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An American Affidavit

Friday, December 29, 2017

210. Education's Most Powerful Voice: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

210. Education's Most Powerful Voice: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Education's Most Powerful Voice 

      At the 1996 annual convention of the National Education Association, delegates were  delighted to learn that the union would pay them a $1000 bounty if they could succeed in  getting themselves elected as a delegate to the upcoming Democratic National  Convention. No similar prize was offered for
selection as a Republican Party delegate.  The offer proved a powerful motivater, about an eighth of all the delegates who  nominated Governor Clinton for President were NEA members and the union carried  more weight at the DNC than California, America's most populous state.  

      President Clinton had been the featured speaker at the NEA gathering. When he entered a  convention hall hung with Clinton-Gore signs and crisscrossed with strobe lights, Clinton  T-shirts and buttons were everywhere, the band blared out rock and roll, and Arkansas  delegates pretended to play huge make-believe saxophones. The teacher crowd rocked  the room. This was its moment to howl.  

     The NEA bills itself as "education's most powerful voice in Washington." It claims credit  for creating the U.S. Department of Education, for passing Goals 2000, and for stopping  the Senate from approving vouchers. Its platform resolutions and lobbying instructions to  delegates include the following planks: "mandatory kindergarten with compulsory  attendance"; opposition to "competency testing" as a condition of employment; "direct  and confidential" child access to psychological, social, and health services without  parental knowledge; "programs in the public schools for children from birth"; a resolution  (B-67) criticizing homeschooling as inadequate and calling for licenses issued by the  state licensing agency for those who instruct in such schools; and a curriculum "approved  by the state department of education." 

      The NEA also called for statehood for the District of Columbia, and announced its  undying opposition to all voucher plans and tuition tax credit plans "or funding formulas  that have the same effect." It threatened a boycott against Shell Oil for alleged  environmental pollution in Nigeria. The NEA had a foreign policy as well as a  pedagogical agenda.   

      For all this flash and filigree, while the NEA and other professional unions have had  some effect on micropolitics in schooling, they have surprisingly little effect on public  policy. For all the breast-beating, vilification, and sanctimony which swirl about the  union presence in schooling, where real power is concerned the professional  organizations are not the movers and shakers they are reputed to be. Mostly unions are  good copy for journalists and not much more.  

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