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Whistleblower: DHS Is Training Teachers To Develop Student ‘Disinformation’ Informers – I Know, I Took The Training

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Published on: February 24, 2024

What you are witnessing in the public schools is nothing short of indoctrination, and that indoctrination is very much Communistic.  I remember reading and hearing stories of how the Communists gained control of the children in order to rat out their parents if they were dissidents in any way.  Ramona Bessinger writes at Legal Insurrection about her training with the Department of Homeland Security and she warns that teachers are being trained to indoctrinate students as ‘disinformation’ informers.

Bessinger writes:

DHS Media Literacy Has Little To Do With Media or Literacy.  It is a K-12 Surveillance Program With The Goal Of  Training Teachers and Students to Identify and Report On Alleged “Disinformation” and Alleged “Violent Extremism” 

I’m a Providence, Rhode Island, high school teacher. You may remember me from when I blew the whistle in July 2021 on how a new Critical Race Curriculum was creating racial hostility in the Middle School where I taught at the time, and the subsequent retaliation and harassment.

I’m blowing the whistle again, this time as to Department of Homeland Security funding for training of teachers on combatting so-called “disinformation” as part of supposed “media literacy” programming through the University of Rhode Island, called Courageous RI. The training is not what it purports to be. It’s all about training teachers to teach students to become “disinformation” informers. I know. I took the training.

Starting in September 2023, I attended a twelve week online training through “Courageous Rhode Island” at the University of Rhode Island, funded by a DHS grant of over $700,000. The program is for K-12 teachers and is promoted as “media literacy.” But it’s so much more than media literacy, and the impact of the training turned to teacher interaction with students and how students could be utilized as reporting sources.

I’m about to tell you what I witnessed and what this taxpayer-funded “disinformation” training is all about. What follows are a lot of details. But the bottom line is that the is a direct track from media literacy theory to DHS goals and objectives to URI training to teachers to students, and back again up the chain in a feedback loop. It’s dangerous to our society, and shows how something claimed to protect freedom has the potential to damage freedom.

What follows is background on media literacy and “disinformation” ideology, how it is a DHS focus, and some of what I experienced in the course. It’s long, but necessary.

DHS Media Literacy Has Little To Do With Media or Literacy  

In order to understand the DHS/Courageous RI approach and training, it’s important to understand the ideological foundations of Media Literacy.

The idea of Media Literacy made its way into K-12 schools as a solution to combat perceived “disinformation” and “violent extremism”.   Both terms are defined as a result of children being exposed to “disinformation” while at school.  According to the Courageous RI website, the inspiration for the Courageous RI program comes from an essay titled Learning To Avoid Extremism  by Sigal Ben-Porath, an education theorist, Learning To Avoid Extremism by Sigil Ben-Porath

In her essay, Sigal Ben-Porath calls for schools to respond to a rise in “extremist ideologies and actions” even though she provides no data to support this claim. The claim made by the Department of Homeland Security, Courageous RI and Sigal Ben-Porath is that domestic acts of terrorism have their roots in information shared to children from literary sources, textbooks, media and school culture.

“What should this similarity tell us in terms of our expectations of teachers? If teachers are expected to identify extremist patterns of thought and belief, both cases I describe here could potentially represent students caught up in the net. And there is good reason to identify these students — they both seem to veer off from reality and toward a misguided, unfounded, and at least potentially antisocial View.”

This quote by Sigal Ben-Porath, attempts to justify classroom monitoring of any student who may “veer off from reality”.  But who should  judge what is mere opinion vs “disinformation”? This sort of subjective judgment is exactly what public school teachers should never do. The beginning of Sigal Ben Porath’s essay provides Courageous RI with the theory they use to justify their teacher training (emphasis added).

“Democracies are calling on schools to respond to a rise in extremist ideologies and actions. In this article Sigal Ben-Porath situates the rise in extremism within the broader context of political polarization. She suggests that the latter is a more appropriate target for school intervention than the former. She further suggests that addressing polarization can result in a reduction in extremism, and that polarization can be addressed by refocusing the use of existing teaching and learning tools, rather than by instituting new forms of intervention such as the Prevent strategy used in the UK. Tackling polarization through media literacy and the development of democratic habits can help rectify false beliefs, which contribute both to broad political polarization and to individuals’ slide toward extremism. Focusing on strengthening knowledge as well as social ties can fortify individuals’ and communities’ resilience against extremism, as well as build bridges and connect people to a sense of shared fate across political divides. These practices are more effective and more justified than targeting individual students who are suspected of holding radical beliefs.”

What Sigal Ben-Porath is suggesting here is justifying teams of teachers and support staff to surround any child who they feel poses a threat.  But what happens once a child is identified as “extremist”?  Well, naturally, any child identified as an extremist would want to please their teachers, therefore abandoning their pattern of “disinformation” and “violent extremist” views for the accepted viewpoint.   The student then becomes a member of the accepted in-group and may in fact help in identifying other children and teachers that are seen as extremist.

In fact, we are seeing this play out in K-12 schools across the nation.  Students are encouraged to identify peers or worse their teachers who they feel represent extremist views then report that individual to other adults in the “in-group”.  In some cases, teachers are protested, harassed and bullied, while in other cases, peers may be  singled out and bullied.

Sigal Ben-Porath makes the claim that “extremism lies in the broader context of political polarization in K-12 schools”. Again, she provides no data to support her argument.  Still, Courageous RI uses her essay to justify their media literacy teacher training. Once approved for funding, Courageous RI created a teacher training module to “train” educators in “media literacy” across the disciplines. The program is based on the premise that violent extremism begins in K-12 classrooms and is propagated through literature, media messages, historical texts, and school discussions.

Courageous RI uses the following arguments from Sigal Ben-Porath’s essay titled “Learning To Avoid Extremism”. In Ms Ben-Porath’s essay, she makes the claim that:

“Shifting attention to the early stages in which young individuals are drawn to consider extremist ideologies is meant to offer them an alternative path before they veer off course. Reaching young people before and during the radicalization process is suggested to help law enforcement through engagement with partners (coaches, teachers, school counselors, and others) who can help reconnect young people to their peers and to acceptable institutions, thus helping them avoid extremist ideation and especially action.”

Courageous RI uses this idea as it is expressed by Ms Ben-Porath as justification for student surveillance and a K-12 culture of surveillance. This is a dangerous approach to take, the assumption that children need to be monitored for perceived “hate speech” and “disinformation”. The reason is simple; K-12 children go through many stages of development that make them particularly prone to various beliefs and convictions that may change sometimes on a daily basis. It is perfectly normal for children to explore and argue their beliefs and convictions and it is not normal for adults and peers to judge and report on a student’s personal viewpoints.  Ms Ben-Porath and Courageous RI are making assumptions about children and their personal beliefs.   

The term media literacy as it applies to K-12 education means the ability to access and analyze information, then reflect on the information with a teacher or peer, and take action to correct any presumed ‘disinformation’ gleaned from the “information” source. Both the DHS and Courageous RI make the claim that children and faculty in K-12 schools need government oversight for the protection of the “greater whole”.  Courageous organizre themselves had this to say in their DHS grant application.

URI Grant Application Qualified Courageous RI for DHS Funding

The University of Rhode Island’s Courageous RI team  had this to say in its grant application to the Department of Homeland Security (emphasis added):  

Abstract. Disinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda have become large-scale social problems, shaping the way citizens view facts, define truth, and make decisions. Learning to critically analyze information, digital media, and popular culture can benefit all members of society by diminishing the appeal of us-vs-them thinking that activates strong emotions and oversimplifies ideas and information. We seek to reach members of faith communities, military spouses and family members, public health and public safety workforce, K-12 educators, librarians, high school and college students, and media and public relations professionals in programs that include dialogue, active listening, and creative media production. In Program 1, online and face-to-face dialogues help demonstrate how to critically analyze propaganda, disinformation, and domestic extremism. In Program 2, high school and college educators learn how to integrate media literacy into civic education. In Program 3, high school and college students participate in a multimedia social media campaign, with support from local state public safety experts as well as communications and public relations professionals. This statewide initiative aims to empower people across Rhode Island to be resilient to extremist recruitment strategies while building resilience through media literacy education. ”

In this quote, Courageous RI is referring to teachers and children in public school classrooms and suggests there is a need to monitor and flush out children who may become spreaders of “disinformation” and “violent extremism”.

Courageous RI makes a dangerous developmental error in assuming K-12 children need to be identified, reported on and if necessary protested as a way to “save democracy from violent extremism”. Throughout the ten session training, Courageous RI facilitators seemed to chanel Ms. Ben-Porath’s essay when she claims:

“Shifting attention to the early stages in which young individuals are drawn to consider extremist ideologies is meant to offer them an alternative path before they veer off course. Reaching young people before and during the radicalization process is suggested to help law enforcement through engagement with partners (coaches, teachers, school counselors, and others) who can help reconnect young people to their peers and to acceptable institutions, thus helping them avoid extremist ideation and especially action.”

Courageous RI, the Department of Homeland Security and Sigal Ben-Porath essay argue there is a need to create school-based point teams and student informers to curtail arbitrary, subjective opinions about the community, and all information.

According to one of the Courageous RI facilitators during the course, “disinformation” oversight is justified; and comes in the form of classroom lesson plans and classroom activities intended to reduce media influence over children who may become future “domestic terrorists.” During the training, Courageous RI facilitators were hyper-focused on Donals Trump as their media literacy poster-child. A great deal of classroom content centered around Trump and his alleged influence over individuals and “violent extremism,” Specifically January 6th. Violence from the left was largely ignored.

The Courageous RI facilitators often pointed to Trump as the root cause of all social media and media disinformation, they blamed  Trump for influencing “MAGA republicans” to commit violence and more. During the weekly online training sessions, I asked for evidence to support their claims that violent extremism and disinformation existed in K-12 schools.  I was quickly dismissed or directed to chat conversations where conservative voices were singled out and suppressed.

Any student or faculty member with opposing political view-points on controversial topics like climate change, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) agendas, race-based narratives, and more could be identified by a media literacy teacher or student, then referred to thought partners who would set out to correct said student’s line of thinking or to persuade the child to abandon their point-of-view.  Worse case, peers and friends would report on each other and in some cases teachers like me would be protested and singled out for conservative view-points.

DHS Media Literacy Goals and Outcomes are Embedded in The Training

To better understand the root of this K-12 “disinformation” campaign, I looked at the DHS Media Literacy Goals and Outcomes for K-12 education.  Embedded in the Goals and Outcomes language are broad definitions and rationales for implementing K-12 media literacy programs. Yet, not one of the goals or outcomes could be attached to measurable standards.  This is important as every curriculum goal must be measurable.  Media literacy is not in any way measurable nor are the terms disinformation definable as applied to curriculum and children.

Courageous RI claims their program aligns with standards, but in fact, the school standards recently written are not measurable and so media literacy can not be academically  justified and fairly implemented.   These media literacy courses and training means students and teachers would be open to subjective mob-like attacks from overzealous politically motivated individuals.  This is dangerous as children will become unknowing targets of potentially dangerous leftist ideologues

It appeared from the training, Courageous RI allegedly believes students can be politically manipulated by the media to commit acts of “violent extremism” and therefore seeks to use teachers to detect and re-educate students who may be extremist and express dangerous thoughts and actions. But what happens once a student or teacher is identified as a “violent extremist”? Data is collected on the individual(s) and source of their “disinformation” and presumably it is addressed.  The DHS goes as far as to recommend “reentry” programs for offenders of disinformation, which is particularly disturbing when you consider the ages of the children being surveilled or used for surveillance.

Hard to believe the DHS intentions are to protect the nation from six year-olds to seventeen year-olds whose opinions may simply differ from the teacher, even harder is the public manner in which some children and teachers will be made examples of when identified as spreaders of “disinformation” and “violent extremists”. Families need to know exactly what is happening at school.  Children are not safe so long as this government sponsored surveillance program is advanced.

K-12 Government Surveillance Across The Disciplines Encouraged During Training  

There are several ways Courageous RI instructed educators to monitor K-12 “disinformation; students and teachers were told to implement media literacy practices that use children and other faculty as “thought partners” for the “greater cause”  The terms “thought partner” “in-group” “outer-group” and “conflict entrepreneurs” were used to label any student or teacher that expressed a viewpoint different from the “group”.

Strategy #1: Media Literacy As A Stand-Alone Course

We were given several ways to advance media literacy in K-12 schools: one way was to have media literacy taught as a stand-alone class, or it would be integrated throughout the disciplines and grades.

In stand-alone classes, students would be given a K-12 school-based news platform like NewsELA  (News English Language Arts) which aggregates left-wing, progressive news stories. This sort of media course would serve as a direct way to shift any opposing political view-points a student or teacher may have.  It would also provide teachers with the opportunity to teach children how to protest events they feel strongly about.

NewsELA comes complete with articles, videos, lesson-plans and commentary designed to direct a student’s thought process. The articles and lesson-plans are scripted for the teacher to further direct the political message.  The platform is protected by a firewall that does not allow students or teachers to access alternative news sources; creating a direct leftwing political pipeline to the classroom. Stand alone courses like this are justified by Courageous RI as a necessary way to “protect children ” from harmful viewpoints that may influence them to commit violent acts of terrorism at a later date.  The actual fact is that NewsELA and other biased K-12 news sources indoctrinate children to think in one way only. The danger is clear. If we do not reverse course, then an entire generation will be educated in a surveillance and reporting environment while at school.  Truth, and freedom of thought will be suppressed if not altogether wiped out.

The terms “deep listener” and “thought partner” came up as media literacy teaching strategies when embedded into a discipline.  In this manner, media literacy would be used to teach classic literature or history to fit a political narrative.   Teachers were encouraged to teach from a “democratic position” that aligned all discipline content with “democratic values.” Teachers were told to use students as “thought partners” and to create a reporting system.  Classroom thought-partners could be used to identify anyone with an opposing viewpoint.  In the following example, teachers discuss erasing history they feel is violent.  One of the Courageous RI facilitators led teachers in a tutorial discussion that openly promotes the re-telling of history.

One of the alarming factors of this disinformation campaign is the advancement of a student reporting system; instead of calling 911, K-12 schools across the state, students are told to make anonymous reports of “violent extremism” through the app “Say Something”.   DHS has a Say Something portal as does Sandy Hook Promise working with law enforcement. The apps ware designed in a way to help students report true danger, but instead, media literacy initiatives have co-opted the app to help in their K-12 surveillance initiatives.

The danger to children and families is real.  For example, imagine a kindergartner or middle schooler using this DHS reporting app simply because they have been told by their teacher that their classmate’s thoughts and opinions are bad and need to be reported. Families and friends could be reported for apparent thought crimes and mere opinions.

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