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O'Reilly's Trippin' . . . U of Minnesota Agenda Includes (Gasp!) Cultural Diversity!

Reported by Julie - December 17, 2009 -

On the “Stossel Matters” segment on The O’Reilly Factor this week (12/15/09), Bill O’Reilly kicked it off with breaking news of “an unbelievable situation at the University of Minnesota. Apparently the school’s Twin City campus has put together a race, culture, class and gender task force that would require education students to accept theories like white privilege, institutional racism and the myth of meritocracy in the United States . . . this isn’t in place yet, 2011 . . . this is about as far left as it gets . . . this is really over the top.” First of all, nowhere in the University of Minnesota's agenda does it says education students have to accept any theories. It's instruction -- you know, that thing called education, where a teacher teaches and a student takes notes and generally cherry picks what they agree with and what they don't. But don't tell O'Reilly that -- he just can't fathom, I guess, why white teachers aren't teaching white kids about white stuff. With video.

Oh my. Race. Culture. Class. Gender. White privilege. Institutional racism. The myth of meritocracy. What is this world coming to that we now want our teachers educated in these areas? Somebody contact the University of Minnesota, quick – they need to get on board with Fox News’ agenda of Christian white, upscale, and largely male (with a little female “eye candy” thrown in for good measure) power. Long live meritocracy (“an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth”)! You could almost see O’Reilly thinking, What happened to the good old days, when rich white boys ruled and nobody had the gall to question white male entitlement?

I admittedly don’t know much about John Stossel, except that he’s a business guy on Fox, which, okay, tells me a lot. (He's also, as posted by News Hounds Guest Blogger Dan, the guy who proposes eliminating health insurance altogether). In this segment, it appeared that he was supposed to lend “fair and balanced” to a ragingly racist, sexist, xenophobic theme brought by O’Reilly – but despite his apparent mission to be the voice of reason, he kept slipping back into “Fox News” mode.

Stossel began fairly mildly (though automatically mimicking the Fox News theme of “liberal education”), saying, “Ed schools are known for this, some of it’s ridiculous, this is just a discussion at this point, fortunately . . . one of the faculty members even suggested a course in heteronormativity . . . that means that you discriminate against people who aren’t straight . . . You just assume everybody else is straight . . . some of these Ed schools are awful, this is one of the good ones . . . .”

Nothing like a little equality to get O’Reilly in a twist, and he made his agenda known from jump: “If it’s one of the good ones why do they want to get out into the radical left branch? Look, they want to incorporate into this curriculum white privilege, hegemonic masculinity – I guess that means that men have all the power – internalized oppression – what is internalized oppression?”

For the record, “External oppression is the unjust exercise of authority and power by one group over another. It includes imposing one group's belief system, values and life ways over another group . . . External oppression becomes internalized oppression when we come to believe and act as if the oppressor's beliefs system, values, and life way is reality.” (Emphasis added). “Internalized oppression” is a term O’Reilly really should know – after all, he and the Fox News crew fantasize daily about what a great place America could be if everybody who isn’t white and isn’t Christian and isn’t rich would just shut up and starting buying into the whole “internalized oppression” thing.

Stossel remembered why he was there, asking, “Are you telling me you don’t think there is white privilege in America, Obama notwithstanding?” Oh, right – that new right-wing defense, the suggestion that one black man in a position of supreme power negates white privilege altogether, and that this country can’t be racist if we elected a black President.

O’Reilly reluctantly agreed that “there’s white privilege in America and I think it should be discussed” – I’m not sure why he doesn’t think a course in these issues doesn’t constitute a “discussion”. But then O’Reilly ran wild with his theory, and his terrible fear bubbled to the surface of his psyche.

“If you’re gonna push America’s a terrible place -- which is what this is all about,” O’Reilly cried indignantly, “And you ought to tell your students America’s a terrible place, I’m gonna oppose you on every front.” The battle cry for white male hegemony couldn’t have been louder: In O’Reilly’s view, apparently, educating future teachers on cultural differences, the theme of white privilege (and not the notion that whites should remain privileged), and class and gender issues -- in essence removing the natural belief that rich white males have all the power and should keep it – is the equivalent of teaching that America is a “terrible place” and appears to threaten all that O'Reilly holds dear. Even though sane people recognize that "America's bad" is not, clearly, what the University of Minnesota’s agenda is, O’Reilly apparently believes that teaching tolerance and understanding and encouraging future teachers to be open-minded is something that just shouldn’t happen in America.

In addition to the horror-stricken O’Reilly, the proposed program has also come under criticism by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), whose Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program, Adam Kissel, claims that “this task group really wants to invade the minds of future teachers and demand that they hold the 'right' values attitudes and beliefs about society, about themselves, and about race, class, culture, and gender, to a degree to which it really violates the freedom of conscience of future teachers . . . .”

University of Minnesota spokesman Dan Wolter, however, disputed that, saying, “. . . FIRE has it all wrong. It's not at all what they're suggesting — that it's some sort of litmus test — it's just making sure that teachers are prepared to deal with the different situations that they might have for each and every student — which has been a challenge in the past . . . Teachers obviously come from one perspective, so if they've got 15 other people of different backgrounds in their classrooms it's a completely different situation.”

If Stossel were really “fair and balanced,” he would have asked O’Reilly why he equated teaching tolerance and cultural understanding to teaching that America’s a bad place – instead, he asked O’Reilly mildly if, when O’Reilly was a teacher, “You or some of your colleagues might not have been helped by a cultural sensitivity course?,” a question O’Reilly ignored. If O’Reilly were really “fair and balanced,” a discussion about the University’s explanation of the curriculum would have been in order.

O’Reilly continued his rant, saying gravely, “What this is, is it’s a continuation of the theory on college campuses that America’s a bad place . . . we’ve got problems in America, the white majority has oppressed minorities . . . but America is the best country in the world because it affords the most amount of people the biggest opportunity to pursue happiness under the freedom and capitalistic banner. This is a bunch of garbage because it emphasizes the negative . . . everything bad about America and that’s what I object to and that’s what’s being taught on all these college campuses in the Ed schools, that’s what they’re getting rammed down their throat.”

There ya go – instruction on class bias, gender bias, white privilege, and heteronormativity (along the lines, I would imagine, that these things might need a bit of tweaking in future generations) is the “negative” that shouldn't be emphasized . . . or discussed . . . or acknowledged. I’m only guessing, but if the university were teaching a course entitled, “Sure, straight white men have all the power and money, so what?” he wouldn’t be trippin’.

“What really outrages me,” Stossel posited, “Is that prospective teachers have to go to these Ed schools in the first place, that the government monopoly on K-12 education demands these degrees, many of which are lousy, let the schools hire anybody they want, you or I or President Obama would not be allowed to teach in a public school because of these . . . .” These what? These what?!? Is this a riddle? What could O’Reilly and Stossel, and President Obama, possibly have in common?

O’Reilly dismissed Stossel’s not-very-well-thought-out idea that anybody with, I don’t know, Sarah-Palin-style “common sense” (the attribute, other than seeing Russia from her house, that she felt prepared her to be President of the United States) should be able to teach, no education required, saying, “Well, if you pass the certification and you can get in the union you can teach, doesn’t matter if you have an Ed degree or a history degree or an English degree . . . .”

Stossel continued his theme of, I guess, anti-education (no education required, no health care needed?): “Most places you have to take the 4-6 years of college, spend $100,000 at a private school, $40,000 at a public school, shouldn’t have to.”

Again, O’Reilly dismissed Stossel with, “Well, I think you have to have a degree to teach . . . but the fact remains is, that there’s indoctrination taking place now all across the United States and it’s left-wing indoctrination and surely as a libertarian, you can’t support left-wing indoctrination . . . ” Is it just me, or are a bunch of right-of-right conservatives now calling themselves libertarians? Glenn Beck, for Pete’s sake, calls himself one. O’Reilly claims it. Now Stossel?

Stossel noted that “87% of the teachers are white, almost half the kids are not white any more, some training wouldn’t hurt.”

In response to O’Reilly’s innocent question, “Training about what?,” Stossel responded, “Training about how races may be different, how kids from other cultures may learn differently.” Stossel seems to be missing the point here – it’s not that kids from other cultures “learn differently” necessarily, it’s that they are taught differently. As noted by ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) Digests, “Racial and Cultural Bias: Because some teachers believe that certain students cannot excel at science and mathematics, they encourage them to take less challenging, nonacademic courses. Teachers may also believe that, given a history of low minority and female student achievement in technological studies, and possible employment discrimination, it is better to prepare these students for the jobs that will probably be available to them than for jobs usually held only by white males. Parents also can discourage achievement as a result of beliefs they've come to accept after a lifetime spent in a society which is often prejudiced.” And that, it would seem, is what the University of Minnesota and other “liberal” educational institutions seek to address.

Some of the (horrifying) proposed curriculum requires that: “Future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression . . . Teachers will be able to articulate a "critical analysis of this story of America, for what it illuminates and what it hides or distorts" including . . . “myth of meritocracy in the United States” . . . “historical connections between scientific racism, intelligence testing, and assumptions of fixed mental capacity” . . . “alternative explanations for mobility (and lack of it)” . . . “history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values” . . . “history of white racism, with special focus on current colorblind ideology” . . . “Future teachers are able to explain how institutional racism works in schools” and recognize that “schools and classrooms are often structured in ways that advantage and disadvantage some groups but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation.”

O’Reilly gave with one hand, took with the other: “Okay, I’ll cede you that there can be that kind of a presentation, but that’s not what this Minnesota thing’s about. This is about America’s bad, ram it down your student’s throat.”

And Stossel, in the end just another Fox News mouthpiece, replied, “If that’s the case, I’m with you.”

So Stossel thinks any old body should be able to teach, and O’Reilly clearly thinks teachers need education, but educating future teachers on cultural sensitivity, gender and class discrimination, white male power and heteronormativity, i.e., recognizing and addressing anti-gay prejudices, is a “making America bad” agenda. Bill “don’t confuse me with facts my mind’s made up” O’Reilly completely misrepresented University of Minnesota’s agenda, didn’t bother to get a University official on the show to discuss it, and didn’t welcome the suggestion that teachers need “cultural sensitivity” training.

As do Fox News hosts.