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Get Ready for History Class, Koch Brothers-Style

Ohanian Note: People who rely on philanthropic money can't be choosers.

In New York City, the American Museum ofo Natural History has the Koch Dinosaur Wing.
The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet was renamed the David H. Koch Theater in 2008 following a gift of 100 million dollars for the renovation of the theater.

Pay $100 million smackers as you get more than a plaque on the wall. Fair enough.

In education, $100 million or so buys a total revamp of the curriculum--called Common Core.

As noted below, for $100,000 Koch gets influence on social studies curriculum. Ryan Stowers is the director of higher education programs at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. He works with individuals and universities to advance education and scientific research that increases our understanding of the relationship between free societies and societal progress. He sits on the Bill of Rights Institute board.

Inside Philanthropy is outraged--almost as outraged as they are that some conservatives are fighting the wonderful creation of Gates Foundation philanthropy, the Common Core.

I'm not in any way defending the Bill Of Rights Institute meddling, but unlike Gates, they have established an Academic Advisory Council with lots of teachers. Their Program Advisory Council is made up of teachers and professors.

The North Carolina curriculum materials just seem like small potatoes in the face of almost the whole nation getting talked into the Common Core. Maybe the real worry is what will our education decision makers do when the Koch brothers decide to throw a few hundred million into education?

It could happen tomorrow.

by L.S. Hall

Here we go again: A state education agency, this time in North Carolina, is ready to recommend that schools adopt a set of curriculum materials under fire from teachers and other critics who say the materials are biased.

But this time, the battle over curriculum standards isn't about the teaching of evolution versus creationism or intelligent design. This clash is over social studies standards developed by a group with ties to the conservative Koch brothers.

The Charlotte Observer reported recently that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction plans to recommend that schools in the Tar Heel State adopt standards developed by the Bill of Rights Institute for a state-mandated social studies course on founding principles. The Bill of Rights Institute received a $100,000 sole-source contract from the state to develop materials for teachers to use in the course. A sole-source contract means no other group was involved in developing the curriculum.

The Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute was founded in 1999 and describes itself as a nonprofit charity with a mission to educate young people about American founding principles and their role in the shaping of a free society. The institute receives funding from Koch philanthropic groups. In addition, representatives of Koch Industries and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation sit on the institute's board of directors.

June Atkinson, North Carolina's state superintendent, said the state agency looked for groups to help write the curriculum for the founding principles course, but found only the Bill of Rights Institute. History teachers, however, say they have plenty of resources available for teaching the principles and that it is inappropriate for a Koch-connected group to develop course materials.

The Koches and their philanthropies have been active supporters of conservative institutions, causes, and scholars. As reported in the past, Charles Koch is a major donor to colleges and universities, supporting faculty and research centers that advance the Koches' libertarian political and economic views. As the news out of North Carolina makes clear, the effort to influence classroom content is not limited to higher education.

Ideological clashes over K-12 curriculum materials are nothing new. There was the infamous Scopes trial over the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. For decades, the late Mel and Norma Gabler of Texas scoured proposed school textbooks for content they viewed as anti-Christian or promoting secular humanist ideas. More recently, the Kansas Board of Education briefly adopted science standards to mandate the teaching of creationism and intelligent design alongside evolution.

Increasingly, however, the field of battle seems to have shifted from science to social studies. In Texas, the state's board of education adopted new social studies textbooks that place states' rights ahead of slavery as a cause of the Civil War and cite Moses and biblical law as a key influences on America's founding documents. The action in North Carolina, with its link to a prominent conservative funder, raise important questions over whether and to what extent funders should be able to influence classroom content.

The Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics are already under fire in some states from activists backed by an array of conservative funders, including the Koches and the Bradley Foundation. Common Core defenders, meanwhile, include the Gates Foundation, which helped lead the effort to develop them. The news out of North Carolina shows that the fight over what school children should be taught—and who should develop those standards and materials—is a sprawling battle with many fronts, involving many funders

— L.S. Hall with Ohanian Comment
Inside Philanthropy





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