The debate between Nick Gillespie and Rosalind Wiseman on Fox and Friends this morning was supposedly about whether there is a bullying crisis in the United States. But was Nick Gillespie, of the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, there to discuss bullying - or was this a smokescreen to hide his agenda of promoting economic and social segregation in the form of charter schools? Updated. With Video.
Gillespie and Wiseman, an anti-bullying expert and author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, engaged in a rather tepid debate over how much of a problem bullying actually is. Gillespie narrowed the focus to bullying in schools, a topic he wrote about recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. This article has received a lot of criticism for, among other things, his downplaying of cyberbullying and LBGT teen suicides, and for his “solution” so beloved of bullies everywhere, “learn to fight your own battles” – a message which dovetails nicely with the libertarian creed “I’m free to do what I damn well please and you’re free to try and stop me (but I’ll whine about it)”.
On Fox and Friends Gillespie pushed a very toned-down version of his WSJ message in which he complained about “over-involved” parents, “overprotected” kids and, of course, government anti-bullying initiatives - with gratuitous (and lame) shots at a proposed child farm-safety law and President Obama thrown in for good measure. To give him some credit, he did suggest that bullied kids “talk to someone” but the upshot is that he expects the targets of bullying to take the responsibility to stop it upon themselves - which either shows how little he understands about the dynamics of bullying, or means he was being disingenuous. Wait... a conservative, disingenuous? On Fox News? Nahhhhh, couldn't be... But here’s what Gillespie had to say about preventive measures in his WSJ article:
“Before more of our schools' money, time and personnel are diverted away from education in the name of this supposed crisis, we should make an effort to distinguish between the serious abuse suffered by the kids in "Bully" and the sort of lower-level harassment with which the Aaron Cheeses of the world have to deal.” (Aaron Cheese is a kid who appears in the Cartoon Network special "Stop Bullying: Speak Up.") So,rather than schools spend money, kids should suck it up and deal with it? Learning to be assertive and being able defend oneself is always a good idea, but that doesn't mean schoools can't or shouldn't provide anti-bullying programs or intervene. (My own observation as an involved parent has been that a two-pronged approach is the most successful).
As always when I watch Fox News so you don't have to, I wondered what the agenda was, and listened for the weasel words – and Gillespie obliged when he made the strange comment that schools are "involuntary situations where kids are lumped together - they're legally forced to go there", that bullying is the result, and that we "need a school system which doesn't create conflict, which is what our schools do now." The school systems create conflict?? That sent me running for the Googlizer. Is Nick Gillespie, I wondered, a shill for some white separatist group that doesn't believe kids should be "lumped together"?
It turns out he is a separatist, but not that kind of separatist. Gillespie is the vice-president of the Reason Foundation’s online presence and editor-in-chief of Reason magazine. What Fox and Friends didn’t tell us is that the Reason Foundation is a libertarian propaganda outfit masquerading as a think tank, partially funded by the Koch brothers (and including David Koch on its board), and with close ties to ALEC (and if you don’t know what ALEC is, click the link and prepare to be horrified).
ALEC advocates the dismantling of the public school system in favor of the establishment of unregulated charter schools, ostensibly in the name of “educational freedom”. This “freedom” would include the freedom to teach kids whatever the school wishes, without oversight (eg. Creationism), and the freedom to design schools to fit specific populations. Under this model, schools would be able to target and admit specific groups and would be privately run and profit driven. The upshot, should ALEC succeed in its mission, would be be a collection of private schools defined by corporate interests and divided by social and economic class, language, race, religion, and ability - and social Darwinism in education. And of course, there wouldn’t be that nasty bullying problem because these schools would be nice and, well, un-lumped-together). (Wait - is this code for "none of those nasty inner-city kids at my kids' school"? Just asking, as Heather Childers would say.)
If Nick Gillespie was really interested in bullying he would be well aware that there is no evidence that there is less bullying in private schools - which tend to have kids from similar backgrounds – than in public schools and would, one would think, apply that reasoning to charter schools. If bullying was his real concern he wouldn’t have made remarks about school systems being somehow responsible for such behavior. But in the context of shilling for the ALEC-style, market-driven concept of charter schools his comments make perfect sense, even if they were nonsense.
Note: This post was edited for accuracy by NewsHound Alex after the video became available.