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February 23, 2004

U.S. Secretary of Education calls NEA a “terrorist organization”
Posted by Teresa at 07:57 PM *

That’s “NEA” as in “the national teachers’ union” as in “my mother’s been a member for as long as I can remember.” Here’s the story from the Detroit Free Press. More to come. Watch this space.

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation’s largest teachers union a “terrorist organization” during a private White House meeting with governors on Monday.

Democratic and Republican governors confirmed Paige’s remarks about the 2.7-million-member National Education Association. “These were the words, ‘The NEA is a terrorist organization,”’ said Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.

“He was making a joke, probably not a very good one,” said Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. “Of course he immediately divorced the NEA from ordinary teachers, who he said he supports.”
Malarkey. It’s the main teachers’ union. You can’t simultaneously attack the NEA and claim you support teachers. And in the current legal climate, “terrorist organization” isn’t just an unpleasant label; it’s a threat.
“I don’t think the NEA is a terrorist organization,” said Rendell, who has butted heads with the group as well. “They’re not a terrorist organization any more than the National Business Organization is a terrorist organization.

Neither the Education Department nor NEA had an immediate comment on Paige’s comments. Both indicated that statements were forthcoming.

Education has been a top issue for governors, who have sought more flexibility from the administration on President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” law, which seeks to improve school performance in part by allowing parents to move their children from poorly performing schools.

Democrats have said Bush has failed to fully fund the law, giving the states greater burdens but not the resources to handle them.
Not just Democrats. Teachers and educational organizations of all stripes have been saying the same thing. “No Child Left Behind” supports education like the U.S. has supported the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

More on this shortly.

Comments on U.S. Secretary of Education calls NEA a "terrorist organization":
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:09 PM:

Oh dear . . .

My father used to do volunteer work for his school's chapter.

Should I play it safe and turn him in to Homeland Security before they grab me as a fellow traveller?

#2 ::: Lauren ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Were the teachers distributing almanacs?

#3 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 08:38 PM:

I'm betting that when I get home tonight, my son's going to claim that he doesn't have to do his homework. Because supporting terrorists would be unpatriotic, wouldn't it?

#4 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:01 PM:

Gosh, if the NEA are terrorists, what does that say about all those striking grocery workers in California?

#5 ::: David M. Hungerford III ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:57 PM:

Per cnn.com, he's apologized for the word choice:

"It was an inappropriate choice of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics the NEA's Washington lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind's historic education reforms.

"I also said, as I have repeatedly, that our nation's teachers, who have dedicated their lives to service in the classroom, are the real soldiers of democracy, whereas the NEA's high-priced Washington lobbyists have made no secret that they will fight against bringing real, rock-solid improvements in the way we educate all our children regardless of skin color, accent or where they live.

"But, as one who grew up on the receiving end of insensitive remarks, I should have chosen my words better."

#6 ::: Zhengshu ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:23 PM:

This is just another variation on the old "Anyone Who Doesn't Fully Support Anything Remotely Associated with the Republicans is a Terrorist" theme. It may not have been intentional in this case, but, as previous comments mention, it was certainly a bad joke (and indicative of a worrisome underlying mindset).

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:45 PM:

David, excuse my language -- it isn't aimed at you -- but screw Ron Paige and the horse he rode in on. Saying it was an "inappropriate choice of words" is inadequate when it was the thought itself that was inappropriate. Following that with the line about "obstructionist scare tactics" was grossly irresponsible and unforgivably rude.

The NEA hasn't done anything of the sort. What it has done is threaten to sue the administration over the destructive, partisan, and cynically unfunded "No Child Left Behind" program. When it comes to social policy, teachers are the ones who get to see where the rubber meets the road. They know what that program is doing to schools and children.

Paige doesn't care about that. His Potemkin "Houston miracle" collapsed as soon as he stopped being there to shore it up, and the evidence found in the rubble has been damning indeed. What he cares about is rewarding his master's supporters and punishing his detractors, which is why he has the job he does.

#8 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:44 PM:

You can’t simultaneously attack the NEA and claim you support teachers.

I'll see that "malarkey" and raise you a "horsepuckey" -- but I need to ramble a bit in order to explain.

To start with, I quite agree that "No Child Left Behind" is an exercise in impossibility -- because K-12 public education in the US is wildly, spectacularly non-standardized. It is flatly impossible to do any sort of detailed apples-to-apples national comparison of individual sch0ols, because US public school governance is so d*mned diffuse. Schools are, for the most part, operated and administered by local school boards of many forms and shapes (some are elected, some appointed; some are paid, some aren't, etc.). State governments impose varying degrees of control and/or oversight over schools in their states. And the federal government has created a number of programs of various kinds which local districts implement in varying ways (depending to some degree on how much money the Feds supply).

One major impact of all this is that teachers' contracts are negotiated mostly at the local district level, by the local board interacting with the local teachers' union. In some cases state regulation imposes minimum contract terms, but the contracts (and teachers' checks) nearly always execute at the local district level.

At the local level, then, the teachers' organization functions primarily as a labor union. But at the state and national levels, teacher organizations function chiefly as political lobbying organizations. This is especially true at the national level -- the NEA more closely parallels professional organizations such as the American Bar Association or American Medical Association than it does the Teamsters or ILGWU.

Bottom line: I have immense respect for teachers and am a strong supporter of my local school systems. But I have very little patience with anyone's agendas for nationwide education reform or governance, whether it be the NEA's or the Department of Education's, because it seems to me that the federal government is very badly positioned to know what will and won't work in any given local or state school system.

[Declaration of biases: my mother has been involved in public education governance for many years in various elected and appointive capacities here in Oregon; my aunt and uncle were lifelong teachers prior to their retirement; my sister-in-law teaches at the elementary level in the LA Unified system.]

#9 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:47 PM:

I hasten to add, in case it wasn't clear, that I also agree that Secretary Paige was way out of line in referring to the NEA as a "terrorist organization", irrespective of political viewpoint or affiliation.

#10 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:40 AM:

From the Ashcroft article:

"In addition, as Patriot II revealed, the government would like to revoke the American citizenship of anyone who helps an organization the attorney general deems terrorist."

Is it so hard to believe that these people mean exactly what they say: that they want to make organizations opposed to them illegal?

#11 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 08:07 AM:

I particularly enjoyed how he tacked the race card onto the end of his apology for calling his opponents traitorous criminals. Very nice.

#12 ::: tayefeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 09:29 AM:

"Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent, they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework. The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific greivances to be assuaged by limited concessions. Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane. ... But it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possess the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion."

Henry Kissinger, as quoted in Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling.

#13 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:04 AM:

""“No Child Left Behind” supports education like the U.S. has supported the reconstruction of Afghanistan.""


I've got a solution that can solve the child education financial crisis and Bush's war problems in one shot. To get the tuition for those private schools, the kids just need to do a tour in the National Guard. You know, do six months in Iraq, get school fees paid by the government. We just need to get some tiny flak jackets made. And think, a nine year old drinks and drinks a lot less water than a full-grown soldier, but on paper he's the same, so Haliburton will make even more money. And you can put two of them in one body bag. Everybody wins!


#14 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:06 AM:

Rod Paige jokes (culled from Atrios and DailyKos comment threads)

Get rid of those Weapons of Math Instruction!

Well, actually they only have Weapons of Math Deconstruction Classroom-related Activities.

They’re all secret liberals. Why else would they call it ‘Al-gorithms’, hm? And ‘Al-gebra?’ It’s just a secret code for al-Qaeda! And they had the nerve to call them Arabic numerals – when everyone knows that America invented numbers. One look at our deficit will prove that!

Paige is implicated in a scandal in Houston, alleging that he falsified test results in order to make the school district look better so that Shrub could claim he’d improved education in Texas. So there weren’t really any Weapons of Math Instruction in Texas – they must have been shipped over the border into Oklahoma and Kansas, where they’ve managed to stop teaching evolution.

You know what this means. Anyone attending a PTA Bake Sale or other fund-raiser is providing material assistance to a federally designated terrorist organization! And crayons count. To Guantanemo with you!

I’ve heard that some schools even teach… French!

And my favorite:

If the NEA was truly a terrorist organization, the administration would be unable to find it.

#15 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:22 AM:

John C. Bunnell: I'll see that "malarkey" and raise you a "horsepuckey"

String bet. That's a call. The action stands at "malarkey" to go.

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:43 AM:

Oh, gods, are we going to segue into a discussion of poker terminology? I'll be happy to give lengthy discourses about the mathematics of 12-tone music if so... :-)

Rod Paige is a true scumbag. And I bet he backed off only because of the media storm...and yeah, they WOULD like to make citizenship dependent on agreement. Makes you almost long for the days of comparative moderates like Ronald Reagan.

Almost.

#17 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:53 AM:

To meet No Child Behind testing standards, school systems in Texas and elsewhere need to purchase the proper instructional tools for their students.

Such as the "educational software" developed by Neil Bush's offshore programmers.

#18 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:54 AM:

The terrible thing is that I believe he said it on purpose to create a firestorm as a diversion. Now we need to start looking closer at what else is happening so they can't get away with something even worse.

#19 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:06 PM:

Dave K. has a point. Everyone will talk about Paige's statement; is anyone talking about Utah's lawsuit against the Fed?

#20 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:40 PM:

Alan Bostick:
String bet. That's a call. The action stands at "malarkey" to go.

Xopher:
Oh, gods, are we going to segue into a discussion of poker terminology?

Not by me (though I appreciate Alan's link). OTOH, I am faintly startled that the only response to my comment so far is Alan's quibble with my poker usage. I had expected more substantive discussion for this crowd....


#21 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 12:59 PM:

Ken: Which lawsuit??

I was about to mention that Bush seems to be eroding some (very minor) support with his Republican base in Utah with No Child Left Behind--the Utah Legislature reacted to the program by trying to draft a bill to opt out of the program. (Of course, last I heard, the new governer, Olene Walker, was talking about flexible No Child is, and how Bush's people have stressed to her how much they are willing to work for her. I just bet.) And even so, the likelihood of Utah's voting majority turning tail on a Republican president, even over a majorly sucky education bill, is nil. (Sometime I should detail the hilarious-but-damning story of how I had to convince my very Republican family that Adolf Hitler was more crazy than Hillary Rodham Clinton in a game of Apples to Apples. Oh, wait. I just did.)

But still, I thought it was rather interesting when I first happened across it.

I'd never thought I'd hear somebody claim that the NEA was a nest of terrorists, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Dori: If I was in school, I'd use your son's excuse too.

#22 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:00 PM:

John,

You stated that the teacher's union cannot influence responsibility for education on the national level, except as a lobbying group.

What was to discuss from that truism?

ken

#23 ::: Jeff Allen ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:15 PM:

Ken, I think John's point (not to put words in his mouth) is that work done at the national level is quite often difficult to apply to individual schools which are primarily influenced by local politics.

(John said: it seems to me that the federal government is very badly positioned to know what will and won't work in any given local or state school system. )

#24 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Jeff.

Oh. Well, that's NOT different.

All it does is make doubly clear that the NEA will be hamstrung from either POV. (Either they can lobby on the national level and find unwillingness to fund locally, or they can work like a union at the local level and be used as catspaws when something like No Child Left in School is passed.)

Now, if John wants to get into a (Robert) Reichian discussion about the need for national funding to be combined with national standards for American education, instead of the hodgepodge of state and local "standards and practices" that make it impossible to write and fund effective Federal legislation, then let's do that.

But, if, as both of you apppear to be saying, he is trying to point out that the current system is designed not to work on a national level, my reaction--as likely that of anyone else who has ever tried to get a teaching licence in NYC--remains a lot closer to "duh" than "D'oh!"

#25 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 01:54 PM:

Ken, I think John's point (not to put words in his mouth) is that work done at the national level is quite often difficult to apply to individual schools which are primarily influenced by local politics.

That's one formulation, anyway.

It comes down to this: the NEA is a national political organization, pursuing a fairly specific political agenda at the federal level. Teachers, OTOH, are a widely scattered and diverse group of individuals, who have unique political views and who face many different challenges in their local schools and communities. The NEA doesn't represent the politics of all teachers, any more than the ABA represents the politics of all lawyers or SFWA represents the politics of all science fiction writers.

To that extent, Ken's right that the comment reflects a truism. But the corollary I'd draw is that the NEA is, as a practical matter, pretty much useless (for the reasons noted above), and that I'd expect to draw some degree of riposte.

#26 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:21 PM:

John,

Oh.

I thought I said that first time around with "cannot influence responsibility for education on the national level."

To your point directly, I can't think of any union that doesn't represent "a widely scattered and diverse group of individuals." Given that, the "fairly specific political agenda at the federal level" represents the blending of those interests to extent the local groups give voice and priority to their needs =to the extent that they are or can be addressed at the Federal level.=

Is this right room for an argument yet? (I still don't see that it is for you and I.)

PiscusFiche:

My bad. You're right that I took "attempting to opt out" as "filing a lawsuit."

I see the Administration is, er, waffling.

http://www.sltrib.com/2004/Feb/02242004/utah/141902.asp

#27 ::: Sharon Plavnick ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 03:27 PM:

Teresa, as an NEA member, in the "front lines" of an urban public school, I thank you for opening this topic up to public discourse. The No Child Act is turning school personnel into creative paper pushers. Even if the motives for the Act were purely intended to be in the best interests of children, and were completely free of political jockeying (yeah, right), it is slowly turning schools on the road to education into a bunch of Dutch Elm trees.

I came to your site looking for the knitting content. This is interesting too.

#28 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:22 PM:

I can't think of any union that doesn't represent "a widely scattered and diverse group of individuals." Given that, the "fairly specific political agenda at the federal level" represents the blending of those interests to extent the local groups give voice and priority to their needs =to the extent that they are or can be addressed at the Federal level.=

Is this right room for an argument yet?

Possibly, but strangely enough it probably isn't an argument about public education.

Here's the thing -- I don't disapprove of unions in principle. However, I think that the principle behind unions has a pretty steep diminishing-return curve, and that the bigger a union gets, the less good it does for its rank and file members.

A union's core mission is to negotiate with employer(s) on behalf of its members, to secure fair employee contracts and ensure that working conditions meet appropriate standards. That's well and good. But there's a point at which the leadership and/or paid staff of a large union organization develops an inherent conflict of interest with the rank and file -- they want to preserve their own organizational power, position, and infrastructure, which means that they have an incentive to create tensions between themselves and management rather than resolving them.

And the adversarial model of union-management relations on which modern unions were built isn't as valid as it once was, what with the advent of "employee-owned" companies and other economic/business models. The NEA, at the national level, simply doesn't look like a union to me -- it looks like a special interest group.

#29 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 05:51 PM:

Oooh. Yep. We have grounds...

Teresa, I admit itching to get into this one, but this probably isn't the place.

Yet.

Should we play nice until your "more to come on this shortly" draws this discussion there, or will that one be more of a place to play?

Deferring to the moderator (for once)...

#30 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:27 PM:

While it isn't the primary reason I opted out of teaching after selling my soul into hock (i.e. more loans) to get a master's in math ed, the NCA wasn't exactly encouraging. Of course, I don't know if there's any demand for high school math teachers where I live, but maybe they could use a competent substitute and/or tutor who is actually capable of answering math questions and encouraging students to use problem-solving techniques! (Depending on said student's level of readiness for more independent thinking and conceptual groundwork, as opposed to rote application of procedures.)

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 07:51 PM:

There exists a government that has claimed (and demonstrated) that they have no compunctions about putting US citizens who are accused of belonging to terrorist organizations in jail for an unspecified duration without trial, without charges, and without legal counsel. A Cabinet-level member of that same government has claimed that the NEA is a terrorist organization.

That's more than just a joke: That's a threat.

#32 ::: Dave Greenbaum ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 10:45 PM:

Yoon! Mazel Tov on the kid! Rachel says hi! Say hi to Joe for me!

PS I'm getting hitched in October.

N.B. Ithaca is still gorges.

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2004, 11:10 PM:

Rod Paige: one more person who will be out of a job if Kerry wins. (You listening, Tina?)

Bark! Bark!

#34 ::: ET ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 07:07 AM:

The way I see it, the guy does have an agenda, but used the specific term jokingly. It was a bad joke, but it wasn't a public one, and if there wasn't someone there who thought "let's stick it to the man and make it public" it would have passed harmlessly.

#35 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 11:14 AM:

Not a public one? The man was in a meeting with governors, in his official capacity as Education Secretary and a representative of the Executive. That you consider such an event to be non-public tells me volumes about your low expectations with regard to how a democracy should function, and how Cabinet-level members should conduct themselves.

#36 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 11:47 AM:

let's stick it to the man

The chief education official of the United States is out trying to get the president's woefully underfunded pet program (which he plans to run for re-election on the strength of) accepted by the states, which are wildly unhappy about it, at a Governor's conference and refers to the people who are supposed to be carrying the plan out as violent enemies of the United States and you don't imagine it's a valid story?

Are you keeping in mind that under the current rules, all that has to happen in order for you to go on a watch list is for someone in the government to say that you're a terrorism risk?

As long as we have a Patriot Act and nuns being kept off planes, jokes by administration officials about terrorism are way out of line.

#37 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 12:07 PM:

As a life member of NEA, I can tell you that on the local level they negotiate salaries and provide support when teachers get sued for all of the things which teachers get sued for these days. They (pardon the number agreement or lack of in these sentences) provide insurance which picks up the legal fees, or at least they did the last time I looked. On the state level they lobby to try to keep the legislature from writing dumbass bills, but in Arizona this can be difficult. They are effective lobbyists at this level. On the national level, and I have sat in those enormous assemblies, they are primarily a civil rights and human rights lobbying group. They do less for teachers, but more for educational policy at the national level. I have oft wished that they didn't try to solve all the world's ills, but being a teacher means facing all of society's ills and trying to make them all go away by the end of each school year.

#38 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Dave! Mazel tov yourself, in case you didn't get my email.

Meanwhile: during my brief first-year-teaching stint, a couple of the more experienced teachers were appalled at the possibility that I might actually agree to tutor a troubled student after school, and said I should talk to the school's union representative first (not that I ever managed to locate her--big building). At first I was disappointed by their reaction, but given that I was at school from 7 AM to 6 PM regularly by then, and rapidly burning out, they had a point...I remain curious as to what the union rep would have made of my particular situation, but it's all in the past now.

#39 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 12:33 PM:

Offered, as perhaps an example of local variation:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/02/25/swimsuit.magazine.ap/index.html

#40 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 12:44 PM:

pericat & julia - hear, hear.

Barbara - Thanks for the info. Slightly OT: you say They (pardon the number agreement or lack of in these sentences) - I believe this is a 'they'-as-3per.sing.-indefinite-gender-friendly zone. Plus anyone who quibbles with one of Our Hostess' teachers will be shown the error of their ways very quickly...

being a teacher means facing all of society's ills and trying to make them all go away by the end of each school year.

Wow. I wanna teach with you. Only, how do you keep from burning out?

#41 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 01:36 PM:

Just a quick followup: Last year an official in Chrétien's government called Bush a moron while at a diplomatic function of some sort, I believe a UN thing related to Iraq. She had to resign her post; indeed, she did so within the week. That's how this stuff works in a democracy.

(Xopher: way off-topic, but I spotted a little shop on Broadway (here-Broadway, not NY-Broadway) named "Xtopher's SomethingOrOther". My first thought was that they'd misspelt your name, my second to wonder what they might have been trying to spell.)

#42 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 01:45 PM:

NCLB is practically impossible to implement in school systems like NYC's, where "better" schools operate at or above capacity already, and therefore are not legally able to accept students wanting to transfer from underperforming schools (nevermind the immense difficulty in transferring to a school you are not zoned for, even if you're only across the street from the zone [please note I have not tried to negotiate this minefield, being not unhappy with the school I am zoned for, but I have watched others try it]).

I was surprised to hear that this year, my daughter's school was only at 97% of capacity, instead of the usual 100%. That means, given that the school can hold about 700 students, it could theoretically accept approximately 21 transfer students. We graduated a larger than usual 5th grade last June, apparently, and new enrollment didn't bring us back up to capacity.

I have great fondness for teachers and even for teachers unions, most of the time. The union in NYC is engaged in a protracted contract battle (when aren't they?). The head of the union placed an ad in the NYTimes this past weekend which among other things said that the mayor was attempting to make the teachers take a 20% pay cut by eliminating certain paid holidays like Winter Recess, Mid-Winter Recess (schools are closed for a week, not just for President's Day), Spring Recess, Yom Kippur, etc.

Statements like that will only add fuel to the fire. If losing three weeks of paid vacation adds up to a 20% pay cut, then people I know who already feel that teachers are paid a year's salary for 9 mos work (yes, I said 9 mos deliberately) will feel justified in their position. And most parents I know, who are working parents, really dislike all the holidays. We often have to pay through the nose for holiday period childcare, assuming we can find it, or take time off from our own jobs (not always paid time off, either), or find other alternatives for several weeks a year. We'd be happier if Mid-Winter Recess, at least, disappeared (we didn't have it when I was growing up in NYC). As for religious holidays, well, most of us have to use personal days to take them off; why shouldn't teachers? Parents I know are constantly complaining about the apparently large numbers of days that schools are closed, especially given all the talk of higher standards. To get the union to agree to a few extra minutes of actual classroom time (as opposed to prep time or other non-teaching time) in the last couple of years required a negotiation so protracted and delicate that the brawls over the future of the World Trade Center site almost pale in comparison. Imagine if the administration attempted to extend the school day by a full hour!

And my grandfather was a high school teacher and my mother, who would have been a teacher if she hadn't gotten married, is an unpaid teacher's aide. I think teachers who care do an amazing job under extremely difficult circumstances, and that all teachers are being overwhelmed by government-imposed standards and curricula. But I have been taught by, and seen as a parent, teachers who are just going through the motions, who drag the whole system down and worse, may turn a child off to education. I don't think there are easy answers to "fixing" education, and I am not sure whether the NEA or the local unions are more help than hindrance at this point.

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 02:33 PM:

But Melissa, while they may be a pain in the ass to the Mayor/city/parents, they're still not a terrorist organization. And if they start tarring with a broad brush, they'll start going after organizations you do like.

#44 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:29 PM:

John C. Bunnell:

The thing about saying that school is all about local governance is true...until you get to federal mandates and federal funding, which are a Big Deal. NCLB is only the latest; Special Education is another situation where people at the federal level imposed a raft of requirements and never paid for them.* The result is more pressure on the states, and the localities, to pay for and meet those requirements, which they have no choice but to do.

So, yeah, advocacy at the federal level does make sense in this school system, because federal decisions affect local options.

*-I am not bashing Special Ed here; I'm just saying it's never been even mostly funded by federal money, and that that imposes serious costs and limitations on state and local systems. The solution is of course to secure more funding at the federal level.

#45 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:09 PM:

As long as we have a Patriot Act and nuns being kept off planes, jokes by administration officials about terrorism are way out of line.

I'm with you. If it is a criminal offense for an airline passenger to joke about hijackers, it ought to be a criminal offense for a government official to joke about terrorists.

Well, if not criminal, at least a firing offense.

#46 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:32 PM:

Xopher, I never said they were a terrorist organization, I certainly consider that a disgraceful statement and a libel. However, since the thread was also discussing unions in general and the teachers union in particular, I responded to that, without commenting on the original point of the thread.

That people in this admin scream "terrorist" the moment someone disagrees with them hits me where I live in more than one sense. I'm sure that I'm on various watchlists.

#47 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:00 PM:

The thing about saying that school is all about local governance is true...until you get to federal mandates and federal funding, which are a Big Deal.

This depends on what we define as "governance". I agree that federal mandates can be an enormous pain in the posterior for local districts, but I don't agree that they amount to governance. Writing rules and setting standards only sets policy in the abstract, and has -- as we both recognize -- zero to do with the actual work of operating schools on a day to day real-world basis.

Special Education is another situation where people at the federal level imposed a raft of requirements and never paid for them.*

Indeed. But again, the Feds don't govern Special Ed programs; they only decree their existence.

*...The solution is of course to secure more funding at the federal level.

I'm not sure I agree with this (I note here that Special Ed programs are a primary component of the four-county education service district (ESD)on whose Board my mother has served for the past several years). The two great bugbears of Special Ed programs are the monumental paperwork -- and the high per-student cost. It's somewhat true that local funding of special ed programs is problematic; one reason ESDs exist in Oregon is to provide better economies of scale for educating special-needs students. But more federal money will only help if it funds teaching rather than paper-wrangling -- and sending money from states to DC and back is an inherently inefficient and money-eating transaction.

So, yeah, advocacy at the federal level does make sense in this school system, because federal decisions affect local options.

Maybe, but in my family's experience advocacy has the greatest effect applied to (a) those who fund schools, and (b) those who operate schools. As a result, most of Mother's advocacy over the years (and she has spent a lot of time at it) has been focused on local and state officials. As the balance of school finance in Oregon has shifted from local districts to the state general fund, she's spent much more time in Salem talking to legislators....

#48 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:27 AM:

John,

I agree with you absolutely that advocacy on state and local levels is vital and more immediately effective. I am just adding that advocacy on a federal level is important too.

The paperwork from NCLB (not to mention all the ridiculous provisions) won't go away without advocacy to change it at Capitol Hill. The funding for the classroom facilities and staff necessary to address that Special Ed. paperwork load and high per-student cost won't get addressed either without work to change things at the federal level.

Educators gotta work all the angles. :)

#49 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 11:26 AM:

When I was a kid growing up in Greenwich Village, the worst thing another kid could call you (despite the fact that none of us really knew what it meant, or maybe because we didn't know) was "Commie." Even before this, I thought that "terrorist" was becoming the new "commie."

As a parent of two kids in urban public schools, I cannot tell you how much I hate Bush's so-called education policies, particularly NCLB. You wanna call names? I've got a few.

#50 ::: Andrea Blythe ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:57 PM:

I guess the things is, for me, that there are some things you just do not joke about. In the climate of today's society you do not just joke about someone being a terrorist.

Terrorist is just too hot of a word. It's like saying, "nigger". You just don't use that word, in any context, not even as a joke.

That's my look at it. His calling the NEA a terroist org. is completly uncalled for. Sying it was a joke does not make it okay. It's not appropriate, no matter how he tries to back out of it.

Andrea

#51 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 10:47 AM:

Hey does this apply to UK Teachers. 3/4 of my generation of my family are members of NUT (National Union of Teachers). I THOUGHT mysisters were very conservative Women (Evengelicals)they are obviously deep undercover. I must sever reations with my family at once or end up at the sharp end of Dave Blunkit's new measures.

#52 ::: Stefan sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 02:01 AM:

Ugh.

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