Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the nicer places to live. It’s relatively safe, it’s economically sound, and it has one of the finest public school systems in the country, among other equally swell things. Sure, it might seem boring, but underneath the patina of soul-crushing listlessness flow the tides of progress. Most recently, details came to light about a particularly relevant bit of social change. Lincoln Public Schools released pamphlets to its teachers and administrators encouraging gender-related changes in the classroom.
I’ve included a link to the pamphlet, but because I assume you all are busy, I’ll just summarize briefly: teachers are encouraged to utilize less gendered terms, such as “boys and girls,” in favor of referring to them by activity group names, such as “purple penguins.” When lining students up, teachers are encouraged to line them up by interests and hobbies instead of by gender. Note my emphasis on the word encouraged. This was at no time a requirement or change in rules on the part of LPS. Keep this in mind.
Enter Fox News and Co.,— trusted and well-respected national news team. Unfortunately, there’s not currently a way to show sarcasm via the printed word, so you’ll have to trust me when I say that I make that statement ironically. Fox News (and most of its contemporaries) is killing the news industry. In fact, I’m worried it may be too late – national news is dead. Before anyone gets up to defend FOX and make a fool of themselves, I want to look at Fox’s response to the LPS gender-inclusiveness pamphlet. The pamphlet wasn’t really broadcast by LPS, it was released to administration and staff so they could consider integrating some of the ideas into classrooms. A concerned teacher told an overly concerned parent and said parent went to the Lincoln Journal Star. Shortly after that, Fox News picked up the scent and writer Todd Starnes wrote an opinion editorial lambasting LPS for trying to destroy gender roles.
Before anyone says, “but it’s an opinion piece, not actual news reporting,” I’ll remind you that you’re hurting my feelings with your cruel words. I also want to remind everyone that Fox is an enormous, powerful and erroneously respected organization. Even its op-eds are widely read. As a writer of op-eds myself, I attempt to be as factual as possible while stating my opinion. Starnes from Fox doesn’t feel the same way, apparently. In a demonstration of obliviousness on par with the main character in a soap opera, Starnes completely ignores the pamphlet’s main point on, you know, being more gender inclusive and chooses to focus on one point: Purple Penguins.
I cannot make this up. One section of the pamphlet states, “Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys & girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention. Instead say things like ‘calling all readers,’ or ‘hey campers’ or ‘could all of the athletes come here.’ Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet at the rug.” For my astute readers, you’ll observe that it doesn’t tell teachers to call students penguins. It uses this as an example. Starnes isn’t one of my astute readers. He takes this as a crusade for the complete destruction of gender in the United States, lead by Lincoln Public Schools. He seems to be under the impression that these ideas were being enforced by LPS and the teachers. I encourage people to read the whole Starnes piece if you want to be pissed off. He spends most of it talking about LPS as though he were dismissing the ideas of a child.
Putting Starnes’s sardonic and demeaning words aside, I want to focus on the real issue here: the lack of actual facts. It wouldn’t have taken much to get the truth about this brochure from LPS. LPS director of student services and friend of mine Russ Uhing would have been glad to explain things. Instead of seeking any actual factual information, Starnes skimmed the pamphlet and released his piece as fast as possible because unfortunately that’s how modern journalism works. It’s all a fight for who can get the story first and put it out the door. Fact checking is becoming less and less relevant to national news reporting because the competition isn’t going to, so why should anyone? Nowadays, it’s all about quick information, uninformed opinions (which is just as dangerous, as we found out from Starnes) and badmouthing people. For example, when Fox News contributor Liz Trotta said women in the military should expect to be assaulted a little or when, in 2007, it was reported by Fox that President Obama had attended a Muslim seminary.
Whether it’s a complete and total bias or just not having all the facts, Fox (and many of its contemporaries) is destroying the good name of journalism and replacing it with ideology. Please, I’m begging all of you, treat Fox coverage as nothing more than political bickering. Don’t believe everything it says because odds are it’s more biased than factually based. Utilize sites such as Snopes to research the validity of claims so you don’t end up uninformed. And for gosh sakes Fox News, please keep your nose out of Lincoln’s business unless you like Steve Joel telling you how wrong you are.
Jaz Schoeneck is a Junior English and Film Studies Major. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaz_schoeneck