Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association (NEA)
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 …