Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association
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"As educators, we have a moral responsibility to advance our vision of great public schools for all students.”
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
“This year’s campaign emphasizes that our nation’s public schools are here for each and every student —no matter the circumstance, everyone is welcome and all deserve the support, tools, and time to learn.”
NEA’s 96th Annual Education Week
“The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises, and is already on the road to perdition.”
Carl Jung, Founder of Analytic Psychology
THESIS OF THIS BLOG POST: The NEA’s vision of “great public schools” is actually a mirage.
For the past year or so I have read countless articles and tweets by NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia criticizing Education Secretary Betsey DeVos. Most of the criticism centers around the idea that DeVos doesn’t support “public” education.
But Garcia is not entirely telling the truth.
Look at the word that precedes “vision” in Garcia’s opening quote – the word is “our.”
“Our vision” refers to the NEA’s opinion about what “great public schools” are all about.
So when you hear that DeVos doesn’t support “public” education, this simply means that the education secretary doesn’t support the NEA’s version of education.
But who says that the NEA gets to define what “great public schools” are?
In point of fact, the NEA’s “vision” of education is a monolithic, monopoly, local school that tries to be everything for everyone.
Oftentimes the vision turns out to be a mirage.
BETSY DEVOS ACTUALLY DOES SUPPORT EDUCATION
Both Betsy DeVos and Lily Garcia believe that all children deserve an education – they just differ in their “vision” of what that education system should be.
Find that last sentence hard to believe?
Keep an open mind while you compare the following two quotes:
“Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.”
DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos
“… we continue to stand up for our shared values that every student, regardless of their zip code, deserves a great public education.”
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
So is the NEA really being honest when it claims that DeVos doesn’t support public education?
I don’t think so.
But I do acknowlege that there is an obvious difference between the two points of view.
While Garcia supports a monolithic, one-size-fits-all, monopoly public school system, DeVos sees an expanded role for charter schools and vouchers to complement the local school district.
In any case, once you realize that both are looking out for the proper education of our children, you should also agree that public education can be provided in many different forms.
Which leads to an important and interesting question:
Why should we all just blindly accept the NEA’s point of view about what makes education “great?”
INSPIRATION FOR THIS BLOG POST – A Recent NEA Today Article
Usually I don’t wait this far into a post in order to explain my inspiration for writing on a particular topic. I made an exception this time because I wanted to set up the basis for my point of view before I gave a concrete example to illustrate it.
I admit that this particular example is probably not the best to “prove” my point, but it still does a good job of showing how a one-size-fits-all NEA style school isn’t necessarily the best way to structure a public school system.
In any case, when I first read John Rosales most recent article on the NEA Today website, “Is Progress in Reducing School Suspensions in Jeopardy?” I just saw it as a typical “restorative justice” and “school-to-prison pipeline” piece.
There are countless NEA articles dealing with these topics. In fact, I have written about this numerous times before:
Scrolling through the articles on the main page of this website, I came upon a recent one which piqued my interest: “Suspensions Are Not Support – The Disciplining of Preschoolers with Disabilities.”
What the heck was going on here?
Thus my inspiration to delve further …
THROWN TO THE WOLVES OR WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING?
“I felt like I was throwing him to the wolves every day.”
This is how a mother described the way she felt sending her son Isaiah (later diagnosed with ADHD and ASD) to school. When he would act inappropriately - “race around the room and push classmates” - the teachers were “unable to settle him down.” Because this behavior was impacting all of the other students in the classroom, he was often sent to the principal’s office.
Wait a second.
How was Isaiah being thrown to the wolves?
Was his mother implying that the rest of the kids in the classroom were the problem (“wolves”) and her “bright, sensitive boy” was being victimized by them?
Wasn’t it the other way around?
Doesn’t it make more sense that this “innocent” young boy was more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing: “bright” and “sensitive” on the outside (sheep’s clothing), but disruptive and inappropriate on the inside (a wolf).
But maybe she wasn’t referring to the students at all. Perhaps the mother’s expression, “throwing him to the wolves,” actually referred to the school, itself.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL SCHOOL –Sorry, NEA, it’s not really “for the children ...”
Which brings me to my final point.
Later on in the article we read that: “Today, Isaiah attends sixth grade in a different school that understands and supports him.” [bold and underline added].
A “different school … understands and supports him?”
Is it, therefore, possible that not all schools can understand and support kids who might have different needs?
Are we finally starting to realize that a school which “promises to provide everything is sure to fulfill nothing?”
I know that I am.
Children are individuals with a wide variety of talents, abilities, needs, wants and desires. So what makes the NEA think that a monolithic, monopoly, public school can most efficiently and effectively cater to every single student?
The NEA talks a good game, for sure: “Public schools are here for each and every student.”
But is it only a game???
In other words, is it possible that the NEA cares about public schools more for the sake of the union members than for the sake of the children?
Perish the thought!
Think about it this way. Charter schools and vouchers pull students out of the monolithic, monopoly, local public school. Fewer kids mean fewer dollars coming into the district - and fewer dollars means fewer teachers working at the school.
Get the possible picture here?
Maybe the NEA’s push for strong public schools is less about helping the children and more about helping its constituents keep their salary and benefits.
My guess is that the thought didn’t perish.
Just saying ...