Kids Aren’t Being Fed Propaganda, You Are (the real story behind the Indiana CRT scandal)

The man in the photo above is Adam Guillette. He is one of the people behind a controversial story in the national media this week, most notably this piece, which ran on Fox News, regarding public education in Indiana. Some big names in the GOP on the state and national levels have been sharing it far and wide on their social media accounts along with commentary that amounts to “see, we told you so.” The claim being made is that public schools are secretly teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT), Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum. The group behind this latest propaganda operation is obviously, and perhaps intentionally, conflating these three very different acronyms into one thing and calling it CRT because that is the one that people outside of the world of education are most familiar with and in many cases, most frightened of. This latest controversy came about as a result of an undercover operation funded and carried out by Guillette’s organization known as Accuracy in Media (AIM).

This is part of a well-funded and organized attack on public education. Before taking any of it in, it is important to know the people behind the stories, those on the front lines of public education and those with a very frightening agenda cloaked in the well-crafted narrative that public schools are undermining the “American Way” by indoctrinating kids with a radically left-wing sensibility. With just a little investigation, it becomes clear that the shoe is on the other foot. While public schools are carefully straddling the line separating the interests of the Right and Left when it comes to educating students in a world that is changing faster than anyone can keep up with, it is agenda-driven special interest groups who are actually intent on wresting control of public education policy and indoctrinating students with their own narrow world view. And they are using all the deceitful and unscrupulous methods in their bag of tricks to accomplish their endgame.

Before going into the specifics of this still developing story, it is useful to briefly review the history of the fight over public education to fully understand the current climate found in most public schools, such as the ones involved in this case. Due to extremely damaging education policies that date back to George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, the stage was set for the fragile place where public education is today. It has also directly led to the massive and still worsening teacher shortage crisis. You can read in much more detail about how this all played out here and here. In short, due to the increased pressures created by the NCLB and then expanded greatly by conservative state legislatures (see vouchers and school choice), schools are now forced to engage in a knock-down-drag-out competition for students. For better or worse, every student is a dollar sign in this new climate. This cannot be overstated. Every student a school district loses means thousands of dollars lost by that district that would otherwise go toward funding the best educational experience for all the students. So, when parents come in shopping for a new school, administrators are forced to become salespeople. When a salesperson has a customer sit down across the desk from them, they immediately begin to feel out what it is the customer is looking for. The salesperson knows they have a good product, but they also know that customers all have different preferences about the features they want in those products. These socially divided times have school systems walking on eggshells due to public perceptions being all over the map about what people think goes on or does not go on in schools these days. In actuality–and this is very key to this whole case–schools are forced to try to stay very middle-of-the-road in how they approach such hot-button topics for fear of offending the wrong group, be they Left or Right. These acronyms that are being thrown around by the people who are trying to push for more school choice are frightening and ominous things to the uninitiated public they are so good at manipulating. For this reason, schools are very careful about labeling things with these scary acronyms (most people don’t understand what these things really are, they hear the acronym and think they know, because of how it’s been presented to them.) Careers are at stake and every employee of a public school, from superintendent right down to first year teachers feel it keenly every day.

Which leads us back to the specifics of what has been going on with all these clandestine hidden video sting operations Fox News has been so eager to show this past week. Through a little investigation, it has come to my attention that this is the way they have been going down:

A man and woman come to the front office of the school and ask to speak to an administrator. They tell the administrator that they are new to town and are shopping around for schools to send their kids. They say that they are from a very conservative state and that they have heard that this community they are moving to is very conservative as well. They say they’ve heard some good things about the school but some things they have concerns with as well. They ask how this school approaches things like CRT and SEL. All the while, they are secretly video taping the whole conversation.

Now, put yourself in the place of the school official on the other side of the desk in this setting. Remember, they are in salesperson mode and trying to ease the supposed pre-conceived concerns of these parents/customers. In this case, the undercover agents have given the school official/salesperson the impression that they are most likely left-leaning parents who are concerned that the school’s curriculum might be too politically conservative in the way they handle those scary acronyms. This little detail is important and, by the way, it’s actually a brilliant tactic.

So, when these secret agent parents claiming to be new in town came to feel out these Indiana school officials, they came in as wolves in sheep’s clothing, making it seem like they had concerns about one thing while secretly trapping the school officials into saying things that they use as warning flags about their actual concerns. Once the deceitful seed was planted in the school officials’ minds, they shifted their “sales pitch” to try to reassure these fake parents that their schools did not lean to the conservative side. Now, please understand what I am about to say because it is absolutely essential to understanding how this whole kerfuffle is really much ado about absolutely nothing. Had these same undercover operators given the impression that they were worried that the school might be too liberal in their approach, the school officials would have assured them that wasn’t the case either. This is 100% fact. This whole operation was a set up to get school officials, already nervously toeing the line down the middle of the political divide while trying to recruit new students to enroll, to say things that could be easily edited to have all the context removed so that their own words could be used to make them look scary to the very people who are already convinced that public schools are nothing more than indoctrination machines. 

The final doctored versions of the videos were presented to make it look like the school officials were somehow joyfully flaunting the system. This is what AIM does. They are bent on “proving” to their public that schools are actively indoctrinating children with ideologies they find offensive—that students are being taught to feel ashamed of their country—that white students in particular are being taught to be ashamed of who they are because of the color of their skin, “reverse racism” they call it—that schools are grooming students to be gay, trans, or bisexual—even the endlessly ridiculous claim that schools are catering to students who identify as animals (furries, as they are called) with litter boxes for them to use in school bathrooms. 

Organizations like Project Veritas, Accuracy in Media, Purple for Parents, and others, have been joined in league with anti-public education lawmakers for many years. They’ve been playing the long game in an attempt to discredit and vilify public education so that they can pass legislation that would take our country backwards over half a century.

In my investigation of this story, it has come to my attention that, in at least one of the cases shown in the Fox News story, the topic the school official was discussing on their segment of the tape wasn’t even CRT, as was implied in the story. In this case, the topic the fake parents and the school official were discussing was SEL, not CRT. Here’s the rub on that, Social and Emotional Learning curriculum is mandated to be taught in public schools by Indiana statute, (SB 297, 2017). In fact, the Indiana Department of Education website features a page called, “Indiana Workforce Development,” which mentions that the teaching of social and emotional skills is a crucial component for building the types of skills that 21st century employers are seeking in potential hires. Since that was actually the topic being discussed in at least one of the clips that the Accuracy in Media group passed off as being about CRT, who knows what else was doctored and falsified in the other cases. But the SEL topic didn’t fit the agenda for this particular hit piece because it would have muddied up the narrative they were trying to push, so they simply lied about it to support their propaganda. These agenda-driven, anti-public education groups are continually conflating very different things to deliberately confuse and frighten their target audience. They have a long history of pushing a political narrative, often by continually sharing easily debunked conspiracy theories. It is their modus operandi. I did a quick search on the AIM organization and quickly found a plethora of information that should discredit their very name…accuracy in media is NOT what they want.

What follows is a brief history of the kinds of things that the non-profit AIM organization has a history of supporting:

AIM supported the Vietnam War and blamed mainstream media coverage for its failure.

AIM helped push the easily debunked Vince Foster conspiracy theories during the Clinton administration.

AIM blamed mainstream media bias against the Iraq War while defending George W. Bush’s use of torture.

AIM, in 2008, called Barack Obama “the most radical candidate to ever stand at the precipice of acquiring his party’s presidential nomination. it is apparent that he is a member of an international socialist movement.”

AIM opposes the international scientific consensus on climate change and criticizes media that report on it.

AIM gives out the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media Award. Past winners include, Marc Morano who runs a climate change denial website, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Jim Hoft, who operates a far-right conspiracy website.

In 2022, AIM funded the now infamous “Hitler Truck” in Berkeley, California. This ad campaign included a truck with a large electronic sign which featured a picture of Hitler, right arm raised in the Nazi salute, with the text, “All in favor of banning Jews, raise your right hand.”

Project Veritas, which shares common roots and common members with AIM, is a radical organization with a history of using deceptively edited and doctored videos and secret recordings in an effort to discredit mainstream media…sound like a familiar tactic? Although their efforts at propaganda are easily disproven, they are none the less effective in getting their message out to the people they want to manipulate to create a sense of paranoia. Like all these groups, they have become experts at conflating misunderstood educational theories, repackaging all of them and presenting them as a bogeyman of their own concoction.

Groups like Purple for Parents, in addition to sharing all manner of misinformation about public education, are currently scouring the shelves of local and school libraries looking for any book they perceive as having a theme they aren’t comfortable having their own children exposed to and demanding to have it removed from the shelves, denying all students access to them. They call this initiative, “Mary in the Library.” Click here for a list of the books they’ve had banned or attempted to have banned. For a direct look into the agenda of this group go to Facebook and look up the Purple for Parents of Indiana. Just scroll through that page and you will see exactly the type dishonest smear campaign public schools are up against. 

To add another layer to this already sorted situation in Indiana, it would appear that all five of the school districts involved in this secret video operation were quite deliberately selected because of the state legislators who represent them. In 2022, Indiana lawmakers attempted to pass a piece of anti-CRT legislation. (CRT is a college level course and isn’t being taught in our public schools by the way. We are just telling the story of America without leaving anything out and letting the kids make up their own minds what to make of it all). The bill, which would have given parents direct oversight about how certain sensitive topics are taught in public school classrooms by forcing school systems to create parent-led curriculum review committees and requiring teachers to post online all of their teaching and learning materials for the entire year in advance in order to be approved or denied on the whims of the committees. Despite Indiana’s supermajority GOP dominated legislature, the bill failed to pass, leaving many irate Republican members pointing fingers at colleagues. Some Republican heavy hitters in the Indiana legislature were not walking in lockstep with their colleagues when it came to last year’s CRT circus. Indiana House Representative Bob Behning (R), who has been no friend to public schools throughout his tenure did his best to squash the CRT legislation. Now, Purple for Parents accuse him of “working for the teachers’ union,” a claim that would make any educator do a spit take. Senator Rodrick Bray (R), President Pro Temper of the Indiana Senate was against the CRT bills. Senator Ryan Mishler (R), Chairman of the Indiana Senate Committee on Appropriations, wrote a strong op ed piece in defiant opposition to school vouchers. Those are some of the most powerful people in the Indiana Statehouse and they were using their votes and influence in ways that ran counter their party’s agenda on public education. They stepped on toes and now, in what can hardly be considered coincidence, all of the school districts targeted by this AIM backed undercover operation are represented by Republicans, like these men who did not support the CRT bills of last year. The message being sent is clear, toe the party line or we will come after you next.

Organizations like AIM, Project Veritas, Purple for Parents, Fox News, et al, are working diligently to convince you that public schools are feeding your kids propaganda. If teachers ever do that (it does occasionally happen), it is normally sniffed out and dealt with swiftly. But it’s not happening in any systematic way. It is, in fact, just the opposite.

Those organizations are feeding you the propaganda. Consider the sources before buying into it. The future of public education depends on you to do your homework.

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