Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association (NEA)
The following article by Tim Walker appeared in NEA Today on September 12, 2017:
Whose Looking Out for Rural Schools?
As you would expect, there is much in this NEA article that, while though-provoking, is completely one-sided. After all, the NEA has an obvious bias and clear agenda when it comes to education in this country.
But it is one thing to present information in order to appeal to your base while quite another to make outright false statements.
Tim Walker is making an egregiously false statement (lie) when he writes:
“Private school vouchers are a uniformly unpopular idea … [underline and bold added]”
Now I realize that this falsehood (lie) is a small one given the length of the article. Someone might rightly ask: “So you had to pick one teeny tiny half-sentence out of a several page long article just to prove a point? You really are nitpicking aren’t you.”
Yes, I suppose I am nitpicking.
But it just struck me that the NEA would allow such a bold and unequivocally false statement, that vouchers are “uniformly unpopular,” appear in one of their articles.
Didn’t anyone over there do any fact checking?
Now, if Walker had at least provided some evidence to back up this statement, then I could accept it. But he doesn’t provide any evidence. He makes a misstatement (lies) and then moves on to another topic.
Probably because there isn’t any evidence.
SUPPORT FOR VOUCHERS
In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite.
In an article at Real Clear Education (May 26, 2017), “Trump Should Capitalize on Vouchers’ Newfound Popularity”, we read about the Education Next Poll:
“Now, according to a poll just released by Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, vouchers that use taxpayer funds for low-income students to attend private schools gathered support from 43% of the public, with only 31% opposed.”
That is an 12% increase in support since 2016.
And from the same website, how about the poll from the Harvard School of Public Health which showed:
“…54% of the public support vouchers, with only 41% opposed. That’s a jump upward of 9 percentage points…”
But don’t just trust that Real Clear Education got it right. The Mercury News also covered this increasing support for vouchers in an Associated Press story on August 15, 2017:
“At the same time, opposition to publicly funded vouchers that help parents pay private school tuition dropped from 44 percent last year to 37 percent; 45 percent of respondents currently favor the idea. When it comes to tax credit-funded scholarships for private schools, resistance fell from 29 percent to 24 percent, while support was at 54 percent now.”
And how would Walker and the NEA explain this event in Nevada from January 27, 2017?
“Hundreds Rally as School Choice Gains in Popularity”
SUPPORT FOR SCHOOL CHOICE A MYTH?
Let me finish my commentary by questioning another statement made by Walker. He states:
“That communities are profoundly dissatisfied with public schools is one of the myths used to champion policies that are wrapped in euphemisms such as “choice” and “competition” but have, where they have taken hold, often exacerbated the financial plight of rural schools.”
So here is a question for the NEA in general and Walker in particular:
If people love their public school so much why would choice and competition exacerbate “the financial plight of rural schools?”
That is a good question.
After all, if local public schools are so good, parents wouldn’t need to avail themselves of charter schools or vouchers.
Therefore, the local districts wouldn't be losing any money, right?
This post is a continuation of my last post which criticized the practice of mainstreaming.
As discussed there, mainstreaming is the legal requirement that schools put Special Education students into Regular Education classrooms.
My commentary continues below:
The Orwellian Politically Correct Position
One particular annoying article is completely Orwellian in its political correctness.
"Advantages & Disadvantages to Mainstreaming Special Education Children"
It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of mainstreaming for special needs children and non-disabled students.
If kids with disabilities are in Special Education classrooms, then what are kids “without disabilities” in?
Non-Special Education classrooms, I guess.
Doesn’t that sound silly to you? It sure does to me.
So let’s get it strait. Disabled students are taught in Special Education classrooms and the other students are taught in Regular Education classrooms.
Differentiation is the Answer?
And one final point.
No matter how much training you give teachers so that they can “differentiate” their lesson to reach students of all levels, the bottom line is that the overall level of discourse in a mainstreamed class is lower than in a class made up of only regular education students.
Teachers can’t win.
If they differentiate and separate the students of higher intelligence into the smart groups and give them more challenging work and put the Special Education students together and give them less challenging work then you are going to be accused of counteracting the reason that the children were mainstreamed in the first place.
If you mix your groups and put two intelligent regular education students along with two special education students, then how do you differentiate when they are all collaborating and working on a project together?
Finally, when you do mix the groups, the Special Education students just end up copying the regular education student’s work because they can’t keep up. The more intelligent students end up getting so frustrated waiting for the slower learners that they let them copy.
In case you have never heard of mainstreaming, this is when special education students are put in regular education classes.
The opposite of mainstreaming would be when special education students are put in their own classes rather than mixing them into regular education classes.
A more formal definition of (and further details about) mainstreaming can be found in the following articles”
“Least Restrictive Environment, Mainstreaming, and Inclusion”
"What does Mainstreaming Mean?"
"Least Restrictive Environment, Mainstreaming and Inclusion"
Regular Ed Students Don't Count
Of course, you can Google the pros and cons of mainstreaming and get all sorts of results. But what is interesting is that when using the search term “pros and cons of mainstreaming,” the top results lead to articles that assume you are only concerned about the academics and welfare of the special education student. They tend to ignore whether or not mainstreaming helps or hurts the regular education students.
Here are some examples to show what I mean:
In “Examining the Pros and Cons of Mainstreaming” the writer only weighs the pros and cons from the perspective of the special education student. She says special education students benefit socially, academically and behaviorally.
Nowhere do we get mention of whether mainstreaming is good for the regular education student.
The same perspective can be found in “Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming”
Regular Ed Students Sort of Count
One article, “Is Integrating Children with Special Needs in Mainstream Classrooms Beneficial?” does mention advantages for regular education students:
“More than 15 years of research has proven the benefits of inclusion for all involved in the process. All students grow when schools include special needs children in a mainstream environment.”
But check out why this article thinks that regular students benefit.
Nowhere does it say that the benefit is academic in nature.
I guess academics aren’t that important anymore.
National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 - October 15 and the NEA has provided K-12 lesson plan resources to help celebrate this fact.
I don’t have a major problem celebrating Hispanic Heritage month in September/October, Native American Heritage Month in November, Black History Month in January, etc.
But consider the following:
Given the inevitable demographic shifts which are occurring, will future politicians and educators assign a month to White Heritage?
In other words, will a future white minority be given the same respect that we now give to present minorities?
The NEA President says revoking DACA is "un-American" but it was an unconstitutional policy to begin with.
In an article by Tim Walker which appeared in NEA Today on September 5, 2017, NEA President Eskelsen Garcia complains that the decision to rescind Obama's policy on children of illegal immigrants is "un-American."
I ask: Is upholding the Constitution of the United States un-American?
Obama's policy (implemented in 2012) was of questionable constitutionality.
As Hans A. von Spakovsky writes (DACA Is Unconstitutional, as Obama Admited):
"Under our Constitution, Congress has plenary authority over immigration. The president only has the authority delegated to him by Congress – and Congress has never given the president the power to provide a pseudo-amnesty and government benefits to illegal aliens."
President Trump did the right thing. He left it to the Congress to do their proper job - lawmaking.
Mary Ellen Flannery's article from September 5, 2017 implies that Thomas Jefferson would be an ardent supporter of today's public school system (at least the title suggests this).
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While Jefferson did support a type of public education, it was on the VERY local level. He was completely against the type of education that we have today - state run and highly bureaucratic.
Jefferson was in favor of a decentralized school system, not one where the state dictates all the rules and the curriculum.
To quote from his Plan for Elementary Schools 1817, ME 17:417:
"It is surely better, then, to place each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct."
So what would Jefferson say to Betsy DeVos?
Here is what I think he would say:
"The Federal Government has no place in education. Close down that US Department of Education and let local communities make all of the decisions about their own children."
Most teachers I know complain that they are underpaid.
The media tends to support this notion:
Huffington Post - More Proof that American Teachers Are Underpaid And Deserve More Respect
Economic Policy Institute - New Jersey public school teachers are underpaid, not overpaid
Washington Post - Think teachers aren't paid enough? It's worse than you think
I don't buy this point of view for a second.
We work essentially 9 months a year.
We get 2 months off in summer, spring break, winter break, assorted holidays, 10 sick days and 2 personal days every year.
We get full health benefits.
We get a defined benefit pension.
We work from 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM and get time off for lunch and prep so basically we are active for maybe 6 hours a day.
It's a good gig if you can get it.
Traditional theories of intelligence acknowledge that there is actually a thing called intelligence.
Gardner’s theory, at least as taught to K-12 educators, invalidates the very concept of intelligence.
Let me explain.
I am a science teacher. In the classroom, I know who the intelligent students are. They are the ones who can conceptualize, process information efficiently, do well on tests, think critically, etc.
When I talk to other teachers, whether it be language arts, math or social studies, we all agree who the smart kids are.
We do acknowledge that some kids are better at math and some write better but we all know who the intelligent kids are.
But because Gardner posits so many “intelligences,” he is basically saying that everyone is intelligent.
But if everyone is intelligent, then no one is intelligent - as the saying goes.
This same approach to sports means everyone gets a participation trophy - after all, everyone contributes something to the team, right?
Students should be grouped by ability and intelligence.
Currently teachers are supposed to “differentiate” their lesson plans so that the motley assortment of students that make up a typical class can all be taught at each student’s proper level of understanding or ability.
In theory this is how differentiation “works.”
In reality, the lumping of students of every ability in one class brings down the level of teaching to the middle.
Students of higher intelligence and ability who must put up with moving at a slower pace to accommodate those who cannot think as quickly or as conceptually.
According to an Education Next poll, support for charter schools has declined to 39%.
But let's put this in context.
Does it mean that support for public schools in general have increased?
Here are the 2016 results from the PDK poll which revealed that only about 24% of people nationally think that public schools should receive a grade of A or B.
Q. How about the public schools in the nation as a whole? What grade would you give the public schools nationally — A, B, C, D, or Fail?
Nice try NEA.
Not that I think Charter Schools are great but public schools clearly have a long way to go as far as improvement is concerned.
How does the Bible saying go?
"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:5