Is the Koch Brothers' Curriculum Coming to Your Child's School?

The Koch Brothers are trying to re-write history. Caitlin MacNeal over at TPM is reporting that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has “encouraged” state high school teachers to start teaching a curriculum that was drafted by a Koch Brothers-funded group.

The Koch Brothers-funded conservative takeover of public education in North Carolina started back in 2011, when that state’s legislature passed a law requiring public schools to offer a history course based on America’s “Founding Principles.” That law was based on "model legislation" written by everyone’s favorite corporate lobbying juggernaut, ALEC. After North Carolina passed that law, the state hired the Bill of Rights Institute to draft the curriculum for the classes.

The Bill of Rights Institute has received numerous grants and donations from Charles Koch himself, and from a variety of Koch-funded groups and organizations. That’s why the curriculum being taught to North Carolina students is filled with the Koch Brothers’ libertarian beliefs and ideologies, and a whole lot of misinformation on American history.

A great deal of the curriculum focuses on the libertarian love affair with "limited government." As MacNeal writes, “Throughout the curriculum, students are asked to tie lessons back to the concept of limited government, which the state's 2011 bill calls for.”

While that may be the Koch Brothers’ spin on the the Founders' intentions, that’s simply not the truth and not historically accurate. In his Report on Manufactures from December 5th,1791, Alexander Hamilton explained why the Founders included the General Welfare clause in the Constitution.

He explained that the Founders included it in the Constitution so that the government could do anything that the people thought was appropriate and beneficial. Hamilton wrote that, “No objection ought to arise to this construction from a supposition that it would imply a power to do whatever else should appear to Congress conducive to the General Welfare.”

The Constitution limits the powers of our government, but in very specific ways. For example, the government can’t take your life, liberty or property without proper cause. But there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the government can’t introduce programs like Medicare, Obamacare, or Social Security, despite what the Koch Brothers might try to tell our schoolchildren.

Another hunk of the Koch Brothers-funded curriculum talks about "individual responsibility," another pillar of a libertarian paradise. According to MacNeal, this section of the curriculum asks students to, “challenge preconceived notions about what freedom means, and understand the way individual freedom is inextricably tied to personal responsibility.” But that’s just Koch Brothers code for “I was born rich and white, and got everything I wanted in life handed to me on a silver platter so screw you.”

While the Koch Brothers won’t admit it, human beings are social animals. We always have been and always will be. We have always depended on each other for help, guidance, and really survival.

The libertarian notion of the self-made man is largely a myth, and if it is possible, it takes a whole lot of luck - including the luck to be born in the right time, place, and family - that many people simply don’t have.

Finally, the Koch Brothers-funded curriculum focuses a lot on the libertarian talking point that our government has too much power. According to MacNeal, “The curriculum constantly questions how much power and authority the federal government should have and subtly asserts that the federal government has gained too much power since 1789." And a portion of the curriculum says that, “It seems that fewer people are making more decisions about the nature of our fundamental rights.” Basically, in this section of the curriculum, the Koch Brothers are complaining about the rules of the game that protect We the People from the harmful effects of capitalism.

As you and I both know, industrialists have screwed us over repeatedly throughout history, but that’s a little fact that the Koch Brothers don't want our schoolchildren to know. Nothing in here about the Pullman Porters, for example. Regulations are in place to protect us from being screwed over even more.

The curriculum being taught in North Carolina schools is not history. It’s not civics. It’s about whitewashing reality, and turning Gilded Age oligarchs like the Koch Brothers into national heroes. The ALEC-inspired, Koch Brothers-funded North Carolina curriculum represents the Ayn Randification of our education system and our society.

It’s bad enough that the Koch Brothers have a stranglehold on our democracy and political system, courtesy of our Supreme Court. We don’t need them in our classrooms too.


Vegasman56 8 years 24 weeks ago

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DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 24 weeks ago

It makes one wonder if it was the President or the School Book Depository that was the target in Dallas in 1963? Just what we need, another excuse for High School kids to cut class. When you consider how popular US History is in US Schools I imagine not much damage will be done. Garbage in, garbage out is a way of life for our youth. Kids might be ignorant; but, they aren't stupid. They know before they get to High School that they are being indoctrinated; and, they don't like it. That is why they rebel. I imagine all this added nonsense will simply lead to more rebellion; and, a good rebellion is what we sorely need anyway.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 24 weeks ago

This is creepy stuff. If a state’s education system is receptive to this kind of fascist propaganda, we are really in trouble. Young minds are like sponges… until they calcify. If you get my drift…

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 24 weeks ago

Just what we need, Koch Youth. Talk about history repeating itself..... I wonder if they'll have their own special haircuts and uniforms.

Way to go North Carolina....nothing beats allowing the Koch Kings to mess with the delicate minds of your youth. Now Jim-Bob will grow up confident that dumping fracking waste in the Town's water supply is his Koch given right.

Speaking of Kings, will somebody please clue Sheriff Mack in, Obama isn't even in the ballpark of having enough wealth to be a 21st century Fascist /King.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 24 weeks ago

Who was the Nazi who stated - If a lie is repeated enough it becomes the truth. That Nazi was inspired by American propaganda specialist like Bernays and Lippmann. Ford inspired Hitler and a lot of American Industrialist and propagandist have inspired some of the worlds worst inhumanity.

Thom needs to stop calling them libertarians and start calling them Objectivist. Libertarianism has it's roots in the enlightenment and has been high jacked by Ayn Rand Objectivist; that have completely misunderstood the concept of libertarianism. The right has redefined a term to suit their own purpose. Objectivist are the intellectual Neo-Fascist.

History is defined by power and controlled for a reason. Thom is not immune to deceptive practices of rewriting history. He would understand the history of libertarianism and not continue to sully the concept by linking it to objectivism, which, isn't anymore than a religion of corporate activism. Objectivist are apologist for big business and that's the simple truth or as close to as I can get.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 24 weeks ago

Ideology thinly disguised as history. Can't pass any, even very rudimentary, smell test. Jefferson, probably the greatest champion of freedom of the founders, worried not only about government gaining too much power but as much about business and "monied interests" doing the same. It was he who first proposed progressive taxation where wealthier people were to contribute a greater share of their wealth to the common good.
This latest Republican fraud simply needs national exposure and enough loud attention to make it disappear - as many of their shams do - but now, before a generation of NC highschoolers is deceived. "Liberty is never more than one generation away from extinction." the founders said and we must not let this "libertarian" definition of liberty - not liberty but class privilege, liberty for one percenters, their lickspittles and wannabes and tyranny for everyone else - to prevail upon a single generation.

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 24 weeks ago

Using the Bill Of Rights Institute's curriculum is just wrong. Teaching students things to shape their minds a certain way is just wrong. It's brainwashing and brainwashing is just wrong. I'm sure at least some of the teachers will see that what they are supposed to teach is not what they were taught and wiil teach their students the facts. It should be like what Sargent Friday on Dragnet would ask for, "Just the facts ma'am", This new curriculum is about raising a multitude of kids to help the most wealthy. In other words, it's about greed. The Kochs are like the pre civil war wealthy slave owners. They thought that because what they were doing was legal or because others were doing the same thing, that it couldn't be wrong. Billionaires that do great wrong find ways to justify their wrong doings when it is of great personal benefit to them and their family.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 24 weeks ago

Nobody, in our society as is currently constructed, can be "rich" unless someone else is poor. It's about relative wealth and relative dominance of the society. "Libertarians" believe in a society where only a small minority can be happy and live well. I rather don't think the founders had that intention.
Many, many people - the majority - work VERY hard, harder than any one percenters - without ANY realistic hope of being rich. Many don't even desire wealth, such as those who dedicate themselves to the betterment of humanity. Do not they too deserve a good life - and freedom and power in the governance of their society? Why is making a pig of oneself in the lusting after superfluous wealth placed as a "value" before all other values entitling solely the possesor of such single mindedness to any rights or freedoms? Simply because that is all the one percenters care about?
The "libertarian" philosophy is antithetical to that of the founders. Their Enlightenment revolution was to throw off feudalism. They worried equally about government and "monied interests" gaining too much power because they feared its return - which is just what the Koch's and "libertarians" seek. Their party is surely misnomered but it shouldn't be called "Objectivist" either. That would be a misnomer too as they have little capacity for objectivity - as can be seen from this latest scam of theirs in the NC teaching of history. Their proper name would be the Neo Feudal Party.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 24 weeks ago

How about the Fascist Party? Leaves no room for pretense.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 24 weeks ago

This is EXACTLY why we need to do away with the Department of Education, both at the federal and state level. They don't educate anyone - they only dictate what schools should teach. (And redistribute fund from one school to another. And license teachers like myself. But ok.)

Curriculum is best determined at the local level, where parents have the most say in the matter. If the citizens of a certain community want one thing taught to their children, and another community wants it taught a different way, that's the community's business, not the state or federal government.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 24 weeks ago

It's times like this, Matt, when I think you're a shill for big business - or their dupe - 'cause that's plain crazy. There are certain standards that have to be maintained and children deserve not to be indoctrinated, i.e., they deserve not to have ideology substituted for their history - or science. And, needless to say - I would think - that doesn't serve society well to do so.

That's why we have separation of church and state, ideology is no different than religion in this and most other instances. Just like we don't need, and it doesn't serve them well, to teach children Creationism instead of Darwinism in science and biology class, religion or ideology being taught as history doesn't help them any either.

Alan Lunn's picture
Alan Lunn 8 years 24 weeks ago

There appear to be two tiers to neoliberal libertarianism: there is the level of civil libertarianism that can sometimes appeal to progressives on social issues like marijuana or abortion, and there is the economic libertarianism that Milton Friedman spouts and that the Kochs push. They would just love to have media control and education control. They're getting old (Chuck & Dave) and it is as if they have conquered industry and would love to conquer government. Then what? I shudder to think. They are masters of "accumulation through dispossession."

I don't think it unfair or false equivalence for Thom to compare (not conflate) libertarianism of this nature and Ayn Rand's madcap objectivism. In fact, I see Ayn and Fred Koch as people suffering from Stalinist PTSD and going way overboard in the opposite direction. What is even more startling is to see evangelicals embracing Rand ideas. Talk about confusion and a total misreading of the Bible. You'd have to tear out half of the text to come up with Kochism.

Finally, kudos to Thom for an amazing book in "The Crash of 2016" which I am now restudying for a second time. It is right up there, IMO, with "Unequal Protection," which is the book students should be required to read.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 24 weeks ago
It's times like this, Matt, when I think you're a shill for big business
That's just narcissism on your part, thinking that the opinions of yourself and a handful of other like-minded (and close-minded; it's not like anything I say changes your mind) people are worth hiring someone just to argue with them. No. I just like discussing politics. And it's not really a discussion if everyone agrees with each other.

There are certain standards that have to be maintained and children deserve not to be indoctrinated,

There is nothing that anyone teaches that can't be viewed as "indoctrination" by someone else. Even basic things, like using a base-10-digit system in math, aren't universal. To someone whose culture counts in groups of 60 (like some Native American tribes), this is indoctrination.

That's why we have separation of church and state, ideology is no different than religion in this and most other instances. Just like we don't need, and it doesn't serve them well, to teach children Creationism instead of Darwinism in science and biology class, religion or ideology being taught as history doesn't help them any either.

Perhaps you should just worry about raising your own children, and not telling other people how to raise theirs.

If the problem is Koch brother's ideology being mandated from central planning, then the solution is to get rid of the central planning. Let each community set its own curriculum based on that community's values. And, if their children can't compete in the global economy, that's their problem.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 24 weeks ago

Matt, nobody’s telling anybody how to raise their kids. You’re twisting what Mark said. He was talking about separation of church & state, and the difference between myth (creationism) and fact (evolution). Facts are for school; myths belong in church. Can’t tell the difference? Then you’ve got a problem. - AIW

ChicagoMatt 8 years 24 weeks ago

What the Koch Brothers are doing has nothing to do with creationism/evolution. That's just a go-to for people when talking about curriculum reform because creationists seem stupid to most people.

But that's beside the point. If a group of people want their school to teach creationism, or anything else, it should be up to them. There should be no federal or state-wide curriculum.

If your value system places what you call "facts" over what you call "myths", and the rest of your community wants the school to have the same value system, good for your community. Go for it. But don't project your value system on to others. If, to a community, what you call "myths" are more important (like, to some people, planning for your eternity is more important than planning for your next 70-80 years), then, again, those people should be allowed to teach their kids whatever they want.

Suppose there are entire schools full of Spanish-speaking students. And suppose the parents of those students did not want their children learning English. Shouldn't it be up to those parents? Shouldn't we respect their wishes?

The solution is simple: 1. Do away with the Department of Education, and 2. Allow school choice. (That is, money for education is attached to the student, and parents can send that student, and the money, to whatever school they please.)

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

Reply to #15: Matt, religion belongs in church. Science belongs in school. That's not me pushing a personal agenda on anybody; that's the separating of church and state, one thing the founding fathers of this country got right. And I for one would like to see it upheld.

There are many religions practiced in this multicultural, multiethnic country of ours. To teach the doctrine and mythology of one particular religion in school (unless it's a religious school like a Catholic school) isn't appropriate or fair to the kids who come from other religions, or no religion at all. - Aliceinwonderland

ChicagoMatt 8 years 22 weeks ago
Matt, religion belongs in church. Science belongs in school. That's not me pushing a personal agenda on anybody; that's the separating of church and state

Like many others, I argue that science/secularism is a religion in itself. At least it is a belief system, just as religions are. It's a way of explaining the world around you.

Alice has a belief system - that science/secularism is not a religion. If Alice wants the school her children attend to teach that, that's Alice's right. But saying that EVERY school MUST teach that, now you're imposing your beliefs on others.

There are many religions practiced in this multicultural, multiethnic country of ours.
Exactly. That's why we need local community curriculum planning, not State or Federal planning. The only thing a Department of Education should do is license teachers.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 21 weeks ago

Matt, I said, "It's times like this when I think you're a shill for big business - or their dupe [emphasis added]." See? "or their dupe." I covered all my bases.

Anyway, there are some universal standards that have to be maintained. Water boils at 0 degrees Centigrade, for example, and you would be doing your children a disservice teaching them otherwise. Similarly with history, there are some facts and truths and you would be doing your children - and society - a great disservice teaching them falsehood in either science or history.

Matt, if you want us to change our minds you have to change them. You gotta convince us, we're not gonna change just to be polite to you.

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