Only "extreme" insiders are cool enough for this school.
That's apparently the one requirement to get new media content directly from a few individuals who Fox News opinion host Glenn Beck has selected to lecture on politics, U.S. history and the right-wing's ideal vision for a theocratic America.
That last item, about the right-wing's ideal vision for America, is not pronounced by Beck in his, er, founding documents. However, the politically ambiguous television personality has hired Dr. James R. Stoner -- who believes that separation of church and state means not discriminating between Christian denominations -- and David Barton: a man better known as one of the most influential evangelical Christians in the country and "the right's favorite pseudo-historian," according to his critics at People for the American Way.
"Offered exclusively to Insider Extreme subscribers, Beck University is a unique academic experience bringing together experts in the fields of religion, American history and economics," Beck's Web site declares. "Through captivating lectures and interactive online discussions, these experts will explore the concepts of Faith, Hope and Charity and show you how they influence AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s past, her present and most importantly her future."
James Stoner, Jr. Ph.D., is a professor of political science at Louisiana State University, a graduate of Harvard University and a theocrat, in that he also genuinely wants to afford publicly funded school officials in America the right to lead students in prescribed religious activities, ceremonies or practices; specifically, Christian prayer.
He wrote that "government-sponsored prayer, proclamations of days of prayer and thanksgiving, even grants to the clergy to run schools for the Indians" were and should still be perfectly legal, save for "several generations" of Supreme Court justices who drove church and state apart.
"The prohibition against laws 'respecting an establishment of religion' was meant, in the eyes of these scholars and justices, to insure that the federal government would not prefer one [Christian] denomination to another," he opined.
Dr. Stoner added: "To the fear that majority culture will so dominate the scene as to exclude minority religions, I would reply that America's religious diversity seems generally to insure that politicians, unlike judges, soon learn at the polls a hard lesson in tolerance if they offend. Besides, the Free Exercise provision would not be touched by this amendment, but, arguably, would be reinforced."
He concludes with what seems to be a woefully idyllic vision of a future theocratic America that has significantly restricted abortion: "For if a prayer amendment could, in the process of its enactment and in its effect, restore the original American understanding of the place of religion in republican life, I am confident that a people who have rediscovered how to see the hand of the Almighty in their daily lives will soon come around to seeing life itself as God's gift."
Another of Beck's lecturers, former Columbia Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology and Education David L. Buckner, is perhaps best known to the masses for passing out in the middle of a Fox News broadcast.
Beck's site features no guarantee that Buckner will remain conscious during his online lessons.
The third addition to Beck's lineup is David Barton, who has no lengthy title or weighty degree.
Here's how People for the American Way, which calls him "the right's favorite pseudo-historian," describes Barton's career:
Whereas people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson are well-known right-wing figures, Barton operates mostly under the national mediaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s radar, speaking to small groups of activists all over the country and churning out an array of resources that provide the pseudo-historical foundation for much of the right-wing agenda on everything fromreigning in Ã¢â‚¬Å“judicial activismÃ¢â‚¬Â andÃ‚Â impeaching judges toÃ‚Â defending the phrase Ã¢â‚¬Å“under GodÃ¢â‚¬Â in the Pledge of Allegiance andÃ‚Â decrying homosexuals in the military.
Through his organization,Ã‚Â Wallbuilders, Barton peddles a wide array of videos, books and other resources designed to Ã¢â‚¬Å“introduce the current generation of Americans to an uncensored view of AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s religious and political history.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Despite BartonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lack of academic credentials and his shoddy scholarship, he has managed to create an important niche by traveling around the country and all over the world telling audiences that the Founding Fathers were evangelical Christians just like them, and intended to create a nation of, by, and for Christians.
Not surprisingly, BartonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s history has been eagerly embraced by the Right. The Eagle Forum hasÃ‚Â cited BartonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work on impeachment and, in 2004, nearly 100 members of Concerned Women for AmericaÃ‚Â gathered at the US Capitol where they met Ã¢â‚¬Å“their legislators and [gave] them each a copy of David BartonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s video,Ã‚Â Foundations of American Government.Ã¢â‚¬Â Focus on the FamilyÃ‚Â calls Barton a Ã¢â‚¬Å“nationally renowned American history scholarÃ¢â‚¬Â andÃ‚Â peddles his work on its website. Barton alsoÃ‚Â appeared, via video, at the Family Research CouncilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Justice Sunday IIIÃ¢â‚¬Â event, where he reinforced the theme Christians are under attack by the court system and had his pseudo-historypraised by Rev. Jerry Falwell, who stated Ã¢â‚¬Å“We need to come back to what the founding fathers and David Barton were just telling us about. We are a nation under God.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Beck's site describes Barton as a best-selling author who owns a "massive library-museum of tens of thousands of original writings, documents, and artifacts from early America" and lauds his efforts in the "development of social studies standards for numerous states."
He does not disclose that Barton is the former vice chairman for the Texas Republican Party. Nor does he add that Barton has been heavily involved in getting the Texas school books changed to present a significantly different teaching of history.
Textbooks from Texas are considered influential in many markets because so many get printed, with some ultimately being purchased by other states.Ã‚Â CurriculumÃ‚Â revisions Ã‚Â passed in Texas include teaching climate change as possibly false, teaching the pseudo-science of "intelligent design" as equal to the "theory" of evolution and scrubbing lessons about American liberals from history lessons, replaced by lessons on the Republicans' congressional triumph in 1994 and Ronald Reagan's administration.
Barton's only degree, as Washington Monthly noted, is a bachelor's in religious education from the Oral Roberts University.
Classes at "Beck U" are in no way accredited by any educational standards agency and will apparently be only offered online through interactive video chats and on-demand clips available to "Insider Extreme" subscribers.
It's unclear if Glenn Beck plans to offer a t-shirt or pullover sporting his so-called "university" logo, but even if he did, one question would undoubtedly remain: "Why in the hell would anyone buy that?"
This video promoting Beck's "university" was published to YouTube on Friday, July 2, 2010.