Pop quiz, teachers: Would you like to inject a strong dose of libertarianism into the curriculum you take back to school this fall?
If you answered yes, then a Koch-funded think tank has exactly what you need. And it won’t cost you or your school a penny.
The website offers high school teachers and college professors educational videos, articles and podcasts on topics including economics, history and philosophy. But as people might expect from a think tank whose board is chaired by billionaire libertarian Charles Koch, most of the project’s economics content features two common themes: vilify government, promote the free market.
For example, teachers using EDvantage can find economics videos explaining how the Environmental Protection Agency is bad for the environment, how sweatshops are good for third-world workers and how the minimum wage costs workers jobs. Content featuring opposing viewpoints, however, is sparse.
“The minimum wage is supposed to help the poorer, less-skilled and younger workers in the economy,” says the narrator in “The Truth About the Minimum Wage,” a video produced by the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education and featured on EDvantage. “But it doesn’t. It gets them fired.”
According to its website, EDvantage is funded by the John Templeton Foundation, whose core funding areas include “individual freedom and free markets.”
Program director Daniel Green said through a foundation spokeswoman that the two-year, $739,000 grant is meant “to further Sir John Templeton’s objective of supporting education about the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets.” In addition to funding free-market initiatives, the foundation — founded by the billionaire global investor and mutual fund pioneer — supports a variety of other causes, including ones related to science and religion.
The Institute for Humane Studies, which is housed at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, is funded largely by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The think tank, whose mission is to advance “a freer society,” received $12.4 million from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation from 2008 to 2012, according to annual tax documents.
The Koch brothers appear to be on a mission to spread their libertarian message to high school and college students. In July, The Huffington Post published a story headlined, “Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students,” which detailed how a Koch-run nonprofit called Youth Entrepreneurs is recruiting teachers and crafting curricula favorable to the Koch’s political agenda.
And as the Center for Public Integrity reported in March, two of the six private charitable foundations the Koch brothers control and personally fund combined in 2012 to pump more than $12.7 million into colleges and universities.
The EDvantage officially launched last October, but this is the first time it will be available to teachers for the beginning of a school year.
It is unclear how many teachers and professors have used EDvantage. Scott Barton, a director of the project, declined to be interviewed for this story. In an emailed statement, he wrote that “Resources are curated with the help of our academic editorial board to present ideas from diverse ideological perspectives.”
But teachers who use EDvantage won’t find much ideological balance while researching content on the website’s economics pages. The educational materials selected by EDvantage for economics lessons are overwhelmingly anti-government and pro-free market.
For example, a page of videos and articles on economic regulations includes videos that lament occupational licensing laws, explain how regulations are burdening food truck owners and argue that free markets regulate product safety better than the government.