Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association (NEA)
The NEA Supports a “Kinder & Gentler” Solution to Ending Sexual Assault in the Classroom: “Restorative Justice”
DEFINING THE ISSUE
I spent the last couple of days reading articles on the NEA website related to three education topics:
1. The School-to-Prison Pipeline
2. Sexual Assault/Harassment in the Classroom
3. Restorative Justice
While each can certainly be studied in isolation, my contention is that there may be a unifying theme that binds them together.
Here is how I would express it in the form of a question:
Does the desire of the NEA to shut down the School-to-Prison-Pipeline by implementing Restorative Justice in schools play a role in the recent rise of Sexual Assault/Harassment in the Classroom?
I AM NOT SUGGESTING CAUSALITY
Before I begin my detailed analysis, I want to make one thing very clear. When I “connect the dots” in this posting, I am not claiming a 100% causal relationship. I am simply noting a possible connection that I wanted to share because I found it interesting.
You may read the same articles that I did, sift through the same evidence and come to a totally different conclusion. You may decide that there is really no connection at all.
But I didn’t create the Anti-NEA blog in order to provide readers with a typical perspective on the NEA and its policies. If you want that, just stick with reading the union’s own website.
I should add that you can also get a moderate-to-liberal view on education policy by visiting dozens of other websites on the internet.
Let's face it. There are many places you can go on the Web to read material which supports the NEA’s view of education.
The Anti-NEA Blog, however, exists to challenge NEA members and other interested readers to look at things differently.
So if you are interested in a very different perspective, you are in for a treat with this blog post because it certainly fulfills that goal.
The Bottom Line: The more that I read about the three education topics mentioned above, the more strongly I felt that they were connected in a nefarious way. I started connecting the dots … and a dawning realization came over me.
THE FIRST DOT: Sexual Assault/Harassment in the Classroom
I was inspired to write this post after reading Cindy Long’s latest article “The Secret of Sexual Assault in Schools” which appeared on the NEA Today website on December 4, 2017
Ms. Long noted that …
“… student-on-student sexual assault and harassment happens with alarming frequency in school bathrooms, on school playgrounds, and in the backs of school buses. It’s happening at every level of education from preK to college.”
More disturbing was the specific case of Esther Warkov’s daughter who was raped by a fellow classmate:
“It happened to Esther Warkov’s daughter, a student in Seattle public schools. In 2012, she was raped by a high school classmate--a boy who had previously been disciplined for sexual misconduct when he was in middle school—on a multi-day school field trip.” [underline and bold added.]
My reaction when I first read this article was typical of most I am sure. I was upset that this was happening in our public schools – especially that it was being kept a secret.
I was glad that the NEA was making this “secret” known to its members. After all, getting the information out in the open would mean that something could be done to stop it.
But as I read further into the article, my perspective changed.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that something else might be going on here.
THE SECOND DOT: The School-to-Prison Pipeline
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a topic that I have discussed before.
Back in October, I shared my perspective in “The School to Prison Pipeline: Just Punishment for Disruptive Students or Unfair Attack on People of Color?”
In that post I complained that the NEA’s concern for ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline led to a bias in favor of the disruptive (bad) students at the expense of the regular (good) students. Concerned that disruptive students were being too harshly punished (suspended/expelled), the NEA recommended a more moderate approach to discipline. I criticized that approach as detrimental to the good kids whose education was being negatively affected by the disruption of students who didn’t belong in the classroom.
[NOTE: I have included an appendix to this blog post which provides extensive detail about the NEA’s support for ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline.]
With this still fresh in my mind, I read the following line from Long’s article. I quoted this earlier but it has specific relevance now. Pay particular attention to the underlined part:
“It happened to Esther Warkov’s daughter, a student in Seattle public schools. In 2012, she was raped by a high school classmate--a boy who had previously been disciplined for sexual misconduct when he was in middle school—on a multi-day school field trip.” [underline and bold added.]
I couldn’t help but think that Esther Warkov’s daughter might have been a victim of the NEA’s support for dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Was this boy treated with kid gloves out of fear that, if the punishment was too harsh, he might be put on the dreaded School-to-Prison Pipeline?
I don’t know the answer to this question and I don’t have any way of confirming this possibility. Nonetheless, the possible connection was established in my mind.
THE THIRD DOT: Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice refers to discipline without a punitive component.
When schools implement Restorative Justice Programs, the bad students are not punished in the traditional sense. Suspension and expulsion are frowned upon. Instead, students are encouraged
“… to come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing …”
Also, they are challenged …
“… to develop empathy for one another through talking circles led by facilitators…”
At least that is how the New York Times describes Restorative Justice.
NEA Today explains it in a similar fashion in its October 19, 2017 article “5 Ways to Support Restorative Justice”:
“School districts, including those in San Francisco, Houston and Denver, have replaced punitive disciplinary practices with restorative justice.”
Finally, an article by Ryan Wheeler (October 11, 2017) entitled “Suspensions Don’t Teach” explains it this way:
“Restorative practices—an alternative to punitive justice—keep kids in school, where they can learn how their behavior affects others.”
THE DOTS ARE CONNECTED – DIRECT EVIDENCE FROM THE NEA WEBSITE
At the start of this post I asked a question. Having connected the dots I now want to rephrase this same question as a statement:
"The NEA's desire to shut down the School-to-Prison-Pipeline by implementing Restorative Justice in schools has probably played some role in the recent rise of Sexual Assault/Harassment in the Classroom."
But if you are still not convinced that I properly “connected the dots," you might want to check out the NEA’s Education Votes website. There you will find an article called “Oakland girls shine spotlight on sexual harassment and school board revamps its policy.”
In this article, Emma Mayerson talks about how to solve the sexual harassment problem in schools:
“Our overall goal is to help educators and their allies create a school climate in which all students feel safe--and to keep all students out of the school-prison-pipeline through the use of restorative practices.” [underline and bold added]
So it appears that the NEA, by way of Emma Mayerson, has inadvertently supported my thesis.
This “Oakland girls” article:
1. deals with Sexual Harassment: check
2. wants to keep students out of the School-to-Prison-Pipeline: check
3. makes the connection to Restorative Practices (i.e. Restorative Justice): check
Again, while I haven’t proven causality here, clearly my point of view has a certain degree of merit if the National Education Association features an article essentially confirming my opening question.
At the very least, it is food for thought.
After all, do we really want school administrators handing out "Get Out of Jail Free Cards" to students who actually deserve to be put on the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
APPENDIX: The NEA Supports Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline
The NEA has VERY strong feelings about the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
I did a search on the NEA website using the key word “school to prison pipeline.”
The result returned was 10 pages of articles (at least 100 in all) dealing with this issue.
Below you will find links to a handful of the articles from my search. The titles pretty much convey all that you need to know about the NEA’s position, but you are free to click through and actually read the details.
Let’s Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline
The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down
Freeing Schools from the School to Prison Pipeline
NEA Policy Statement on Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline
Stemming the Flow of the School-to-Prison Pipeline
NEA Takes a Stand on the School-to-Prison Pipeline
In a previous blog post, I expressed my concern about the NEA’s ability to champion the cause of every downtrodden minority group in modern society, while somehow never finding time for the lowly, forgotten, “cognitively privileged” student.
I used the euphemism “cognitively privileged” on purpose – to make a point that education terminology in the modern world has gone politically correct.
As I explained in that past blog post, “cognitively privileged” refers to:
“… the smart kids, the intelligent kids, kids that can process information more quickly and efficiently than their peers. These are the students that any honest teacher who you talk to will be able to identify within the first two weeks of school (at the end of September at the latest).”
The National Education Association provides an excellent example of this political correctness. It simply refuses to use the word “intelligent” to describe students who are … well … let’s see … intelligent…
TO THE NEA, INTELLIGENCE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD?
To prove my assertion that the NEA doesn’t like the word intelligent, I went over to its website (nea.org) and used the search bar in the upper right corner of the page. I researched NEA articles related to students and intelligence. Below you will find all of the searches that I performed and the number of page results that were returned:
That’s right. Searching the entire NEA archives going back at least 10 years, only 2 articles can be found that refer to “intelligent students.”
SO WHAT DOES THE NEA USE INSTEAD OF INTELLIGENT?
It’s not as if the NEA denies the fact that some students are actually intelligent. They just don’t like the term. So how does the NEA solve the problem?
It uses euphemisms, of course.
How do I know this? Well, I went back to the nea.org search bar again and tried other possible replacement terms. I had a list handy already. Throughout my many years teaching in public school, I have heard my colleagues use a wide range of more politically correct euphemisms for intelligent students. I applied this list through the nea.org search engine and the result I obtained was quite interesting.
The results are ranked from least popular to most popular euphemism:
So the most popular NEA euphemisms (by far) for intelligence were:
WHY DOESN’T THE NEA LIKE THE WORD INTELLIGENCE?
The results of my research were fairly definitive. The NEA simply does not like to use the word intelligent and student in the same sentence.
Why is that? I honestly don’t know, but it could be that it thinks that IQ tests which measure intelligence don’t actually measure what they purport to measure. Or maybe it feels that IQ tests are culturally biased and so they are unfair. Finally, it is possible that it adheres to Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences which concludes that everyone has an intelligence of some type, so why bother calling any particular student intelligent.
WHERE THE NEA DOES ACCEPT THE USE OF THE WORD INTELLIGENT
What is interesting, however, is where the National Education Association DOES allow the use of the word intelligent.
Keep the following list for future educational situations. You can be sure of being politically correct if you follow these guidelines:
CONCLUSION: I THINK WE SHOULD HETEROGENEOUSLY MIX THE FOOTBALL TEAM
So what is it with the NEA and many educators not wanting to use the term intelligent? They don’t have a problem using the words bright, gifted, high ability, advanced, high achievers, smart and talented when talking about students. Why not just reintroduce the original term – intelligent.
What the heck is wrong with calling a student intelligent?
As a middle school teacher I am forced to teach heterogeneous classes and am then expected to “differentiate” within them to make sure that my motley assortment of students each gets the proper level of education. The very fact that I have to differentiate proves the point that some kids are more intelligent than others.
If we acknowledge this, then why continue the charade that splitting the class by intelligence and ability would be harmful?
And if any reader is going to refer me to all of the “research” which “proves” that mixing intelligent and not-so-intelligent students together is better for all, don't waste your time. I have read it already and don't find it compelling. The suggestion that heterogeneous grouping somehow helps the kids of lower intelligence AND also helps the kids of higher intelligence is preposterous. My personal experience as a student and my actual teaching experience suggests the exact opposite.
Teachers just need to be honest and admit the fact that we mix kids like this because we don’t want the individuals of lower intelligence to feel bad about being put together in a lower group.
It will hurt their self esteem.
I don’t care if this all sounds elitist and you are offended. The truth hurts sometimes.
Consider this. Do we hold back star athletes on sports teams? For example, do we let any and all join the football team and then when the big game comes use a heterogeneous mixture to see if we can defeat our rivals? Of course not – that would be roundly criticized as silly. We put all of the good football players together so we can win.
So why do we allow this heterogeneous silliness in the classroom?
All honest teachers know that some students are more intelligent and should be pushed further so that they can attain goals appropriate to their higher ability. So why not put them together so that the teacher can do this directly?
And as for those students at lower intelligence levels, put them together by ability also. I know that I could easily and effectively tailor my lessons to a group’s general ability level. I could push each group to attain the highest level of achievement.
By the way, next blog post I will tell you how I really feel …
Let me state at the outset that I don’t have a real strong opinion for or against charter schools. If they are held financially accountable, produce decent academic results and parents like them, then why not allow them?
I actually taught at an urban charter school for a couple of years before getting a position at a standard public school. One thing I can say for certain is that the parents loved the school because of the small classes, individual attention, uniforms and tighter discipline.
In any case, the point of this blog post is not to argue for or against charter schools.
So what is the point?
My goal is to make clear that the National Education Association used propaganda when it posted an article on its Education Votes website on November 28, 2017.
As a dues-paying member of the NEA, I don’t deserve this propaganda – I deserve the truth. But since my union didn’t provide the truth, I had to spend this past weekend ferreting it out for myself.
Don't worry, I still got my lesson plans done :)
The article in question was: “Charter school experiment has ‘failed,’ concludes national investigation”
The specific wording in the article was even more damning than the title would suggest. According to the NEA, charter schools have not just “failed,” their model of education is a “fiscal and education disaster [bold, italics and underline added].”
Strong words indeed.
BUT, BUT, BUT … THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION SAYS SO!
What backs up the NEA’s strong commentary on charter schools?
A report published by the Network for Public Education.
Let’s see if my “non-rocket science” background can analyze the situation that we have here.
An organization which is “for Public Education” funds a report that comes to the conclusion that the charter school experiment has “failed.”
Surely we can accept the report’s conclusions as legitimate …
There can’t be any bias …
ABOUT THAT NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION …
“The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society.”
Quote From the Network for Public Education Action
Let’s drill down a bit here. An advocacy group is “a group of people who work to support an issue or protect and defend a group of people.”
Well, I didn’t have to drill down too far because that about sums it up. According to Tax Exempt World, the Network for Public Education is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
This means that it is able to raise money tax-free in order to fight for public education. If the fight for public education involves trashing competitors (i.e. charter schools) in the meantime, then so be it I guess.
MEMBERS DESERVE BETTER INFORMATION
But maybe the report, Charters and Consequences: An Investigative Series by the Network for Public Education, is actually correct.
Maybe the NEA had every right to highlight this report and make its conclusions known far and wide.
Unfortunately, my research says otherwise.
Realistically, I shouldn’t have expected the NEA to be unbiased on the question of charter schools. It is common knowledge that it has mixed feelings about the legitimacy of these institutions. You can read the details of its viewpoint in the NEA Policy Statement on Charter Schools.
Still, this does not excuse the “hit” piece that they decided to publish.
As I indicated above, members deserve better.
THE NEA IGNORES “ALTERNATE” FACTS
A quick Google search provides a completely different perspective on charter schools. You can click on any of the links included below if you want details, but suffice it to say that the only fair conclusion is that the jury is still out.
One thing, however, is certain.
The NEA’s declaration that the “Charter School experiment has failed,” is way overblown.
The Unappreciated Success of Charter Schools, Adam Ozimek, January 11, 2015
Charter school experiment a success: Our view
This next link is from a charter school supporting web site so read it with a grain of salt. I include it because I consider it to be pretty much equivalent to the NEA’s piece. They both are biased in their own way. The point is simply that you need to consider the source of your information.
Facts About Charters
This is an interesting article. My thought here is that if they are taking the time to rank charter schools then this must mean that there is some success.
US News & World Report Charter Rankings
City’s thriving charter schools find success with closer attention to individual kids, high expectations of students (2014)
Study: Charter High Schools Have 7-11% Higher Graduation Rates Than Their Public School Peers (2014)
The facts are in: NYC’s charter schools are a smashing success, James D. Merriman, March 2016
Celebrate Charter School Success, Neil Campbell 10/5/17
Charter school’s success causes focus change, March 15, 2017
When I made the claim a while back that teachers are not underpaid (I never said overpaid by the way), I upset a lot of people. I now have to confess that I probably went too far in that blog post. I used my own personal experience from New Jersey and assumed it applied throughout the entire United States. I have somewhat softened my view since then. Clearly, some teachers have it better than others.
NOW TO THE ISSUE AT HAND
I started thinking about this issue again last week when I read a Tweet from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). I clicked on the link in the Tweet and was taken to a UFT website article called The fight for paid parental leave.
It turns out that the UFT launched a campaign to fight for paid parental leave some time ago and is asking for member support because the “… current parental leave policy forces members to choose between their own children and their profession.”
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I can totally understand the desire for paid parental leave. When my wife delivered our second child, she almost died because of a postpartum hemorrhage. In addition, our son had digestive problems which complicated his feeding regimen.
At this point, my wife had used all of her sick days and so we were relying on my salary only. Finances were seriously strained at this point. Because we relied on her teacher salary to make ends meet, we had to make some tough decisions both about her health and the welfare of our son when it came time for picking a day for her to return to work.
She eventually went back after 3 weeks and we put our son in daycare. Fortunately everything worked out OK for us. But I can still remember my point of view from those many years ago. Never once did I expect either of our school districts to pay for parental leave. I thought that the unpaid maternal leave which the districts granted was more than fair.
WHO SHOULD PAY?
I distinctly recall that at no point did I feel that the public (i.e. the taxpayers) owed me compensation for our private decision to have a baby delivered during the school year. Knowing that we would be living on one salary for a short time period, we saved up some money to get us through those lean times and we managed as well as possible. With twenty-twenty hindsight I also concede that we should have been more responsible - we should have planned the delivery for July. This would have given us a couple of months of breathing space before needing daycare.
Young parents (like we were) don’t always think these things through in the heat of the moment …
ABOUT THAT TAXPAYER
You probably already realize where I am going with all of this.
As a self-interested individual, of course I want as many perks in my job as I can get. My local union has been pretty good about getting us a decent 2% annual raise, keeping our 12 cumulative sick/personal days secure and making sure that the amount we contribute for health insurance stays in a reasonable range.
Beyond this, I don’t expect much else.
Do I want a whole lot more? Of course, who wouldn’t?
But I interact with individuals in the private sector all of the time and they keep me grounded. We need to remember that these are the people (the taxpayers) who fund our salary and benefits. They complain that their local and state taxes are high enough already. And given that the average cost per pupil in the United States is over $12,000 (according to the NEA in 2016), they balk at the idea of spending more on education.
Can you blame them for being “stingy” when the average cost of a private school is under $10,000 per year? And I will add that this lower figure is for the 2017-18 school year. The NEA’s public school figure was for 2016. This means that the current discrepancy is probably a lot larger.
And I won’t even go into the fact that U.S. students fare much more poorly against students in other parts of the world who pay way less per student. You can read all about this at Rossier Online
THE BOTTOM LINE – TAXPAYERS WILL VOTE WITH THEIR FEET
I wrote a blog piece last month which concluded that you can’t get blood from a stone.
No matter how you look at it, there isn’t enough money to pay for the set of benefits that teachers currently enjoy. Asking taxpayers to provide more benefits (no matter how much they are “needed”) will simply not work. The numbers don’t add up.
ASKING FOR MORE?
Unions like the NEA, UFT, AFT and all of the other state unions can, like the little Dutch boy, continue to hope that their efforts will stem the tide. But the sooner they wake up to reality the better for all.
Teachers need to be more content with the benefits that they currently have. Asking for more given the current state of federal /state government finances is destined to fail.
Worse, it may lead to a more restrictive backlash from the taxpayers.
Remember, the people who fund our salary (the taxpayers), also have bills to pay. At what point will they finally draw the line and say enough?
I’m not sure I want to get to that point.
Sometimes I think that the NEA is posting articles just to piss me off personally.
Am I being paranoid?
Just kidding, of course.
But this latest one, as my grandmother used to say, is a real "doozy."
One thing is for sure. Articles like the one posted by Brenda Alvarez at neaToday.org on November 20, 2017 highlight the exact reason why we started this blog.
MY ANTI-LIBERAL RANT
In case you missed it, the article was entitled:
White Privilege Permeates Education’: Q&A With Anti-Racist White Educator
What was Alvarez thinking when she accompanied her post with that picture, by the way?
Was she purposefully trying to annoy all of the non-liberal members of our union?
Well, she certainly annoyed me.
NEA ON LIBERAL STEROIDS
The article was an interview with Terry Jess (he is the guy wearing the shirt in the accompanying picture) who describes himself as “anti-racist white educator.”
Is anyone else besides me already annoyed at this guy? What kind of description is this anyway? His description of himself plus his tee shirt indicate to me that he is about as racist as it comes.
But it gets worse.
The NEA poses the following ludicrous question to Terry Jess:
“How do we get to a point where people can accept that everyone is racist because we live in a racialized society?”
First of all, everyone is racist?
Second of all, the term racialized comes up with a red line under it in my Microsoft Word program – seems that this is not a common term. So I had to look it up.
I checked Wikipedia for some illumination and I found it. But when I started reading I had to stop after the first line because it was almost impossible to comprehend.
Judge it for yourself:
“A racialized society is a society where socioeconomic inequality, residential segregation and low intermarriage rates are the norm, where humans’ definitions of personal identity and choices of intimate relationships reveal racial distinctiveness.”
In all seriousness, do you get what this is saying? I honestly can say that I don’t even understand what this means.
Incidentally, this is why sociology gets a bad rap. This definition was probably formulated by a college sociology major who couldn’t get a job after graduation and so spent maybe a couple of weeks thinking up interesting ways to put words together so that they sounded, sort of … kind of …
No, it is pure garbage, plain and simple.
BACK TO THE ANTI-RACIST WHITE EDUCATOR
But I was digressing quite a bit there - back to the NEA’s ludicrous question.
Terry Jess’s answer to this silly question is his view that that everyone is racist.
Yes, dear reader, that means you – and all your teacher colleagues - and your family ...
And of course Donald Trump ...
Here are Jess’s own words:
“We need to understand that racism is a spectrum of actions and beliefs. All of us fall on that spectrum at different points in our life.”
THE WORST PART – HOW IT AFFECT EDUCATORS
Sorry to report that there is some bad news here for all of us racist educators. Our grading policies must be adjusted to take into account the “racialization” of society.
Jess reminds us to ask these important questions before we enter our grades:
“How do you conduct your classroom and enforce late work and homework policies? Is your content supporting systems of white oppression and supremacy? Anti-racism is to engage in owning the privilege that you have, dismantling it when you see it, and where you’re exposed to it. “
I get a lot of flak on this website because my views are a bit radical. Maybe some would describe them as too conservative.
But when I read articles like this and realize that my dues money is going to support this garbage I get mad.
As I indicated earlier, this is why I started the Anti-NEA blog. If the NEA decides to continue printing commentary along these lines, I will have no choice but to ramp up my criticism.
In any case, I do appreciate the many people who have supported me both on Facebook and here on our blog.