Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Hard Right's Planning Document for Education

Well, this is kind of scary. We're going to do this two parts. First we're going to look at the Center for National Policy's documented proposed plans for education. Then, because you probably don't know who this poorly named group represents, I'll show you why their desire to create a conservative theocratic system is worth taking seriously. I laughed at this plan, right up until the point I saw whose plan it was. This is going to take a little while, and if you are prone to conspiracy theory-based paranoia, you may want to sit down. But stay with me to the end.

The Proposal

The Education Reform Report is a pdf hosted on CNP's own site. [Update: Not any more. Once the Washington Post got hold of this story, the document disappeared from the site. But the good people at Eclectablog have a copy hosted on their site.] It's only five pages long, including a cover letter from CNP executive director Bob McEwen. That letter does not get off to an auspicious start with its reference to "Mrs. Becky DeVos, Secretary-designate," but it corrects itself one paragraph later. It's an odd mistake, given that Betsy's father was president of this organization for two multi-year spans. But let's move on.

The Four Assumptions

The report starts by asking the question of whose worldview should be represented in the soul of a culture and hints that the answer is "not the government's." Then it lays out the four assumptions and a pledge for the rest of the report:

1. All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.
2. Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.
3. Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.
4. No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.
5. The CNP Education Committee pledges itself to work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who, along with America’s pioneers, believed that God belonged in the classroom.

As we're about to see, they mean it. This is their proposed plan for reforming education under the Trump/DeVos regime.

Phase I- Federal Reform

There are five proposed actions for the federal government.

1. Get rid of Common Core and all other "DOE social engineering programs." Also, stop all data collection. Yeah, we still don't understand the federal role in Common Core.

2. Dismantle the Department of Education and return all functions to the states.

3. Make the case that "a Federal D.O.E. is unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to America’s education practice for 300 years from early 17th century to Colonial times."

4. This one's... odd. "Engage College Board for accountability of accuracy/thoroughness in higher education with regards to America’s founding and historical education practices." Do these people not know what the College Board is?

5. Push for school choice in all states (over voucher schemes).

Then they offer eleven strategies for achieving these goals. These include getting the DOE to declare its intention "to return complete sovereignty" to the states. With the possible exception of some necessary temporary bridge funding, stop all federal funding of education. Return all money to the states.

For the duration of its existence,Fire every single person at the Department of education "from Assistant Secretaries to the mailroom" and replace them with people who believe in the Trump/DeVos vision. Change the Department of Education to the President's Advisory Council on Education Reform.

Mobilize all manner of conservative and religious leaders to push for the dismantling of the department. Hire lobbyists "like Tom DeLay." Get the Heritage Foundation on board.

Oh, and promote the 1828 Webster's Dictionary definition of education:

The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

Phase II- State/Local Level

Once the department has been torn apart and reduced to an advisory committee, we can start fixing state and local schools. CNP has seven items on that wish list:

1. Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools. (Do I not have to "restore" them if they were never there? And where in all this plan did we rewrite the Constitution?)

2. Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

3. Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Thanksgiving is part of Judeo-Christian Heritage?

4. Implement select Bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project. Because apparently the whole separation of church and state thing was just created by the Department of Education, and once that's gone, the issue will never come up again?

5. Encourage instruction on U.S. and World history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes.

6. Develop and recommend In-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.

7. Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.

"Just as the Christian gospel was designed to succeed by acclaim," CNP thinks these reforms should not come in the form of top-down mandates.

Far better is the promotion of a gradual, voluntary return at all levels to free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice. We believe such a move will benefit the public at-large, open their eyes to the deficiencies of government-run secular education and provide an attractive, superior alternative, as was once the norm in American education.

Kind of makes one wonder why, if the American norm was once all home and private schools, how we ever developed a public system. Probably more of that Godless secularism.

The Mayflower Compact

That's what the report ends with-- a quote from and the story of the Mayflower compact, quoting from a pastor David Riggs, who talks about how "these chivalrous souls" (well, just the men, of course) were dedicated to "the total cause of freedom." Well, sort of. The Puritans of Massachusetts were interested in religious freedom for themselves. For others, not so much. They put people in the stocks for celebrating Christmas (so much for the war on that holiday) and banished and even executed folks who insisted on speaking up about other versions of the Christian faith.

I have huge respect for those folks, and I am so very white that I have at least one ancestor who came over on that boat. But when we talk about the Puritan version of freedom, we're talking about "Freedom for me because I'm right and nobody else should have the freedom to be wrong." Which is an attractive sort of "freedom" when you're the one making the rules, but it's not actually freedom at all.

So who are these people? 

The Council for National Policy was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, then the head of the Moral Majority (and later author of the Left Behind series), Nelson Bunker Hunt, T. Cullen Davis, William Cies, and Paul Weyrich. It meets three times a year, and if you haven't heard of it, that's because they'd rather you didn't. The New York Times in 2004 described them as "a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country," and the Center for Media and Democracy calls them a "shadowy secretive group." The Daily Kos, never a group for understatement, calls them "Sith Lords of the Ultra Right." Members are told not to discuss the group's meetings outside, and are encouraged not to even mention that they are members. When ABC attempted to profile the group, they found members mostly unwilling to be interviewed.

The group's website lists their priorities-- Limited government, traditional values (we believe thatthe Founding Fathers created this nation based upon Judeo-Christian values and that our culture flourishes when we uphold them), and strong national defense. They are listed as a "nonpartisan, educational foundation"-- a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. That theoretically bars them from being politically active, and it's true there's not a lot of information about how they work (in 1992, the IRS briefly revoked their status, but that doesn't seem to have changed anything). But in an interview with ABC, then-executive director Steve Baldwin only half-jokingly said that "we control everything in the world."

In 1999 George Bush spoke to a CNP meeting, and this last cycle several of the GOP Presidential nominees made the trip to earn the group's backing. These folks have some clout, and when you look at who the members are, you can see why. Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney both addressed the group in 2007.

Information about membership in CNP is not easy to come by. Some watchdog groups have occasionally grabbed some listings, and in a big coup, the Southern Poverty Law Center allegedly got their hands on the CNP 2014 membership directory.

The roster may have as many as 500 members. Membership is by invitation only. Members have allegedly included Pat Robertson, James Dobson, John Ashcroft, Oliver North, Phyllis Schlafly, Trent Lott, Ed Meese, Donald Wildmon, Wayne LaPierre, Rick Santorum, Steve Forbes, Jeffrey and Joseph Coors, Grover Norquist, and Tom DeLay. You get the idea. If you want more details, try this list.

So do we actually care here?

So we have an ultra-right reclusive group of would-be policy influencers. So what. Everybody and their brothers and sisters and favorite lobbyists are writing up proposals of the "What Betsy DeVos Should Do Next" variety. Most of them are meaningless. Is this just more blather?

It may well be. But here's what I notice while sifting through that 2014 membership directory.

Mission statement: "To advance freedom by bringing together business, cultural, defense, educational, religious and public policy leaders to address the great issues confronting America ."

Vision statement: "A united conservative movement to insure, by 2020, policy leadership and governance that restores religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution."

Values. There are seven

1) Protect and Advance Essential Liberties.
2) Promote Networking.
3) Commit to Accuracy. By which they mean, make sure you get our info out "to effectively equip conservative leaders."
4) Lead and Influence Others.
5) Practice Integrity. Which seems to mean, don't go leaking our stuff.
6) Exercise Mutual Respect. Play nice within the group.
7) Encourage Unity. That is, within the conservative movement.

There's a list of past presidents. As I already mentioned, Rich DeVos, Betsy's father-in-law, was a president first from 1986-1988, then from 1990-1993.

Mr. Ed Prince is listed on the In Memoriam page, and Elsa Prince Broekhuizen is listed as a member-- those would be Betsy DeVos's parents. That may be why Betsy's brother Erik has admitted to attending some meetings.

Also listed as members in the 2014 directory? Stephen K. Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway.

So how scary is this, really?

Honestly, hard to say. These guys are out to change the world, but they've got Rick Santorum on board, and they have something called the William F. Buckley Jr Council which, in 2014, included Josh Duggar.

On the other hand, how likely is it that Betsy DeVos is familiar with the work of a ultra-right influence-peddling group in which her husband's family and her own have been deeply involved over the years? Super likely. At a bare minimum, we have here a look at what folks in DeVos's sphere really want to see happen to public education. At worst, we have a document that is sitting in a desk drawer somewhere in the Department of Education in a folder labeled "To Do List."

Bottom line-- there's a group with an explicit plan for destroying the Department of Education and installing theocratic control over US education, and the secretary of Education as well as key folks at the White House are directly tied to that group.

So at least some scary. One more thing to keep our eyes on.

[Update: Additional reporting on this story can be found at by Chris Savage at Eclectablog and Emma Brown at the Washington Post]


  1. These people seem to need math and/or history remediation. 1600 to 1776 is not 300 years. It would be very difficult to take these people seriously if it weren't that Steve Bannon and KellyAnne Conway are supposedly members. That's scary.

  2. This is beyond scary.
    Look for the talk2action website.
    Bruce Wilson cof under it. You can still find him in links.

    1. I think Trump's religion might be even scarier:

  3. What effect do they think all these posters are going to do, other than make liberals mad and alienate non-Christian kids? Do they think that posting the ten commandments will actually change how kids think or act? I mean, they keep pushing the constitution, and they clearly haven't read it.

  4. Scary stuff. And even more so because of the lack of logic...My snarky side cannot help but think that if they want to impose posters of the 10 commandments in all schools, that they would need to do that prior to dismantling the Federal Dept. of Ed... Of course with these people, States' rights only exist when they are convenient.

  5. And as Thorup said, these people clearly have not read the Constitution, nor do they plan to honor states' rights. How can they even propose forcing ALL districts to do anything if there is not even a Federal Department of Education??

  6. The science teachers in my county were being accosted with being "tools of Satan" in their classrooms,and supporting evil. A student reported a meeting being held to rid the district of them; as a scientist working for the State Police at the time I was invited to crash the "public meeting" with them. This article accurately represents the content under discussion; I've included too, another from the perspective of a student living the indoctrination.

  7. They seem to be unaware that the Mayflower Compact was a corporate effort to make money in the new world. Those people weren't seeking religious freedom, they were seeking profits (the search for which shows up over and over in the colonies records).

    The DOE invented separation of Church and State? WTF? This is further proof that morons should not be allowed to handle money.

    And they seem to be decrying a policy currently enacted. If parents do not approve of the secular education available in public schools, they can pull them out and put them in a religious school or home school them, for which they receive government assistance in most states. What will be their reaction when in larger Muslin communities, a democratic decision by parents over what is to be taught in school ends up being the Koran and Sharia Law?

  8. If this group succeeds, the Catholic Crusade (1209 - 1229) against the Christian Cathars in France where an estimated 200,000 to one million were killed, will be pale in comparison.

    This crusade of Christians against Christians was one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history, all because the christian Cathars didn't follow the doctrine of the Church.

  9. Do your research on Quiverful. These religious zealots have been quietly waiting for the right time to appear. They have an army now and are ready for a takeover. Mike Pence is just the right man to lead. Trump will be gone soon (he won...ego stroked) and Mike will take over. This has been building for years and no one would bother with it. This has been in my mind since DeVos was nominated and it's not conspiracy theory at all. Wonder why all the hoopla over the Josh Duggar indiscretions? He was a quiverful "golden boy". Oh, it's scary and people should take notice of what is going on....NOW!

  10. Edblisa, yes. The dominionist movement has been quietly gathering steam since the 70s. It is very prominent in the military. Mikey Weinstein is a good, google-able perin who lays the military side out. The posters will be used to indoctrinate our kids into zero tolerance for ANYONE who deviates from their norm. They believe in Biblical justice, burning witches, killing homosexuals, the whole Old Testament shebang. And so many cabinet picks are right up there. They prophecied this day, the leader with a baby mind putting them all in power. I am really, really worried about the Supreme Court.

  11. I stumbled upon at group like this, The Seven Hundred Club, back in the late 60's. Are they related. And yes, super scary. I see mobs. I see witch burnings. But maybe that's because I was branded as a witch by a fundamentalist church when I left my abusive husband.

    1. I don't think they are related, but they share the same ideals. Mike Pence is a Catholic, but a very devout one. DeVos is a Calvinist and a very devout one. They are very, very old testament thinking even though they are very "pro Jesus". This really started taking hold in the late 60's-early 70's in response to the Women's Rights Movement. As a single family living in your neighborhood, they look/act very nice, but they are now an army many years later and as a whole they are very scary because they truly believe that they need to save us all from our sins. In all the states that Trump won, I'm sure that there are large populations of the far religious right. Mike Pence will soon be the President...Trump was the red herring all along.

  12. It should also be noted that Betsy DeVos' husband Richard DeVos founded and heads the West Michigan Aviation School.

    Is this training students for Betsy's brother Erik Prince's mercenary army?

  13. First of all, the correct abbreviation is ED. DOE is Energy. Secondly, without ED how are they going to administer Title IV federal student aid or is that history as well? Moreover we have a centralized system of accreditation which is the foundation of institutional eligibility for Title IV. The accrediting agencies are private entities with ED oversight. Also it means that a financial aid director would have to deal with 50 different policies for state grants and loan guarantees/subsidees. Who, by the way, will administer campus-based financial aid such as supplemental grants and College Work Study or is that also now a state function?

    Don't get me wrong. There is plenty wrong at ED but duplicating the effort among 50 states would be costly and chaotic. Or, perhaps, the plan is to do away with financial aid (New York is the only state that I am aware of that has a full grant and loan freestanding system). Somehow I suspect that GOPers will figure out a way to continue to fund those for-profit mills.

  14. "Without vision, the people perish." This is the end of vision, of critical thinking and creativity, essential to the ability to adapt, so critical to human growth and survival.

  15. More teachers will have to learn about civil disobedience. My fear is that teachers value authority too much, because they spend their days bossing the kids around.