WorldNetDaily's School Days
WND is eager to report any bad news about "government schools" and promote homeschooling -- but it won't tell its readers about the homeschooled teen who killed his girlfriend's parents.
By Terry Krepel
Add another prurient activity WorldNetDaily has an unusual interest in promulgating despite its presumed disapproval: teachers having sex with students.
It's apparently WND policy to link to or write about every reported allegation of this happening, the headlines occasionally punctuated with words like "Again!" (as a Nov. 23 WND article does). Since May, WND has written at least six articles on the subject -- or related ones, like a teacher who moonlighted as a hooker -- and linked to many more; as noted on ConWebBlog, WND's Nov. 22 front page featured no fewer than four outside links to these articles.
Why does WND have such an interest in this subject? A Nov. 26 article offers some clues. But it's not the woman featured in the story -- "[a]n Arkansas mother of five accused of having sex with one of her junior high school students" -- that is revealing; it's the links that WND supplies at the end.
One is to a Feb. 7 WND article about a book called "The Harsh Truth About Public Schools" -- sold, of course, at the WND online store. The headline: "On the 'sin' of sending kids to public school." The book's author, Bruce Shortt, attacks "government schools" -- right-wing conservatives' preferred term to describe public schools -- as a cesspool of "moral relativism (no fixed standards), academic dumbing down, far-left programs, near absence of discipline and the persistent but pitiable rationalizations offered by government education professionals." Perhaps more importantly from Shortt's perspective, "[t]he overwhelming majority of children from evangelical families leave the church within two years after they graduate from high school."
Shortt advocates the dismantling of public schools altogether: "Only the threat of a collapse of the entire public school system offers even the remotest prospect of positive change."
The second link is a plug for a recent issue of WND's Whistleblower magazine, with the theme "Brainwashing 101." The magazine purports to expose "indoctrination and sexual corruption on America's college campuses." One article contained within is an alleged depiction of "Sex in the classroom" by college-age conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. It's described as "a mind-boggling first-hand account of sexual anarchy on the typical campus. As Shapiro summarizes: 'Homosexuality is perfectly normal. Pedophilia is acceptable. Bestiality is fine.'" (Shapiro described himself this way in a June column: "I'm 21 years old, a columnist, an author, a graduate of UCLA, a Harvard law student -- and a virgin. And I'm proud of it." Uh, thanks for sharing, Ben.)
The third link is to a book in the WND store titled "The Little Book of Big Reasons to Homeschool." In fact, the WND store has an entire section devoted to homeschooling resources, such as the 722-page "Memorial Volume of Jefferson Davis," described as "a tribute to the Confederate president" featuring "all the details of his death and funeral and the many accolades and memorials that followed from around the United States. When the noble Jefferson Davis died, the nation finally realized he had been the living symbol of The Lost Cause." Also listed under this category is a book of "Child Training Tips," which, as ConWebWatch has previously noted, takes a rather Draconian approach to the subject: "Keep your objective in mind -- subjection of their will."
If you haven't detected the theme already, WND's editorial policy is devoted in part to disparaging public schools and promoting homeschooling. That comes straight from the top: editor Joseph Farah has regularly railed against public education in his columns -- for example, he wrote in a July 2002 column that "pulling your children out of the clutches of the government schools" is "the right thing to do for your kids and for your country." It's also a bullet point in the "12-point action program" outlined in his 2003 book "Taking America Back," and an entire chapter of the book is dedicated to his argument.
In addition to the homeschooling section of its online store, WND has also given away homeschooling supplies with paid subscriptions to its Whistleblower magazine.
If WND senses an opportunity to attack public education, it will take it, such as a study critical of preschool, which writer Ron Strom, in a Nov. 10 article, eagerly pointed out was "being used by a homeschool organization to help encourage parents to educate their children at home."
And if there's an easy shot to take at public education, WND is loaded for bear. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last month that ruled that there is "no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children" caused much outrage. Kevin McCullough claimed in a Nov. 4 column that the ruling "laid the foundation for the eventual takeover of the complete moral training of our children ... by the state." Farah similarly claimed on Nov. 16 that the court "ruled, effectively, that children belong to the state and can and will be indoctrinated and socialized according to the standards of the state and the state alone" and once again advocated "pulling your children out of the clutches of the government schools."
But WND never reported to its readers the full story behind the ruling. Surprisingly, CNSNews.com did. A Nov. 4 interview by Nathan Burchfiel with the superintendent of the Palmdale, California, school district at the center of the case revealed some interesting details. The case centered around a survey given to students as young as first grade that asked some sexually oriented questions; the superintendent said that the district did not know in advance that the questionnaire contained sexual questions, apologized to parents once they found out, and changed its policies "so it wouldn't happen again." Burchfiel's article, however, didn't keep his CNS colleague Jeff Johnson, in a article three days later, from quoting without challenge a Christian school principal who said, "Well, how did they let this go through without approval (from school officials)?" Johnson also quoted Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, as saying that "The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the most overruled circuit in the country," which is false and easily fact-checked.
As -- by design -- you will read nothing positive about public schools at WorldNetDaily, you will also read nothing negative about homeschooling and homeschool students. A Feb. 24 article by Strom -- who is apparently WND's go-to guy for bashing public schools and pimping homeschooling -- suggested that homeschooled children and their parents were being persecuted after a mother and her homeschooled teen were "arrested after a confrontation with a plainclothes police officer at a park. The charges were dropped the next day, Strom reported. Another Strom article, from March, touts Virginia's Patrick Henry College, which offers higher education mainly to homeschooled Christian children.
A 2003 CBS Evening News report claiming a "dark side to homeschooling" got WND similarly worked up. A news article was quick to claim that CBS based its report on "a handful of child-abuse cases from the past decade involving families who claim to homeschool their children," a second article was dedicated to more outrage, and Farah railed at the network for allegedly thinking that "their primary job is to create imaginary crises like homeschoolers losing their lives because of abusive parents and lay the groundwork for a solution imposed by more intrusive, more costly, more pervasive government regulations."
WND's biases became all too clear in the case of David Ludwig, the Pennsylvania teen who is accused of killing his 14-year-old girlfriend's parents and then fleeing across the country with her until his arrest. Ludwig was homeschooled -- a fact you'll never read about at WND.
In fact, unlike those cases of teacher-student sex, WND has yet to offer any original news coverage of the Ludwig case. (You'd think that Farah and WND might consider killing people a tad more serious than illicit sex; even the apparent fact that Ludwig and his girlfriend, also homeschooled, did have sex isn't arousing WND's interest, as it were.) The only mention of the case at all to date at WND is a Nov. 25 column by Ilana Mercer that argued against quick forgiveness of Ludwig for his actions -- and fails to note that he was homeschooled.
It's worth noting that on Farah's "Taking America Back" 12-step action program, coming in right behind "Pull your children out government schools now!" is "Find good reliable sources of news -- like WorldNetDaily.com," demonstrating that Farah doesn't read his own website or anything he writes for it. But maybe an unreliable news site like WND is exactly what Farah wants in order to keep homeschoolers from being too curious about the world around them.