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John McCain released an ad this week making the accusation that Barack Obama supports sex education for five-year-olds.
Here's what the ad says:
" Education Week says Obama 'hasn't made a significant mark on education,' that he's 'elusive' on accountability, a 'staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly.'" As the announcer mentions those last two phrases, "elusive" and "a staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly," logos appear of the Washington Post for the first phrase and the Chicago Tribune for the second.
Then the announcer continues: "Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners.
Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family."
We looked at the claim about sex ed for kindergartners in a different statement and found it Pants on Fire!
Here, we'll look at what Education Week said about Obama.
Education Week did write that Obama "hasn't made a significant mark on education," but the phrase is plucked out of its original context. It's is from a long article written during the Democratic primary that reviewed Obama's positions on education, particularly in comparison with the other Democratic candidates.
Here's the full quote:
"In his eight years in the state Senate and two years in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Obama hasn't made a significant mark on education policy. In Illinois, his biggest accomplishments were in reforming state ethics rules and capital punishment. He did promote early-childhood initiatives that advocates considered 'innovative and progressive,' said Betsy D. Mitchell, a lobbyist for the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children. "His biggest accomplishment in the field was the creation of a state board to oversee the expansion of early-childhood education in the state, Ms. Mitchell said."
So Education Week did write the words "hasn't made a significant mark on education," but it was not as disparaging a remark as the ad makes it out to be.
The audio portion of the ad is misleading because Education Week did not say Obama was "elusive" or a "staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly." People who only hear the audio portion of the ad will not know that those two phrases are attributed to other publications. And, more significantly, those last two quotes come from opinion columns not news stories, which isn't made clear in the audio or video.
The "elusive" description is from a July 7, 2008, Washington Post editorial that says both candidates have fuzzy education proposals.
"Mr. McCain has not been forthcoming with any detailed plan; he is said to be preparing one for the fall. Mr. Obama, as the New York Times' David Brooks recently observed, has promised dozens of crowd-pleasing programs but has been elusive on such thorny issues as teacher tenure and school accountability," said the editorial.
The charge that Obama is a "staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly" comes from a Chicago Tribune opinion piece by Steve Chapman. That brief quote does accurately capture the substance of Chapman's piece, which criticizes Obama for not embracing school vouchers.
The ad gives the idea that Education Week doesn't think much of Obama's education policy, and some casual listeners would think all three quotes were from the publication, which is not the case. In fact, two of them come from opinion pieces, a fact that should be made clear so viewers can decide for themselves how to judge them. Only one of the statements accurately captures the sentiments of the article it's taken from. For all of these problems, we rate this statement Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Washington Post, Focus on School Reform , July 7, 2008.
Chicago Tribune, Change: A matter of convenience , July, 20, 2008.
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