Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Stanley Kurtz/National Review: "PolitiFact’s Failed Attack on DeSantis, over Civics Education"

With less time to devote to this website, we don't often highlight outside work. But that was actually our aim when we started out!

This article in National Review by Stanley Kurtz does a terrific job rebutting PolitiFact's latest screed targeting Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Late last Friday, PolitiFact issued a “fact check” claiming that Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s recent swipe against the Civics Secures Democracy Act (CSDA) was “false.” Actually, DeSantis’s criticism of CSDA is on the mark. It’s PolitiFact’s reporting that’s fallacious. PolitiFact’s failed attack on DeSantis can fairly be called an opinion piece in disguise. But it’s also something more — and worse — than that. Yacob Reyes of PolitiFact thoroughly misrepresents DeSantis, merely refuting a straw man of his own making. Let’s have a look, then, at the media’s latest bogus hit job on DeSantis.

Key to PolitiFact's argument was its contention that the Civics Secures Democracy Act has language supposedly barring it from being used to set education policy. PolitiFact noted arguments to the contrary but framed them as unsupported conservative opinion. 


Framing something as unsupported conservative opinion apparently means not needing to undercut the argument without a fallacious appeal.

The article [by Kurtz, in National Review] then suggested the criteria for receiving the grants could entice states to conform their curricula to "federal demands," such as when states began adopting Common Core, a set of national educational standards. 
Common Core’s critics have often accused the federal government of coercing states into adopting the standards in exchange for grant money. We have fact-checked similar claims about Common Core before and found them inaccurate.
PoliitiFact inaccurately claimed it fact checked similar claims. The claims it checked were only superficially similar.

For our part, we pointed out to the PolitiFact author, Yacob Reyes, that liberal Vox.com made a argument parallel to the one PolitiFact dismissed as unsupported conservative opinion.

The federal government didn't write the standards, but it has promoted them. The stimulus bill included $4.4 billion in Education Department grants for states that adopted "college- and career-ready standards."

States weren't explicitly required to adopt the Common Core in order to compete for the federal money; they could have used their own standards if they proved to the Education Department that those standards prepared students for college. Nearly all of them adopted Common Core instead, and all of the states who eventually won the grants were Common Core states.

Too bad for Vox that correlations are only "True" when PolitiFact says they are.

It's just another case of PolitiFact substituting its own straw men for claims while presenting evidence weighted toward one side.

Kurtz's article is worth reading through to the last word.

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