My Experience on the Glenn Beck Show

by Christopher Paslay

When it comes to Glenn Beck, adjectives like “kook,” “nut-job,” and “right-wing radical” have a tendency to get thrown around.  At least these descriptors are used in more liberal circles—places like Philadelphia where 85 percent of the population is registered democrat.

My colleagues at Swenson Arts and Technology High School have used similar terms to describe Mr. Beck, so when I told them that I was going to be on the Glenn Beck show on Friday, May 6th, I received mixed reactions (I’ll get to my experience on the show in a moment). 

Personally, I am a fan of Glenn Beck.  Although I disagree with some of his views on education (Glenn, like most journalists and talking-heads, has a more superficial understanding of public schools), I do agree with much of what he preaches otherwise—that our country must rediscover its traditional values; that personal responsibility is the key to change; that too much reliance on government and social programs is killing America’s entrepreneurial spirit; that both the Republicans and Democrats are corrupt; and that in order to restore honor in our country we must become more principle-centered.

Interestingly, there are many people (like my mother and father) who are fans of Glenn Beck as well.  His show has dominated its time slot for nearly two years, coming in at #1 on the Neilson Ratings for most of that time and never falling below #3; for the first three months of 2011, the Glenn Beck show had an audience of almost 2 million viewers. 

So he has a sizable following.  And the core of this following is made up of well-educated, well-informed people such as my parents and myself, people with diverse experiences and opinions; we’re hardly the right-wing radical Neanderthal “nut-jobs” we’re made out to be (to those name-callers who try to pigeon-hole Beck and his supporters I offer this challenge: watch his show every day for one week and then you can sling your mud.  I mean really watch the show, watch and listen and try to see all sides of the issue).

Now back to my experience on Beck’s show.  The theme of the show was “teachers who love their jobs but are frustrated with the education system.”  It was an audience-participation show that featured 40 teachers from the tri-state area, myself and my father (who taught 37 years in the Philadelphia School District) included. 

Before the show was taped we were each given a questionnaire to complete.  It asked us, among other things, to describe the things about education that frustrated us.  It also asked our opinions about teachers’ unions, and directed us to pose questions to Glenn Beck himself. 

Here were two of my responses. 

Concerning my frustration, I wrote: Education is one of the few professions in America in which policies are written and decisions are made by governing bodies outside the field. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers all govern themselves. Their panels and boards of directors are made up of other doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Not teachers, though. Politicians make the decisions when it comes to education in K-12 schools. So do researchers, think tanks, and lobbyists. Does it matter that most of these people have little to no experience teaching in a K-12 classroom? No, because they have the data and the power.   

When it came to teachers’ unions, I wrote: Teachers unions, like everything, have pros and cons.  The pros are that they protect the rights of workers and ensure teachers don’t get exploited or taken advantage of by school administrators or politicians (which was the case many years ago).  Another positive is that they serve as a teacher’s voice—something that isn’t given much value in American society.  On the other hand, in an effort to protect rights and maintain solidarity, unions do in some cases allow bad teachers to keep their jobs.  Also, they are too heavily rooted in politics.  Teachers need unions that police themselves and are more balanced politically.

When the show began (you can watch the show below), Glenn listed our concerns and frustrations with education.  Some of them were:

  • eliminate teachers’ tenure
  • teachers unions equal political machines
  • frustration with the NEA
  • huge retirement packages
  • teachers pensions are a problem

I must admit my gut reaction to this was anger; I felt like I’d been duped.  Which teacher in the audience, I wondered, wanted tenure eliminated?  Which teacher didn’t want the pension they’d been paying into their whole career?  Which teacher wanted no union representation? 

At this point I felt that Glenn and his producers had spun a few things, to put it lightly.  Our supposed “frustrations” sounded too scripted, too much like Glenn’s preset agenda.  In fact, by the end of the show, after 40 minutes of a town-hall style discussion, I felt like the whole thing was a bait-and-switch; I left the studio more frustrated than ever. 

That was my initial perception.  The funny thing about perceptions, however, is that they are not always accurate. 

After watching the show air Friday at 5:00 pm, (after a good night’s sleep to clear my head) my overall opinion changed.  Although Glenn did steer the conversation towards promoting school vouchers and reeling-in out-of-control unions, he did keep an open mind.  In fact, he both welcomed and respected the push-back he received from many teachers in the audience, myself included. 

In retrospect, I thought the show ended up being pretty well balanced.  Even Glenn himself admitted that he supported unions (and that his mother-in-law marched with Jesse Jackson).  It was the abuse of power and corruption, he noted, that he stood against, a point I must admit is valid. 

In the end, my experience on Glenn Beck was a positive one.  I was happy to have a discussion with such an influencial man, and to represent the concerns and issues of teachers from Philadelphia as well as the rest of America.             

Please click on the video below to watch the entire episode, commercial free (my father’s comment comes at 11:58 of the tape, and my two comments come at 13:15 and 25:58).

7 thoughts on “My Experience on the Glenn Beck Show

  1. Chris, I love what you wrote….it also gives me a good perspective on where you stand politically, which I have always wondered and now I know. What you point out also makes sense to me with regards to teachers and the abuse of power. However, while I do agree that there is much room for improvement on how we educate our students (i.e. the point that you bring up about the board being politicians instead of teachers is GREAT)….I totally disagree with the idea of education becoming a private institution only as many who could not normally go to school will now never be able to go…equal opportunity will be no more. What I struggle with even more is the idea of the top 2% in the country getting big tax breaks while the middle class gets their salaries/benefits cut…how is this justified? This will create a great divide in our country and results have proven that these tax cuts for the rich do not stimulate our economy. As an example, my neighbor is in that top 2% and when she gets extra money, she travels overseas….how does that stimulate our economy? Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hey Bonnie,

      Thanks for the compliments. I actually agree with you about privatizing education–I don’t necessarily agree with school vouchers or charter schools. There should be SOME school choice to promote healthy competition, but we can’t forget about our traditional public schools and by extension–our neighborhoods. Conservatives have basically given up on urban education. It’s been dominated by liberal democrats for so long–mayors, superintendents, advocacy groups, school boards, parents, students, etc. So republicans have just thrown in the towel and decided to try to resegregate things by building new schools and leaving the challenges facing big urban cities behind. This actually frustrates me. We can’t turn our backs on traditional public schools OR the nieghbors where they exist. But at the same time, progressives must be willing to open their minds and look for solutions outside their own political box; corruption exists here as well. As for the issue of taxes, it is a bit more complicated than you make it out to be. The U.S. has the HIGHEST CORPORATE TAX RATE IN THE WORLD–which is 35 percent. Instead of me trying to explain the complexities of this issue, you should watch the 60 minutes segment called “The New Tax Havens.” It is very informative, and gives a well-informed and balanced commentary on your favorite issue–tax breaks for the rich. Here is a link to the episode; you HAVE to check it out:;housing
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Say hi to Brian and Ben for me!



  2. I agree with a lot of the discussion, and I’m not exactly a Glenn Beck fan. When I first started going to American high school, I was frightened by the lack of discipline amongst the students, the lack of solid focus on learning science, languages etc.
    However, I gotta say that my best learning experiences happened while I was living in Holland, a liberal country, and going to schools which were run from a completely secular/naturalistic perspective. So my one peeve is I wish the discussion had left God and the Bible out of it. It has nothing to do with students’ ability to learn and does not make it better or worse–it’s irrelevant to the subject.

  3. The camera suits you, Chris. I don’t think that this forum provided the vehicle necessary for teachers to discuss at any meaningful length the problems we face or our recommendations for what needs to be changed to bring about better results. Teachers were basically there to provide sound bites for Beck and then he steered the show in the direction he wanted. Anyone with their own show would have done it the same exact way, and likely with less balance, so I have no problem with it, but I found this to be no more than a dog and pony show (which is better than not addressing the issue at all, which is what most of TV is doing). I respect Beck for the most part, and agree with him on a fair amount of things. I have heard from a colleague who watches Jon Stewart, not Beck, that Stewart showed Beck making the comment that “if your priest preaches social justice, he is a communist.” He told me this to see what my take on it was. Clearly, without seeing the actual broadcast, and only hearing a quote, possibly out of context, I could not form an opinion, but I do believe that their is a place for social justice, so I suppose, based on this one soundbite I disagree with him. I think that a lot of people are only exposed to Beck through Jon Stewart or Keith Olberman (who I loathe). Anyway, hopefully this will shed more light on the many “hats” teachers wear and the lack of input we are permitted to give in the bureacratic process that is education. I had hoped that someone would have mentioned all the years that teachers signed multi-year contracts, then the economy booms but the teachers are still locked into cost of living adjustment raises while private sector makes record bonuses. Would Corbett or any of the “teacher haters” out there think that possibly under those circumstances we should get raises above what was negotiated in our contracts, if they feel we should take pay freezes now? Somehow I doubt it.

    • Brian,

      Thanks for the compliments and support. I agree with you that the show was limted in what could be discussed. There was clearly a theme running through it all, and the teachers in the audience had to try to adapt their comments around these themes. But overall I think Beck was pretty fair and open-minded. The comment Jon Stewart said Beck made about social justice may indeed have been taken out of context. The thing about “social justice” is that, depending on your race, class, politics, etc., it can be defined in any number of ways. What is “social justice,” exactly? It depends on who you ask. Social justice in the context of the Church might mean simply treating our fellow man with dignity and respect, and doing missionary work to help the poor and stop things like suffering and world hunger. But social justice can be other things, too. It can be tied into affirmative action, revolution against capitalism, and the redistribution of wealth through more and more government control; social justice can also be very anti-white, anti-Christian, and anti-establishment. So the term is very vague to begin with. I think Beck simply wants a free market that is principle-centered and not too regulated by a government with socialist tendencies. Thanks again for taking the time to post here on the blog.


  4. Chris,
    Because I respect your writing, I did something I thought I never would: watch most of a Glenn Beck show. Were you really surprised that he would promote the republican agenda of unions are bad, get rid of tenure (known to us as due process), and pensions are bankrupting the system? That he would beat the “bring God back to schools” drum?
    Yes, the democratic leaders in this city support Ackerman at every turn. Pretty frustrating. But the Republicans state- and nationwide have declared war on public education. They will not be happy until unions are busted and schools are privatized and available to the highest bidder. And they have the big-moneyed supporters to do it.
    This is exactly the time for us to make sure the union is stronger. Nobody else has our interests at heart. Or the children’s.

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