Glenn Beck never met a conspiracy he didn’t like. In his latest endeavor, the notorious ex-Fox News pundit-turned-figurehead of The Blaze libertarian/conservative subscription television network has turned his sights on Common Core. He is promoting his newest book Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education with We Will Not Conform, a live interactive event aired in more than 600 theaters nationwide July 22, with an encore presentation July 29, focusing on the Obama administration’s controversial education reform that has galvanized the public and created a strong grassroots protest movement.
We Will Not Conform featured a panel of more than 20 “experts,” including Beck, conservative syndicated columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin and controversial evangelical conservative author David Barton. Theatergoers were encouraged to participate in the discussion via smartphones. An anti-Common Core plan of action was distributed afterward and made available on CommonCoreFails.com.
Some of the main takeaways from the panel, which was divided into roundtable working groups labeled “Messaging,” “Alternatives,” “Research and Resources” and “Politics,” among others: It is imperative for students to refuse the state standardized tests that anchor the Common Core system. It is important to “follow the money” of “educrats” who are implementing this system. It is also critical to consider homeschooling as a means to take back control of the children’s education from “progressives,” speakers argued—who Barton insisted are “trying to take away the stories of our nation,” referring to the Common Core curriculum’s push to replace historically taught works of fiction with non-fiction reading assignments.
That last part is what Beck calls a “hot-button issue” for him. If we lose those stories, Barton argues, we lose our nation. Beck believes that with the installation of Common Core across the country, this loss of story is “intentional.” As such, he brought Terrence Moore, author of The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core, to discuss how Common Core “educrats” are “using our money to forward their progressive ideals.” Moore contended that this is not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. Barton, who Beck introduced as a noted historian, concurred.
What’s not stated anywhere during We Will Not Conform is that Barton ‘s 2012 New York Times bestselling book The Jefferson Lies, was voted “the least credible history book in print” in a poll by readers of the History News Network, a web-based magazine published by George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media. The book’s publisher, the Thomas Nelson publishing company, ceased its publication and distribution shortly after its release because “there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported,” according to World Magazine.
Blatantly clear is that besides Obama and Common Core, the obvious villains in We Will Not Conform were the oft-cited “progressives,” who absorbed several blows throughout its two-hour running time. Beck made sure to note in the film that surely the Union Square movie theater where it aired was almost empty, even though “this affects them too.” This assumption seems to mean that unless parents pack out a theater playing Beck’s personal brand of conspiracy theory, they don’t care about their children. New Yorkers, and especially Long Islanders, know this to be false, as we have a robust and mobilized protest movement filled with activists that cross the political spectrum.
In the messaging portion of the program, Beck brought together a group led by public relations guru Brian Glicklich (Beck was not at liberty to divulge Glicklich’s clientele, but let’s just say when someone rich and famous gets into trouble, this is their guy, he explained) to discuss how best to win arguments against those who might support Common Core. One of the key points here was to stick to singular areas of expertise instead of trying to explain the entire behemoth of this educational system.
Here’s where Beck’s message gets a little tangled up, even contradictory.
To illustrate this point, a woman in the film stood up to read aloud portions of Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye, a book that takes a sharp look at how racial alienation, fostered from childhood onward, could manifest as self-hatred.
It is approved and on the Common Core reading list.
The book describes sexual abuse in stark, clear terms that are certain to shock the eleventh graders to whom the book is assigned. The experts of Beck’s panel expressed disgust with the content, deeming it wholly inappropriate and “vulgar” for “the children.” The idea of banning this book was met with widespread and conforming agreement, by the same people who’d earlier counseled the audience on the importance of not losing the stories of our nation.
And herein lies the overall problem with We Will Not Conform. By inserting his trademark right-wing political bent (which is pervasive throughout the film), Beck loses credibility from what is, indeed, an actual conspiracy that just might undermine the public education of children of this nation. I understand that something with the viral potential as much as Common Core, with mobilized parents ready to come to blows with a government that purports to know better how to educate children than educators, would be ripe fruit for the likes of Glenn Beck.
Yet, if we take his advice and “follow the money,” we learn that We Will Not Conform was underwritten by Liberty University Online Academy—the Internet-based homeschooling curriculum of Liberty University, a private, nonprofit Christian university in Lynchburg, Va. described in its media kit as “the world’s largest Christian university.” His own network The Blaze reported that Beck could not praise homeschooling or Liberty University Online highly enough.
Funny, isn’t it then, that Liberty University Online Academy home schooling curriculum was a main sponsor of the film?
Perhaps that’s also why the movie, unfortunately, comes across as one long commercial for homeschooling, propaganda for his sponsor.
As for the critique that the Common Core standards were written by “educrats” will little-to-no educator input, apparently so was We Will Not Conform. Beck included but one lone public school official in the film, a former assistant principal from Florida showcased as an example of someone who could be converted.
“She hated me,” Beck said, and she laughingly agreed that she used to throw things at the television when he was on. But no longer.
All this muddies, but doesn’t entirely diminish the aim of We Will Not Conform—stopping Common Core. Beck’s campaign culminates in an action plan that lays out the steps needed to combat the Common Core takeover. And make no mistake, that is what it is. This action plan is a good resource in this battle.
To quote Joseph Heller in Catch-22 (another of those precious stories!), as the adage “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” goes, so does this:
Just because Glenn Beck says it’s a conspiracy doesn’t mean it isn’t.