Pity the poor Southern Poverty
Law Center. Over the years, it’s gone from noble, to shrill,
to…well…pathetic. These days, it seems to exist only to
scare people with exaggerated
figures about supposed swarms of Klansmen, skinheads, neo-nazis, whatever will
get the mailing list rattled. But the guys in white hoods are
getting a bit thin on the ground and long in the tooth. Yes,
there’s an occasional and unfortunate
Glenn Miller, but a rare, homicidal racist in a nation of over
300 million people does not a national threat make.
Last year, the SPLC tried its hand at
painting anarcho-capitalists as a rising new threat through a
convoluted chain of logic that somehow sought to link voluntaryists
to the Patriot movement. Uh huh. Since even the SPLC can’t follow
that line of reasoning (it keeps leading them to a dumpster behind
a 7-11), now the scaremonger group cautions that some
people who oppose
Common Core education standards are right-wing
Oh yeah. And they’re back to invoking the John Birch
Now, it’s true that some people with doubts about the new Common
Core standards, developed by the National Governors Association and
the Chief Council of State School Officers, but also
favored by the feds, are right-wing extremists (do not
forget the emphasis; very important). Of course, some people who
brush their teeth are right-wing extremists.
And some people just get tagged as right-wing extremists when
it’s time for another SPLC mailing.
Then again, some opponents of Common Core are
members of teachers unions who call the standards dangerous to
personal privacy and educational autonomy. Some are advocates of
child-directed education who
oppose standardized testing. Some worry that the standards are
developmentally inappropriate for children.
But, warns an SPLC report that sounds as if even its authors
take it less than entirely seriously (PDF):
To the propaganda machine on the right, the Common Core—an
effort driven by the states—is actually “Obamacore,” a nefarious
federal plot to wrest control of education from local school
systems and parents. Instead of the “death panels” of “Obamacare,”
the fear is now “government indoctrination camps.”
The disinformation campaign is being driven by the likes of Fox
News, the John Birch Society, Tea Party factions, and the Christian
Right. National think tanks and advocacy groups associated with the
Koch brothers, whose father was a founding Birch member, have taken
up the cause.
By raising the specter of “Obamacore,” activists on the radical
right hope to gain leverage against their real target—public
You can read the whole report, if you like, though I can’t
imagine why. It does acknowledge that there are “legitimate
debates” over Common Core, but mostly it tosses together
libertarian bloggers, fundamentalist preachers, nutjobs, Sen. Rand
Paul (R-Ky.), Tea Party members, the Koch brothers (obligatory
disclaimer: David Koch sits on the Board of the Reason Foundation),
and anybody else SPLC doesn’t like who criticizes Common Core. And,
yes, the John Birch Society, probably because the people on the
SPLC’s mailing list know who that is and find the group scary. It
jogs even their memories, though, just in case: “Chief among the
Patriot groups is the John Birch Society (JBS)—the ultra-right
organization that once called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a
Never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often
have very different criticisms to make of common core standards;
it’s time to throw them in the blender o’ progressive nightmares.
All of this is really a plot against public education.
And public education is good!
And never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked
often have very different positions on the role government should
play in schooling and what constitutes a good education.
To show just how incoherent this all is, the report closes by
citing education historian Diane Ravitch on the value of public
schools, while also noting her opposition to Common Core. That’s
right, the almost 40-page warning that Common Core opponents are
out to kill public education ends by invoking an opponent who
supports public education.
Err…So what’s the point of all this?
Right-wing extremists! John Birch Society! BOO!
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