necessary because most of my students are only vaguely familiar with the terms, and know the philosophies associated with them not at all. One can hardly understand the news—or politics—without a basic understanding of the two primary philosophies that inspire American political polices. After discussion of each article—and/or series of photos (try googling “Obama+halo” to see how the media treats Mr. Obama as a demi-god; my students are horrified)—there are writing assignments that require thoughtful analysis.
A case in point is a “news” story from May 21, 2007. The brief story my students read and discuss was actually the second of two stories on the same topic presented on the same day by CBS News. Titled Bush’s Driving Ambition Realized, the article was written by Mark Knoller. I’ll provide only some excerpts, but the full article is quite short. Even so, it provides a substantial glimpse into the mindset of the MSM.
After reading the article, we begin by discussing particular issues.
Like a teenager showing off his first car, President Bush proudly drove up to the helicopter landing zone on his ranch in his honking big white Ford F250 pickup truck.
Did the President of the United States really drive “Like a teenager showing off his first car?” How, exactly does one drive like that? And how, exactly, does one drive “proudly?” Are these assertions of fact or bias? How so?
A “honking big white Ford F250 pickup truck?” Who would think to describe, what for most Americans is a common, utterly unremarkable vehicle that way? We discuss the differences in perception between them, people who see, even drive, Ford F250’s—very common and quite expensive pickups—every day, and the self-appointed coastal elite who see such vehicles and those that own and drive them as distinctly low class.
Knoller asserts that Mr. Bush doesn’t get to drive much, so when he is on his ranch
…that produces a strong yearning to put one’s pedal to the metal.
How does Knoller know this? Has he interviewed Mr. Bush? If so, why doesn’t he simply quote him? Is this factual, or simply made up? Why would Knoller make this up? What point is he trying to make?
Yesterday, he was in cowboy mode wearing blue jeans, a short sleeve shirt and western boots. The NATO chief seemed positively overdressed as he arrived at the ranch wearing a European-cut blue blazer over an open collar dress shirt.
Mr. Bush was in “cowboy mode?” At least three or four students in every class—boy or girl–will be, on any given day, wearing western boots, jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. My kids routinely laugh at Knoller’s foolishly mistaken impression of what cowboys wear. Who thinks that people wearing common, everyday comfortable clothing are in “cowboy mode,” whatever that is?
At this point, I introduce the common Progressive concept of “flyover country.” All of us, of course, are the benighted, God and gun clinging denizens of that barren cultural wasteland between the slivers of enlightened civilization on the east and west coasts. Most of my students have no idea of this concept, or of the concept that those who live on the coasts would denigrate their fellow citizens this way. They are less than pleased to discover it.
Why would Knoller mention Mr. Bush’s clothing and that of his European guest? To whom is Knoller speaking and what points is he making?
Mr. Bush escorted his guest and his wife over to the pickup. The spouse joined First Lady Laura Bush in the back seat of the expanded cab, and the NATO chief took the passenger seat next to the President.
Neither of them were seen to buckle their seat belts.
This is the conclusion of the “news” story, yet was it news at all? Was this so important—considering the news of the world—that it merited not one but two separate stories on CBS in a single day?
What is the significance of the seating arrangements in the “honking big white Ford F250 pickup truck?” Is revealing where four people sat in a vehicle somehow newsworthy? So newsworthy it required two stories in a single day?
“Neither of them were seen to buckle their seat belts.” This is the conclusion of a “news” story on one of the big three TV networks? Mr. Bush, who is in “cowboy mode”–on, of all places, a ranch in Texas—isn’t wearing a seatbelt in his “honking big white Ford F250 pickup truck?”
We discuss the fact that traffic laws don’t apply on private property, that if they wished, they could erect a stop sign on their land and run it fifty times a day, cackling with maniacal abandon as they did. I explain that the line was almost certainly included to suggest that Mr. Bush, dim-witted cowboy that he is, was somehow breaking the law an/or being a hypocrite.
The Student Writing Assignment:
Consider this story. Is it actually newsworthy, particularly considering CBS felt it worthy of two separate stories on a single day? If you believe it is newsworthy, explain why. If not, explain why not and explain why CBS broadcast the story twice. Be sure to provide direct quotations and examples from the article and explain how they help to prove your points.
My students enjoy the media unit, which employs not only the print media, but the internet, photography and video to illustrate the ways in which the MSM misleads the public. I always encourage my students not to believe me, but to do their own research. Those that take my advice (all of my sources are fully attributed) discover that I’m presenting the truth. All of my students are amazed at the degree to which the MSM is biased as much by what they choose not to report as what they do. I explain that the MSM is not biased in 100% of their reporting, but when they are biased it is always left-wing bias.
Reader Writing Assignment:
My Progressive colleagues would surely see this assignment as incontrovertible evidence of right wing indoctrination. Your assignment, gentle readers, should you decide to accept it (no, it won’t self-destruct in 30 seconds), is to write a comment expressing your opinion on this topic:
Does this assignment represent a reasonable analysis of MSM bias, or does it, by exposing left-wing MSM bias, constitute Conservative indoctrination?
Extra credit will be awarded for wit, creativity, and appropriate snark.
Oh boy, is this unit going to be interesting in the Fall! Talk about a target-rich environment…