Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association
We have absolutely no affiliation with the National Education Association and do not represent its views in any way, shape or form.
"The story behind the so-far successful crusade to end disproportionate student arrests and suspensions in one Florida school district.”
The American Prospect, 2013
'I'm sick to my stomach': 17 dead in Florida high school shooting; former student in custody
USA Today, 2018
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST
The National Education Association fully supports an end to the “school-to-prison pipeline” and an implementation of “restorative justice” discipline policies. In 2013, Broward County Public Schools instituted these NEA-endorsed “restorative justice” policies throughout the district. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the latest mass school shooting took place, is located in Broward County, Florida.
Is it possible that this school shooting was an unintended consequence of the implementation of “restorative justice” discipline policies? Had the school been following old-fashioned “zero tolerance” policy, could this incident have been avoided?
One thing is for sure: If the school shooter had ended up in the “school-to prison pipeline,” his criminal record would have precluded him from legally purchasing a firearm.
THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE
I am not a fan of the National Education Association’s support for ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. In fact, over the past couple of months I have written several critical articles about this very topic:
If you are not familiar with this “pipeline,” it is a belief that students who are exposed to “zero-tolerance” discipline policies get unfairly expelled from school and eventually end up in prison.
The NEA believes that “restorative justice” should replace “zero-tolerance” when it comes to disciplining students.
“Restorative justice” refers to discipline without a punitive component. When schools implement this type of program, the bad students are not punished in the traditional sense. Suspension and expulsion are frowned upon.
Instead, students are encouraged to:
BROWARD COUNTY ENDS “ZERO TOLERANCE” IN 2013
This morning, while listening to a podcast on the Financial Survival Network, I learned about a possible connection between the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the tragedy that took place in Parkland, Florida back in February.
It turns out that in 2013, Broward County implemented a program called PROMISE to deal with the “disproportionate student arrests and suspensions” that it was experiencing.
You can read about it here:
Reversing Broward County's School-to-Prison Pipeline
According to the article, up until 2013, Broward handled discipline the “old-fashioned” way:
“Like most large school districts in the United States, discipline policies in Broward reflected the idea that the best way to maintain an orderly classroom is to get rid of disruptive students, an approach known as zero tolerance.”
But starting in November of that year:
“Broward’s Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline was announced in early November. Instead of suspensions, students can now be referred to the PROMISE program, where they receive counseling for several days and then return to school.”
PROMISE sure sounds promising, doesn’t it?
BROWARD SCHOOLS IMPLEMENT “PROMISE”
What exactly is this PROMISE program?
“The PROMISE Program (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education) represents the most comprehensive thinking available to address socially unacceptable or illegal behavior, targeting both short and long term academic success, aligning best practice models and Restorative Justice principles, and developing pro-social and resiliency skills.”
In other words, don’t punish students – even if they engage in “unacceptable or illegal behavior.” A better solution is to mentor, support and educate them.
You can read the actual PROMISE document here:
CONCLUSION – A Lesson for the NEA
I started this blog post with a quote taken from a 2013 article praising the attempt by Broward County Public Schools to end the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“The story behind the so-far successful crusade to end disproportionate student arrests and suspensions in one Florida school district.”
“… so-far successful …”
Sadly, the tragedy that occurred in February signifies an end to that “success.”
In response to the Parkland shooting, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said:
“While our thoughts and prayers are with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, educators and their families, we know that we, as country, need to do more to end these senseless shootings.”
Unfortunately, Garcia’s take-away from this tragedy is to push for the restriction of gun rights.
She doesn't appear to be open to the other possible lesson which is suggested here.
To state it plainly:
Maybe she should consider ending the NEA's opposition to the "school-to-prison pipeline."
We wrote a post on our Anti-NJEA Blog last week about charter school “disparity” in New Jersey.
This was in response to a New Jersey blogger’s claim that charter schools do not enroll as many special needs, English Language Learners (ELL) and low socio-economic students as regular pubic schools.
His concern about this situation led him to wonder:
“Where then, has the state been during the last decade? Why aren't they demanding better from the entire sector?”
We showed that:
The New Jersey blogger also bemoans the fact that:
“New Jersey charter schools have transferred a lot of money away from the public district schools.”
He finds this state of affairs “highly problematic” because:
“… the state has not bothered to take a serious look at what this means for the overall fiscal health of NJ's public school system.”
He is suggesting that because charter schools have to set up their own “redundant systems of school administration,” taxes will have to increase to cover this inefficiency.
When a student enrolls at a charter school, the local public school no longer has to educate that student. So while they lose funding dollars, they also experience a gain - they no longer have to divert resources to teach that student.
You don't need to raise taxes. Instead, public schools should cut unnecessary resources out of their budgets because the student population is lower.
Will science teachers tell the truth on Earth Day (or will they just promote the NEA approved version)?
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST – Climate change is not “settled” science.
The NEA has provided a list of resources on its website to help science teachers celebrate Earth Day. Unfortunately, those resources assume that climate change is “settled” science. It presents “facts” which it wants students to “learn” rather than expecting them to use critical reasoning to understand the potentially important issues facing our planet.
Most likely teachers will simply have their students make a colored poster about pollution - on recycled paper of course ...
EARTH DAY ACCORDING TO THE NEA
Earth Day 2018 is fast approaching (its April 22 for the science-challenged out there).
If you are a science teacher like me, you kind of feel an obligation to do something to recognize it. If you don’t, at least one of your students will inevitably ask why you forgot to mention it.
My guess is that kids probably see some advertisement on their phones or on TV which reminds them that this great day is approaching and that they should celebrate it in some way. And, I have to admit, I sometimes feel a little guilty if I don’t do at least a little something to recognize it.
Its not hard to find resources on-line to help with lesson planning for Earth Day. In fact, the NEA has a whole bunch of links on its website - and they are even broken down by general grade level.
There are lesson plans dealing with pollution, endangered species, green energy, climate change, conservation – its all there …
Or is it?
When I clicked on most of those links, I was struck, not so much by the great variety of choices to pick from, but by what was missing. Everything that the NEA provided was from one particular point of view.
EARTH DAY – WHAT THE NEA MISSES
So you thought that Earth Day was a done deal?
You assumed that this day would be celebrated by all?
You never considered that there might be another point of view on the matter?
Before I start the criticism, please understand that I can certainly relate to the standard environmental call to arms which tells us to:
“Reduce, reuse and recycle.”
And as for green energy, who in their right mind would be opposed to burning less oil? In fact, I have solar panels on my rooftop because I seriously believe that this will be helpful.
No rational person actually likes pollution.
But the problem that some people have with Earth Day has nothing to do with these feel-good-easy-to-explain-in-a-sound-bite issues.
What is missing from the NEA’s long list of Earth Day resources can be broken down into two general categories:
Teachers who celebrate Earth Day without also discussing the above two points are not fulfilling their obligations to their students.
Worse, if they don’t acknowledge where the Earth Day founders went wrong and how current Earth Day supporters misunderstand the practice of science, they are not being intellectually honest with themselves.
Students deserve a balanced approach when it comes to “celebrating” earth day. They should be shown the evidence and encouraged to use their critical thinking skills to come to their own conclusions.
Unfortunately (and sadly), most teachers won’t present both points of view. Instead, they will force feed the standard viewpoint to their captive audiences. This is especially true if they only rely on the NEA’s lesson plans.
So if you are considering actually using the NEA lesson plans, please consider what I have to say in the rest of this blog post.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN VS ENVIRONMENTALISM
Before I provide some details about the two points that the NEA has neglected to consider, let me make a distinction here between people who are concerned about the environment and people who are environmentalists.
While the original Earth Day might have been initiated for some legitimate reasons, there is more about its birth than meets the eye at first glance.
First of all, the founders were not just your typical environmentalists - they were quite radical. While you may not agree completely with Michael Berliner’s statement about environmentalism quoted below, the argument he makes in his article called The Scourge of Earth Day is worth thinking about:
"The expressed goal of environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. “
From the same article, biologist David Graber has this to say about the perspective of the environmentalists:
"Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet…. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."
Finally, also from the article referenced above, the writer Michael Crichton describes environmentalism as
“one of the most powerful religions in the Western World … facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them."
Clearly environmentalists are not your run of the mill lovers of the cute Polar Bears.
They have ulterior motives …
HISTORY LESSON – Radical (and wrong) Predictions from the First Earth Day Celebration
The NEA doesn’t provide much historical context on the founding of Earth Day. The one link they do provide is to Earthday.org.
But this barely touches on that first celebration in 1970. Here is all they really had to say:
“Close to 48 years ago, on 22 April 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development … smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.”
This sounds pretty reasonable, but how about the rest of the story?
The NEA certainly doesn’t mention anything about the many silly predictions that were made during that first celebration in 1970 – predictions that were so far removed from reality that they didn’t come close to coming true.
There is a great web page called 13 Worst Predictions Made on Earth Day, 1970 which lists (for the entertainment of its readers) the most outrageous (and wrong) predictions made by people associated with the environmental movement five decades ago.
Here are just a few to give you a taste:
End of Civilization: "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." — Harvard biologist George Wald
Starvation #1: "Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions."— Paul Ehrlich
Starvation #2: "It is already too late to avoid mass starvation," — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day
Gas Masks for All: "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half." — Life magazine
Global Cooling on the Way: "The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." — Kenneth Watt
The last one is my favorite. The original belief was that Global Cooling was the problem. When this didn’t pan out, the environmentalists turned to Global Warming and then just Climate Change.
THE NATURE OF SCIENCE – There is no such thing as “settled” science.
Most students think that science provides them with facts that they need to learn and/or memorize.
In a Psychology Today article, Common misconceptions about science I: “Scientific proof” we discover that this simply is not the case:
“… all scientific knowledge is tentative and provisional, and nothing is final. There is no such thing as final proven knowledge in science.”
So even if a teacher wants to assume that, for example, man-made climate change is real, he is required to let students know that:
“The currently accepted theory of a phenomenon is simply the best explanation for it among all available alternatives. Its status as the accepted theory is contingent on what other theories are available and might suddenly change tomorrow if there appears a better theory or new evidence that might challenge the accepted theory.”
But are teachers doing this?
Does the NEA provide resources to make sure that teachers are letting their students know this?
To the question at hand, when it comes to the environment, are teachers letting students know that man-made Climate Change is an open question and not “settled” science?
THE NATURE OF SCIENCE – It’s not about a search for ultimate “truth”
Every grade-schooler knows that scientists follow a special method. They test possibilities, gather evidence and then arrive at logical conclusion which can be shared with others in their profession.
But is it really that simple?
Leaving aside the ideological predilections of scientists and how these tendencies can lead them off the path of objectivity (i.e. progressive leaning scientists arrive at conclusions that support progressive points of view and vice versa), are they really immune from bias?
Actually it has nothing to do with objectivity in the normal sense at all. Its about paradigms.
According to Thomas Kuhn, scientists don’t necessarily realize that they are operating within an understanding of the nature of the world that shapes the conclusions that they eventually arrive at. In his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he calls these frameworks of understanding paradigms.
A great example of this (familiar to most people) would be the difference between Ptolemy’s paradigm of the solar system (earth centered) vs. Galileo’s (sun centered).
Both of these men were obviously living in the same world, but they interpreted what they experienced differently because they understood the world through different paradigms.
In other words, they came to different conclusions (“facts”) because they operated under different paradigms.
The Guardian website has a great summary of what this all means.
Contrary to the way most people see it, scientists are not actually engaged …
“… in a long march … towards greater and greater understanding of the natural world.”
Let that one sink in for a bit.
This means that, despite what your teacher probably told you, science is not necessarily marching toward truth.
There is no “steady, cumulative ‘progress.” In science. Instead there are ...
"... discontinuities – a set of alternating ‘normal’ and ‘revolutionary’ phases in which communities of specialists in particular fields are plunged into periods of turmoil, uncertainty and angst.”
THOSE CRAZY EARTH DAY PREDICTIONS – The Smithsonian Magazine weighs in.
If you are concerned that I have only referenced websites biased towards a conservative point of view when it comes to Earth Day, consider that even the Smithsonian Magazine acknowledges what I have stated.
Consider these two quotes from a recent Earth Day article:
“Half a century ago, scientists and activists predicted utter doom for the planet. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s nothing to cheer about …”
“Environmental scientists led the movement, predicting chilling futures—that overpopulation would cause worldwide famine; pollution would blanket cities and kill thousands; a mass extinction was upon us; oil and mineral reserves were about to run out. Nearly all of these predictions foresaw doom by the year 2000—which we’re now far past. While environmental concerns still reign, the extreme conditions predicted 46 years ago have, for the most part, not yet materialized.”
So I wonder how many science teachers will bother to talk about any of that. I wonder if they will expand their Earth Day discussions beyond the typical mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle.
My guess is not many will – and this is unfortunate.
Actually, maybe the better question to ask is how many are even aware of the issues that I have raised in this post about the true nature of science.
And even if they are aware, would it be possible that personal political considerations have blinded them to the real truth?
CONCLUSION - It’s so much easier to just let the kids make a colored poster
Teaching children about the true nature of science and Earth Day is difficult. It is much easier to just have the kids make a colorful poster about getting more people to recycle.
So we can probably look forward to some nicely colored pollution posters – on recycled cardboard, of course.
But while environmentalists, teachers and students are celebrating Earth Day this April 22, they may also want to reflect on the real truths revealed in this blog post:
And consider this: The predictions made by those early environmentalists on the first Earth Day in 1970 may very well be just as crazy as the claims of the modern climate change crowd in 2018.
"While tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity more than six months after Hurricane Maria and much of the island struggles to resume normalcy, voucher and charter school supporters are swooping in and taking advantage of the crisis …”
NEA Education Votes
“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you could never do before.”
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago
NEA TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA CRISIS
While we can understand the NEA’s outrage about charter schools taking advantage of the situation in Puerto Rico, its reaction is somewhat hypocritical.
Recall how NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia recently used the crisis in Parkland, Florida to further her union’s support for an anti-gun agenda.
We wrote about this several times back in February and March:
Mostly False: The verdict is in on NEA President Garcia’s recent anti-gun comments
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia: Knave or Fool?
“Brave Students?” – An honest analysis of the March 14th Anti-Gun School Walk-Outs
NJEA TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA CRISIS
Closer to home, the New Jersey Education Association did the exact same thing. NJEA President Marie Blistan used that crisis in Florida to further her union’s support for an anti-gun agenda.
We wrote about this back in February but it makes sense to bring it up again here.
NJEA President Blistan Channels Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel After Tragic Florida School Shooting
Here is a direct quote from our blog post:
“A little more than two hours after the Florida school shooter was taken into custody yesterday afternoon, President Marie Blistan posted a statement to the NJEA website:”
You can read the entire statement by Blistan at the link included below:
“NJEA: Latest school shooting demands action.”
CONCLUSION: Maybe the alternative schools are helping.
No one is happy about the disaster in Puerto Rico and the fact that the crisis there is still being felt by many of its citizens.
But for the NEA to complain that supporters of charter schools and vouchers are taking advantage of the situation is pure hypocrisy.
Not only that, did our union ever consider that the move by these alternate schools was possibly helping to alleviate the crisis somewhat? If standard public schools can't get up and running quickly enough, at least some schools can get back to educating the children.
So here are our parting words for the NEA:
Pot, meet kettle …
“Honestly, I’ve had more students this year hospitalized for anxiety, depression, and other mental-health issues than ever.”
Kathy Reamy, Chairwoman of the NEA School Counselor Caucus
THESIS OF BLOG POST – Homeschooling should be considered
As a public school teacher, I certainly wouldn’t benefit by recommending home schooling as an answer to the problem of student anxiety. If too many kids are home-schooled, I would be out of a job.
But if I am going to be intellectually honest, then I have to consider it as a possible solution.
That implies there is a problem, correct?
Well, the NEA thinks there is. It published an article at NEA Today on March 28, 2018 which addressed this issue:
“The Epidemic of Anxiety Among Today’s Students”
If anxiety really is an “epidemic,” if it’s really that serious, then shouldn’t we consider every possible option for resolving this issue?
The NEA may not want to face it, but homeschooling might just be the best choice.
Unfortunately, as Upton Sinclair discovered a long time ago:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Think about that one for a bit…
WHY THE KIDS ARE SO FULL OF ANXIETY
“Today’s teens and young adults are the most anxious ever, according to mental health surveys.”
Taking this assertion at face value, the next step is to identify the factors which are causing this situation.
According to the NEA article, there are five:
These five are listed right near the start of the article. But when you read further, you realize that there are actually only two categories of problems – not five. In fact, the gun issue never resurfaces. No evidence is ever provided to support it.
Bridgeport, Connecticut school psychologist Rob Benner breaks it down this way:
“I see two major issues. One is testing anxiety, and the other is anxiety over social media.”
SUMMARY OF MY ANALYSIS
So here is my outline::
Even though Mr. Benner doesn’t mention guns, I feel that it should be addressed because the article brings it up.
ANXIETY FACTOR #1 - Guns
Kathy Reamy, Chairwoman of the NEA School Counselor Caucus makes the claim that:
“kids can’t even feel safe in their schools—they worry genuinely about getting shot”
This last factor is never really elaborated upon in the article.
My guess is that it is mentioned in passing simply because the topic has been in the news recently.
Personally, not one of my students has ever mentioned this fear. It has never come up in my advisory sessions with students or in private conversations between classes or after school. When I asked my school guidance councelors if any student had ever mentioned fear of getting shot, all three said no student had ever mentioned this.
The fact that this claim is made without evidence to support it makes me believe that Ms. Reamy is simply revealing her bias. She is taking a cheap shot at the NRA because she knows that the NEA and many teachers are anti-gun. I can picture them all nodding their heads in approval at this comment.
ANXIETY FACTOR #2 - Tests
How important is the anxiety over tests?
Let’s consult Mr. Reamy again here:
“By high school, high-achieving students face overwhelming pressure to succeed. They have start taking the SATs in eighth grade. It’s so hard for the kids who are already maybe perfectionists, and they’re getting the first B in their lives and they’re fearful it’s going to prevent them going to college, any college, never mind their dream college.”
Can you empathize with these students – can you feel their pain? They have to deal with the pressure of wanting to be successful.
Terrible, isn’t it?
Maybe we should teach them that they don’t have to be successful. Wouldn’t that relieve the pressure and thus lesson anxiety?
ANXIETY FACTOR #3 – Social Media
How important is the anxiety over social media?
According to Ms. Reamy:
“Students are incredibly mean to each other on social media. They say things to a screen that they would never say face to face, things like ‘you should kill yourself.’ And many studies have found that increased social media use actually makes people feel more socially isolated. It also disrupts sleep, which is related to mental health.”
Ms. Reamy goes on to describe the specific situation with one of her students:
“I have one student who is completely addicted to social media and her phone. It was honestly preventing her from doing what she needed to do at school. So, now she leaves her phone in my office. She still comes between classes to check some things, and she’s got it for a solid hour at lunchtime. For her, it’s like an appendage, like her right arm!”
Reamy lets the kid leave the phone in her office to check in on it every so often?
Isn’t the word for that “enabling?”
Should this counselor really be enabling students in this fashion?
Not to belittle the fact that bullying does, indeed, go on through social media, but how about recommending that the student just leave that phone at home?
NEA ANXIETY SOLUTION #1 – Stress balls and such
So how does this NEA article suggest that we lessen anxiety?
Reamy suggests the following:
NEA ANXIETY SOLUTION #2 – More money.
As mental health issues get worse each year, Ms. Reamy is overwhelmed. While she has enough on her plate (“more than 325 students in her charge and acres of paperwork to complete each week”), the situation is even worse for others (“the national average is 491 students per counselor”).
Here is the suggested solution:
“School psychologists and counselors need more time to spend with one-on-one with students, but that’s difficult to find in these days of austerity.”
Here is my translation of this last statement.
“Trump and DeVos are mean people who are withholding money from school districts.”
HOMESCHOOLING TO THE RESCUE?
Homeschooling gets a bad rap in traditional educational circles. You can read an article here which summaries them pretty well.
But U.S. News and World Report suggests that, not only are home-schooled children well socialized, they are also more than prepared for college.
Home-Schooled Teens Ripe for College
Here are the highlights:
Seems to me that a well socialized and well prepared home-schooled child will be less prone to anxiety than a child who is constantly worried about:
CONCLUSION - Take Ms. Reamy's comment literally
“Despite the fact I go to high school every day, I often say, ‘I would not want to go back to high school. People don’t understand how hard it is to be a kid today.”
Maybe we should take Ms. Reamy at her word – literally.
Let’s tell the kids NOT to go back to high school – stay at home and learn.
Home schooling may very well prove to be the best way to solve not only the anxiety problem at school, but so much more.