jasonbwatson

November 4, 2013

Loud and Clear

Though I took a hiatus for a few posts from talking about education, I still have more to say about the subject, so I turn again to that.

One unfortunate reality of public education is the overwhelming influence of the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA describes itself as “the nation’s largest professional employee organization” and its purpose as “advancing the cause of public education.” That troubles me, and it should trouble you. Why? Because the NEA’s focus seems to be on almost everything but student learning. That is not to suggest that the NEA never addresses learning, but it certainly does not seem to take the focus.

Last July the NEA held its annual convention in Atlanta. At that convention the NEA adopted this resolution, listed as New Business Item 30: “NEA will encourage all states and NEA Affiliates to use existing means of communication to promote developmentally appropriate instructional resources in order to help all educators integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history, people, and issues into their instruction such as, but not limited to ‘Unheard Voices’ an oral history and curriculum project for middle and high school students created in collaboration by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Story Corps.”

There were ninety-three new business items on the convention’s agenda, all of which can be seen on the NEA web site. Here are a few examples of those items that were adopted…

* The NEA shall encourage the Obama administration to ensure all legally married people have equal access to federal benefits regardless of their state of residence.
* Using existing resources and publictions, the NEA shall educate its members about the problem of homelessness among U.S. military veterans and publicize the work that organizations including “Soldier ON” are doing to combat it.
* A lengthy resolution on what the NEA could do to end the cholera epidemic in Haiti.
* NEA will gather stories of members who have been victims of age discrimination and other workplace harassment, share them using existing communication vehicles, and provide members with a toolkit they can use in this situation.
* NEA will support efforts to fully restore and extend to all states the effective protections of the Voting Rights Act, to fight state legislation that assaults voting rights, to support state legislation that expands voting access, to mobilize our members, to partner with other organizations to maximize civic participation, and fight voter suppression.
* NEA will use existing resources, assist state affiliates in urging policy makers on the district and state level to push for legislation similar to California’s FAIR Education Act (Senate Bill 48) that requires schools to integrate factual information about social movements, current events, and history of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities into existing social studies lessons along with all historically underrepresented groups.
* NEA will write an article through existing digital communication to elevate awareness around the need for state laws to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
* The NEA RA commend Texas State Senator Wendy Davis for her courageous filibuster to protect women’s rights and her continued ongoing advocacy on behalf of students and staff who serve in great public education.
* NEA stands in solidarity with striking Bay Area Rapid Transit Workers. NEA supports Service Employees International Union 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 now on strike against Bay Area Rapid Transit Management and will send a letter of support to them acknowledging the just demands of striking workers….
* The process for NEA’s approval of sponsors of major giveaways and corporate partners of the NEA shall include a preference for companies who have an active union presence among their workforce unless labor unions are not actively organized in an industry.

Not much in there about actual teaching and learning, is there? Now, there were a few things in the new business items addressing teaching and learning, but most of them were about high stakes testing, Common Core State Standards, and support for making physical education a mandatory subject nationwide.

By the way, what did Wendy Davis do in Texas? She filibustered for thirteen hours, attempting to derail a law that imposes some of the toughest regulations in the country on abortion clinics. A proposal submitted to the NEA convention to “prohibit the use of dues money to support abortions,” by the way, was squashed, after attendees booed that pro-life educators introducing the proposal. The NEA kept in place, though, its support for “school-based family planning clinics.”

I am incredibly tempted to comment further on the NEA, the influence it has on public education, and the warning sign that should be for any parent truly concerned about their children are taught at school, but I think I am going to take the less-is-more route here; I think the NEA has pretty well spoken for itself…loud and clear.

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