Overlooked or Scooped? Adventures in Independent Journalism–a Blogger’s Tale

Having laid the foundation of this WordPress site, ANTHOLOGY, in the last days of 2016 with a reflective journal entry, I began 2017 with an investigative news article entry. Moving forward, my readers will see both, and should easily be able to distinguish one from another. This particular entry is, admittedly, a bit of both. My ANTHOLOGY article entry of February 1, How the Age of Exploration and Discovery Justifies a Militant Christian Takeover of the U.S. Government, provided links to files that were once available on the Council for National Policy’s website. Specifically, the links were to its Education Reform Committee’s Report (as a PDF document), in addition to a SoundCloud recording– almost 50 minutes of a speech from a November meeting. In this, its analysis of the election results, as well as its expectations for the Trump administration in its first 100 days, were topics of interest. Expectations or predictions, you tell me after you listen to it!

After posting this article, which contained information that I found to be alarming, considering what I was learning about this non-profit organization at the time, I did what I could to get this material the attention it deserved. I shared it with my Facebook friends, I pinned my WordPress site in my account, retweeted it a few times, and tagged the Twitter followers of influence I thought would be interested in it. During a trending hashtag event in support of the Press (#PressOn), I tried to reach out to various publications, such as Mother Jones, Atlantic, and Washington Post. I wrote to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which was a source for some of the information used in the article, and to ProPublica on February 11, via email. From these news outlets, I have received no replies, but this week I did receive a couple emails from individuals, requesting a copy of the Education Reform Report. Apparently, CNP had removed it from its site.

Last night, two weeks after I first posted my article here about the disturbing details surrounding dominionism and its rise of influence in the American political system (which is not permitted for organizations with its status as a non-profit), I came across mention of this CNP’s Education Reform Report in three places. First, Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, in a February 16 piece written by Peter Montgomery described the Council for National Policy as “a secretive network of right-wing religious and political leaders that shares and shapes conservative political strategies”. In the same article, education blogger Peter Greene is credited with noticing the Education Reform Report in his entry posted February 11. It was Greene’s blog entry that led me to the Washington Post article from Emma Brown. By the way, we both have two followers in common.

I am not sure how exactly the existence of this report came to be in the news, after I first wrote about it here, on February 1. I would like to think that no one took what I had found for their own work; I am making no accusations here, but as an independent journalist, I have good reason to protect my intellectual work from theft, especially because I am not being paid for my work, unless an offer for publication or rights to publish is extended to me, or a monetary donation in support of my efforts is given to me via PayPal. Indeed, if a particular news outlet or venue wished to contract me for any assignments related to the work I have begun, I would be open to this as well. Essentially, I would rather let my work speak for itself, as an extension of my reputation for insisting on doing things right. I always cite my sources and rightfully expect the same from my colleagues in the Press. If I am not cited or referred to as I proceed with my work, I fail to accomplish my goals as an independent writer and those who benefit are either unaware of my loss or are not bothered by the consequences.

I digress…

Since the report has been removed from the CNP, I have edited the February 1 blog entry by adding a slideshow of all five pages. To review, this report is based on four assumptions. They are: 1) All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent; 2) Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it; 3) Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not, and 4) No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.

The report details a plan to be rolled out in two phases. The first phase pertains to sweeping reforms at the federal level, proposing these five actions: 1) Get rid of Common Core, all other “DOE social engineering programs”, and stop all data collection; 2) Dismantle the Department of Education and return all functions to the states; 3) Have the Federal Department of Education be deemed “unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to America’s education practice for 300 years from early 17th century to Colonial times”; 4) Engage College Board for accountability of accuracy/thoroughness in higher education with regards to America’s founding and historical education practices, and 5) Push for school choice in all states (over voucher schemes).

In the second phase, which concerns actions to be taken at the state and local levels, the plan calls for schools to 1) Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools; 2) Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence; 3) Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage; 4) Implement select Bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project; 5) Encourage instruction on U.S. and World history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes; 6) Develop and recommend In-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education, and 7) Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.

In addition to these assumptions and calls to action, the CNP Education Committee pledges itself to “work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who, along with America’s pioneers believed that God belonged in the classroom.”

Trump supporter and CNP member, David Lane, is credited with influencing the decision to include the Mayflower Compact in this report, in order to back the CNP’s claim– that of the United States having a mission to promote Christianity in American schools. The most shocking part of this report, the CNP’s call for dismantling the Department of Education, suggested that it be replaced with a department that includes a sub-cabinet advisory council on reform, and that federal financial support for state-operated schools be eliminated.

In order to garner support for these actions, the CNP is calling on its network of religious right leaders, Christian media outlets, and lobby groups to push for the elimination of the Department of Education. Leaders specifically mentioned included American Pastors Network’s, Sam Roher, Reclaiming America for Christ’s, Paul Blair, who spends his time lobbying state officials to nullify marriage equality and abortion rights by defying Supreme Court decisions, and US Pastor Council’s, Dave Welch. Should any doubt remain as to the influence of CNP members on the Trump administration, besides the membership of senior White House officials, Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, In the 2014 Membership Directory of the CNP, you will also find the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who helped Trump selected Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

To achieve its goals, besides using its network of conservative supporters, the report also offers strategies that include getting the Department of Education to declare its intention to “return complete sovereignty” to the states, to stop all federal funding and return all money to the states. The big red flag, which is consistent with the methods we have seen employed so far in the Trump administration, is the call for firing every person at the Department of Education, “from Assistant Secretaries to the mailroom”, and to replace them all with people who believe in the Trump/DeVos vision for this department.

In the Washington Post article of February 15, Emma Brown writes that the report was no longer available online as of Wednesday afternoon (which would be the same day, I am guessing), and that three committee members confirmed its authenticity. While Brown alerts the reader to its availability on the Internet Archives Wayback Machine, I remind my readers that it can also be found on my February 1 article as a slideshow.

According to Brown’s article, a Department of Education spokesman said that DeVos, whose mother and father-in-law were both known as prominent members of CNP,  had not received the document. This is in spite of the fact that CNP Education Committee Chairman, Dan Smithwick, wrote in the report’s introduction that “we submit this report to the Trump/Betsy DeVos administration with the hope that our organization may be of assistance with the restoration of education in America, in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principals which formed the basis of instruction in America’s schools for the first 300 years.”

During her confirmation hearings, DeVos did say that she did not believe in imposing her faith on others, but she has, in the past, expressed a belief in her education reform efforts, a confidence in her ability to advance God’s kingdom, leading to “Greater Kingdom gain in the long run.”

Correct me if I am wrong, please, but I do believe that the appearance of references to this report in the news items described here, well after February 1 entry, most noticeably means I scooped the Washington Post on this material by two weeks!! Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity, one I wish the resistance could have used to its advantage, in order to combat the Trump administration’s draconian methods of governing. However, I do believe that it is never too late to make a difference. I will continue to work on what I have started, for the sake of my own sanity. I can’t sit idly by and learn the things I am learning without putting it into words, to keep it straight for myself, and to share with others. It is my fervent hope that my efforts to cut through the clutter of noise, to get to the heart of the matters that are in the headlines, or that deserve to be, are not in vain, and that I will find the support necessary to succeed with my life’s ambition—to be a seeker and a messenger of the truth, using words as my weapons against lies and clandestine machinations. But it is not only the world of politics that I maintain my focus on as a writer, or find solace in as an individual in this world. Perish that thought! Poetry and literature is a refuge I seek and find when I am irritated too much by the rantings of raving lunatics or the cold-hearted ways of certain people in positions of power, who really shouldn’t be.

This week, I will be working on adding more articles to ANTHOLOGY. Look for updates on the Council for National Policy, an overview of attempts to repeal U.S. involvement in the United Nations, and a closer look at scam SuperPACs—Stop Hillary is now the Committee to Defend the President. In time, my readers will also notice updates and additions to my Poetry page, as well as more information about my novels, the ones that are “finished”, and those I plan to start on! Hopefully, in time, this WordPress site will prove itself to be the boost this writer needed—a platform for finding her readers, and for accomplishing what she has set her mind to doing with her life!

Sources:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/dear-betsy-devos-the-religious-rights-education-agenda/

http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-hard-rights-planning-document-for.html?m=1

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/influential-conservative-group-trump-devos-should-dismantle-education-department-and-bring-god-into-classrooms/2017/02/15/196bf872-f2df-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html?utm_term=.ea11bf5465e1

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, VALERIE HOWLAND, AKA @IndiePressWatch, ABIDES BY THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS CODE OF ETHICS TO THE BEST OF HER ABILITIES, AND SHE HOLDS OTHER JOURNALISTS TO THE SAME STANDARDS.

spj-code-of-ethics1

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Author: valeriehowlandblog

Freelance writer, political commentator.

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