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Bob Unruh, Homeschool Propagandist

How far will the WorldNetDaily reporter go to defend homeschooling? He'll liken critics to Nazis and throw an abused child under the bus.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/16/2014

Bob Unruh

As he's demonstrated with his coverage of anti-abortion activist and disbarred lawyer Phill Kline, WorldNetDaily reporter Bob Unruh cares only about telling one side of an issue, the side that reflects the right-wing agenda of his employer.

Another subject in which Unruh has displayed his bias is homeschooling -- something in which he has a personal investment. When WND announced Unruh's hiring in 2006, it noted that he has "two homeschooled children."

If you think Unruh's enthusiasm for homeschooling has led him to slant his reporting, you'd be utterly correct.

Going Godwin on critics

A good example of the lengths Unruh will go to champion homeschooling and denigrate its critics comes in a September 2013 WND article, in which he goes Godwin right off the bat by stating in the lead paragraph that "Among major democratic nations, homeschooling already is banned in Germany, under a Hitler-era law."

This is a fallacy WND has repeated for years, and it sleazily implies that anyone who doesn't support homeschooling as zealously as WND does is a Nazi. In fact, compulsory schooling in Germany has been a tradition for a good 200 years.

Unruh then recaps one prominent homeschooling case:

In the Romeike case, the family fled to the United States because German barred them from homeschooling. They obtained asylum, but the Obama administration appealed and obtained an order from a higher court that the family must return to Germany.

The dispute now is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Obama administration has argued in court that parents essentially have no right to determine how and what their children are taught, leaving the authority with the government.

Unruh does not mention that, according to the New York Times, the Romeikes have also rejected private and religious schools in Germany, claiming that they were "just as bad or even worse" than public schools. The Romeikes could have also chosen to work toward creating a school in Germany that more closely aligns with their claimed "Christian faith," but they apparently chose not to.

Further, the Obama administration did not claim in the Romeike case, as Unruh asserts, that "parents essentially have no right to determine how and what their children are taught, leaving the authority with the government." Unruh made that up. Rather, the administration argued that "Romeike did not meet his burden of proving a well-founded fear of persecution" and "the Romeikes’ experiences with the police and legal system in Germany were a direct result of their failure to comply with German law prohibiting truancy, and were not the result of the German government’s desire to punish them for their membership in a protected group under the INA." The administration also pointed out that the Romeikes were not disproportionately singled out for persecution, and that the parents of homeschooled children and truants alike are treated the same under German law.

Finally, as one would expect from a homeschooling activist, Unruh's entire article is permeated with a pro-homeschooling bias, copiously quoting pro-homeschool activists and framing the opposition as intolerant Nazis.

Unruh did much the same thing in an October 2013 article, asserting there is "a Nazi-era standard that would be imposed if the Obama administration gets its wish and deports a family of homeschoolers to Germany."

Unruh then quotes a homeschool activist, Michael Farris, claiming that “It is impossible to distinguish the German desire for philosophical conformity today from that of the 1930s.”

Again, Unruh told only the homeschoolers' side of the story, ignoring any mention of the fact that the Romeikes also rejected private and religious schools in Germany, and could have chosen to work toward creating a school in Germany that more closely aligns with their claimed "Christian faith" but they apparently chose not to.

Pretending homeschooling parents aren't abusive

In 2008, WND -- led by Unruh -- defended abusive homeschooling parents. Now it's pretending that abusive homeschooling parents aren't real homeschoolers.

A Dec. 17 article by Unruh is dedicated to fearmongering about a proposed Ohio law that would require parents or legal guardians seeking to remove children from public schools to go through background checks, have interviews conducted in their homes, and to allow their children to be interviewed separately in an effort to make sure the children are being protected from abuse. The law is motivated by a case in which a teenager named Teddy Foltz-Tedesco was beaten to death by a man who was dating his mother; the boy had been withdrawn from school by his mother, who claimed that she was going to homeschool him but instead was apparently trying to cover up evidence of abuse.

Unruh couldn't be bothered to contact any supporters of the proposed law for their views. Instead, he gives copious amounts of space to the Home School Legal Defense Association -- which Unruh lavishly calls "the world’s premiere homeschool advocacy organization" -- to attack the law and insist that the Foltz-Tedesco case is not representative of homeschooling as a whole:

HSLDA argued the tragic case was not about homeschooling, noting the abuse began while the boy was in public school.

“HSLDA condemns child abuse and is saddened by Teddy’s death,” the organization said in a statement. “HSLDA supports the prosecution of child abusers like Bush and the improvement of systems that prevent child abuse. However, this proposed law does not actually address the problems that led to Teddy’s death and instead unfairly targets homeschooling.”

HSLDA said the 14-year-old had been abused for years, and after teachers reported the abuse to authorities, the mother withdrew the boy from public school to homeschool him.

Neighbors, friends, family, police, teachers and others all knew Teddy was being abused, HSLDA said.

“Finally, Bush beat Teddy so severely that he later died of his injuries. Bush and Teddy’s mother now are in prison,” the group said.

“Teddy Foltz-Tedesco was killed because those responsible for protecting him did not step in as the law or common sense would have dictated. Why?” HSLDA said in a statement. “Although news reports indicate that abuse had been reported for years prior to Teddy’s death, it does not appear that any serious intervention was made by government authorities charged with investigating such allegations.

“Why was not enough done to protect Teddy from known abuse?”

Subjecting hardworking parents who want to invest their time and money in their own children’s education is not the way to address such problems, HSLDA argued.

Of course, the proposed law was not aimed at impeding homeschooling -- it's aimed at exposing child abuse. The triggering factor is not a desire to homeschool; it's the withdrawal of a child from public school.

Given that there is some evidence of abuse in homeschooling families, you'd think that the HSLDA would want to be more proactive. Instead, the HSLDA tries to downplay it, insisting that "evidence suggests that abuse in homeschooling families is rarer than in the general population" and refusing to address the issue of families using homeschooling to hide abuse.

Indeed, in the 2008 case referenced above in which WND and Unruh defended abusive homeschooling parents, the HSLDA was much more concerned that the case would result in an overbroad ruling against homeschooling in general than about the welfare of the children. One HSLDA press release declared that the case was "a Juvenile Court case on allegations of abuse or neglect, which originally had nothing to do with homeschooling."

But Unruh doesn't want to write about that -- as a homeschooler himself, he's too busy defending homeschooling from alleged threats that he doesn't care who gets hurt by his knee-jerk behavior and his shoddy, biased writing.

Protecting homeschoolers' college

Unruh performed another feat of stenography in a March 13 WND article, uncritically repeating homeschooling activist Michael Farris' assertion that the Romeike family case somehow means that the U.S. government can force children to attend schools that violate their parents' religious beliefs. As per usual, Farris' assertions are allowed to stand unchallenged.

But Unruh and WND have yet to report a controversy at the school Farris founded, Patrick Henry College. The New Republic reported on PHC's callous attitude toward female students who have been sexually assaulted, citing the case of a female student who was sexually assaulted by a male student. When she reported the incident to school officials, she was largely ignored, was told she had put herself on the dean’s “radar” for making the complaint, and the perpetrator was never punished. The New Republic noted that "Other female students who say they reported sexual assault or harassment to the administration also left feeling that school officials blamed them instead of holding the accused male students accountable."

PHC officials denied the article's claims (though those same officials mostly refused to talk to the New Republic for the article), and Farris posted a response on his personal Facebook page (later deleted) in which he claimed there was "reliable evidence" that the reported sexual behavior was "consensual," that he is not a part of the Quiverfull movement (despite having 10 children), and that he has no role in operating PHC despite the fact he's the school's founder and chancellor.

WND is a good buddy of PHC -- it has served as a PR agent for the school, at least one child of WND editor Joseph Farah has attended the school, and Farris always gets good press from WND for his homeschooling activism.

Touting homeschool attack on public education

Unruh turned another hackish performance in an April 2 WorldNetDaily article, coming right out of the gate to attack Common Core educational standards:

Students subject to the federal Common Core curriculum spreading in public schools nationwide will be fed “world citizenship mush,” charges an expert on education and cultural public policy.

It’s not far afield from what communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin wanted to do when he said, “Give me four years to teach the children … and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted,” writes Carole Hornsby Haynes in a WND commentary.

From there, Unruh transitions to a describing an anti-Common Core film released by anti-Common Core homeschoolers that he wants us to believe really isn't anti-Common Core:

A new documentary, “Building the Machine,” has been released by the Home School Legal Defense Association to examine that very question.

While HSLDA has opposed Common Core since 2009, the group said it wanted a fair evaluation, so people will know the truth about Common Core.

Mike Smith, president of HSLDA, said homeschooling “has shown us that an individualized education is the best thing for a child.”

“Common Core is the complete opposite of that,” he said. “Our hope is that the film will cause a ‘great awakening’ and that parents will question the one-size-fits-all education reform being implemented behind closed doors.”

So filmmaker Ian Reid spent a year traveling the nation and interviewing education experts, including several Common Core Validation Committee members.

“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that our goal is not to produce a hit piece against the standards,” said Reid. “Rather, our goal has always been to explore the strongest arguments on both sides of the debate. In fact, we asked Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, an ardent supporter of Common Core, to fact check the film, and he thanked us for fairly and accurately presenting what he believes about the Common Core.”

Of course, the HSLDA would never have released the film if it didn't ultimately attack Common Core. And Unruh is so determined to parrot pro-homeschooling propaganda that he can't be bothered to offer any balance to the story.

Thus, WND readers will never know that the Fordham Institute has put out a fact sheet addressing the film's errors:

The creators of this movie would like you to think the Common Core State Standards were created in a cloak of secrecy by a small group without the input of teachers, parents, or the public. They also falsely assert that state and federal governments broke laws in replacing old state standards. However, the process—organized by governors and state education chiefs—included many of the most accomplished educators and academics from across the United States, was thoughtful and deliberative, incredibly inclusive, totally transparent, and completely legal.

That runs counter to Unruh's pro-homeschooling narrative, so you'll never hear about it from Unruh and WND.

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