Koch Industries Buys Its Way Into Public School Classrooms

While it’s well known the Koch brothers are leading funders of corporate politicians, as well as right wing think tanks like the Mackinac Center, it’s less well known that they have a growing interest in education.

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This includes essentially buying university programs, including programs in Florida and Kansas, and more recently in North Carolina, and through their faux grassroots group, Americans for Progress, heavily funding local school board races.

It recently came to light that  Koch Industries Chairman David Koch is directing a non-profit created to conduct public school classes designed to instill free market principles:

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To accomplish this, an existing Koch non profit, Youth Entrepreneurs, was re-purposed by a group inside Koch Industries calling itself the “Wu-Teach Clan,” evidently taking their names from the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

Their imagined hipness does not extend to their internet savvy: their work became public when everything they produced (including email exchanges with David Koch) was discovered in an online Google Group, to which they failed to restrict public access.

With wife Elizabeth serving as chairman, Youth Entrepreneurs is offering “a high school free market and liberty-based course” including teacher training at Koch Industries Headquarters. So far, the classes are offered in Kansas, Missouri, Georgia and online. Such an offer is hard to turn down:

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Youth Entrepreneurs pays teachers a stipend, supplies them with classroom materials, guest speakers and field trips, and offers students scholarship opportunities.

Although the official purpose of these classes is to provide students “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society,” the actual curriculum (much of which is provided by Koch-funded think tanks) shows the real aim:

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The Google Group material included a list of myths the Koch Industry staffers hoped to counter:

  • Corporatism v. Free-market Capitalism
  • Deregulation is what caused recession in 80s, Economic problems of today
  • Rich get richer at the expense of the poor
  • FDR/New Deal brought us out of the depression
  • Government wealth transfer programs help the poor
  • Private industry incapable of doing functions that public sector has always done
  • Unions protect the employees
  • People with the same job title should be paid the same amount
  • Minimum wage, “living wage,” laws are good for people/society
  • Capitalist societies provide an environment for greed and materialism to flourish
  • Socialist countries do just fine, people have great lives there (using this as proof that socialism works)

The curriculum includes videos produced by the Charles Koch-chaired Institute for Humane Studies, housed in Virginia’s George Mason University. One defends price gouging by arguing anti-gouging laws fail to address shortages. Another asserts that the gender pay gap exists because of “differences in the choices that men and women make.”

The Koch financed effort to move public policy to its corporate world view now includes national, state as well as local political campaigns, a nationwide network of right wing think tanks, university institute creation and now public school classes manufactured by Koch Industries.

None of this should be too surprising if you know the Koch’s more distant past.

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