POST-MORTEMS I: SHUTTING DOWN THE "PIGs"
Now that George W. Bush has managed to eke out another term, and conservatives have made important gains in Congress and the governors races-in no small part due to what are sneeringly referred to as "moral issues" by the left-perhaps it is time for our lawmakers and the President to focus on the root cause of some of those near misses in some states as well as among specific voting blocs, such as educators.
Washington Times reporter George Archibald had a piece published on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004, entitled "NEA spends more than $1 million to back Kerry".
While the fact itself may not have raised many eyebrows among those accustomed to the teacher union's political shenanigans, either in the classroom or on Capitol Hill, it highlights the fact that lawmakers need to start making a distinction between "professional associations" and "political intervention groups" if they ever hope to get illegitimate lobbying activities out of our elections and partisan political activism out of our schools.
Professional associations represent constituents in a voluntary relationship. Political intervention groups (PIGs, for short) masquerade as neutral representatives, then (like the NEA) coerce their unwilling members into an ulterior agenda, such as abortion rights and gay marriage. They sponsor marches, lobby, and even get students involved - sometimes as part of their "community service" requirements.
A truly professional educators' association would be working to reduce classroom teachers' paperwork and encourage administrators to expel delinquents who continually disrupt teachers' classes.
Unfortunately, the NEA is anything but a "professional association." I remember back when I was a college student in 1968, the NEA recruiters and their professorial proxies were all over the teacher training department at the end of the year trying to convince us young, prospective educators that they wouldn't be considered "true professionals" if they didn't join their "professional organization."
Well, you know, at 20 years of age, that advice was taken seriously. Many of us did join, imagining ourselves counterparts to the American Medical Association or the American Astronautical Society. Always the maverick, I took a wait-and-see approach, and was I ever glad I did!
Once I hit the classroom, as a newlywed in California's public schools, I was deluged with leaflets in my school mailbox supporting every nutty cause from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua to no-fail grading systems. The NEA even advocated eradicating dress codes in our classrooms. All these, of course, sent the wrong messages to kids, and in the end proved disastrous to the nation.
Youngsters grew up thinking political protesting was neat and that they'd be better off under a Marxist system. They came to school looking (and acting) like thugs, and becoming proficient at anything was the furthest thing from most of their minds.
During my first six years of teaching, the NEA launched its campaign to hoodwink teachers into joining its soon-to-be consolidated local, state, and national chapters, which previously had been separate and voluntary. The NEA leadership complained that it was unfair when teachers who did not join all three tiers benefited from salary gains made under collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the union for its members. Just how that related to joining at the national level I failed to see at the time, but I was told by older members that it was because school districts were hiring little snots like myself, right out of college, that the general level of salaries were lower.
Actually, the union leadership had a point. But it wasn't exactly the point they were making. What happened is that there was a movement afoot to get older, traditional, and experienced teachers to retire early so that schools would hire more "hip" and "with it" educators, who could supposedly "relate to children." And a large part of this goal was supported by the NEA, even though it used its considerable clout with older teachers to convince them that "young teachers are stealing your jobs."
What the union winded up doing in my district (Westminster, California) was to have one of the steadfast union members in each school take a voice poll of teachers on whether they would or would not support forced, consolidated membership. In my school, this procedure consisted of a unionized teacher taking a voice poll in the teachers' lounge at lunch time. Most of us didn't want to spend the money so we "voted" to keep membership separate and voluntary.
To my knowledge, the results were never posted, and nobody took it very seriously anyway. Then, lo and behold, a few months later the nationwide "results" came back overwhelmingly positive in favor of a consolidated, mandatory union. The only choice, at the district level, was whether teachers wanted the NEA or the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to represent them. Stunned, many of the traditionalists went to the late Al Shanker's AFT. But others felt strongly that the NEA would be more forceful in matters of salary negotiations and benefits.
I was na�ve, of course. The money didn't look so bad to me. I would have done worse accepting an entry level position in journalism or technical writing (which I eventually did do, becoming a science writer for a NASA contractor, at a vastly lower salary). But it bothered me more that the NEA wasn't advocating backup in the office for disciplinary problems, or lobbying against relaxed standards of behavior, which by that time included cursing, vandalizing desks, spitting on the floor and talking back to teachers. The union didn't condemn social promotion, or the excesses of drug-and-sex programs, or even the absence of clear-cut academic benchmarks for each grade level.
If our "professional organization" really had wanted to do something for us, I thought, salaries and benefits were the least of our worries. Union leaders denounced tests of all kinds, calling them "humiliating." They criticized workbooks and drills as "boring," and advocated chaotic "open classrooms." The NEA upheld the doctrine of "moral equivalency" between communist and Judeo-Christian values, and favored socialist economic policies over free-market principles.
Since that time, of course, the union has moved far to the left, vocally lobbying things like for Gay Pride week, homosexual "marriage," abortion rights, environmental extremism, and bans on religious expression. Since 1976, when the union gained clout thanks to Jimmy Carter's elevation of the Education Department to a separate, cabinet-level entity, the NEA's annual convention and Legislative Agenda has been filled with vitriol against conservatives and Republicans, while anything outlandish, liberal, and counterculture is zealously supported.
Competing teachers' organizations have come and gone. None was quite able to match the health- and life-insurance benefits, nor skillful enough to persuade the onslaught of less-well-educated teachers who came along after 1976 to leave the NEA out of principle.
Once the NEA launched its highly political Uniserve spin-off to head up a program of intimidation against unwanted candidates for school board and to infiltrate once-respected organizations like the Parent-Teachers Association, the jig was up. The NEA and its web of like-minded PIGs started training "assets" and "agents of change" to spike policies they didn't like and institute programs and politicians they did like. Candidates for public office, up to and including the presidency, didn't dare oppose them, for fear of reprisals, most of which are bogus, but effective, allegations and smear campaigns.
It's time to pull the plug on the PIGs' tax-exempt status, starting with that big NEA building on 16th street in Washington, DC. Personally, I'd like to see the NEA renamed the National Union of Teachers and Superintendents. Then their acronym would be NUTS, which more or less characterizes the whole bunch, but I digress.
Until our nation's leaders bite the bullet
and make a distinction between PIGs and professional associations,
and begin implementing some ground-rules for each, there is virtually
no chance of doing what really needs to be done to return our education
system to the business of transmitting the hard knowledge, public
virtue, and free-market economic values that once instilled a national
ethos of excellence, freedom, morality and independence-not to mention
sustaining at least a token conservative presence in Congress and
the White House for another four years.
� 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights
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Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking
since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning
of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive
Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com
Unfortunately, the NEA is anything but a "professional association." I remember back when I was a college student in 1968, the NEA recruiters and their professorial proxies were all over the teacher training department...