Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's About the KIDS! NEA ad Absurdum

First, thanks to Dr. Sanity for linking to my LAT vs. Harry Potter post within her own deconstruction of same. Now, for more mindlessness.

Today, Michele Malkin's blog highlights a few of the recently adopted positions of the National Education Association, the less-than-voluntary union of American teachers. While she highlights a few with which I disagree: a call for troop withdrawal from Iraq (anti-nat'l security and illogical, too), defeat of CAFTA (anti-free trade, hate that), and need for debt cancellation for foreign nations (do I need to repeat how destructive this is?), my largest beef is that none of this has anything to do with educating American children.

I admit disliking the fact that teachers' union memberships are compulsory whether or not teachers agree with the organization and its practices. I dislike that union reps routinely audit classrooms and parking lots after school to take disciplinary measures against teachers willing to give a scintilla more effort toward their students than the union contract guarantees. I really, really dislike that while facilities are crumbling and supply cabinets are empty and violence by students increases and textbooks are in short supply and academic competency diminishes and the most talented educators burn out in discouragement at the complacency and corruption of bureaucracies above them, the NEA has adequate time and resources to pursue the following , all adopted or deemed deserving of further discussion.

- New Business Item 2 (Revised)
NEA affirms and supports the decision of the Executive Committee to participate in the national Wal-Mart Consumer Education Campaign initiated by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Further, NEA strongly encourages state and local affiliates and individual NEA members to participate in this campaign.
- New Business Item 78
NEA will urge its members that they "do not shop" at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club due to Wal-Mart's anti-union, low-wage, low-benefit policies that have left its employees in need of hundreds of million of dollars in public aid for various health care and social safety net programs. Just because many teachers have to use their own time and dip into their small checks to subsidize class materials doesn't mean they should be allowed to shop for bargains.

- New Business Item 5
NEA Human and Civil Rights Department will begin in 2005-2006 to implement programs and activities, as a part of NBI 13, of 2004, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic merger of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Teachers Association (ATA), which occurred in 1966. We'll use your money to pay for a party celebrating our own existence.Yay!

- New Business Item 8
The NEA President, Reg Weaver, will direct the HIN to write an article on health problems from exposure to fragrance chemicals in NEA Today.This will include a questionnaire for membership using a variety of methods such as an online NEA web site posting, form in the article and questionnaires available at the 06 RA Hall of Health. The results will be published in NEA as well as posted on the NEA Web site, including a list of products identified by members as triggering health reactions.The questionnaire results will be posted to the NEA Web site.
- New Business Item 75
The NEA will declare a designated area of the NEA/RA and related meetings and activities a fragrance free zone. Non-scientific questionnaires on fragrance chemicals? Fragrance-free zones? How they'll enforce that, I'd love to know. I sure hope it costs a lot and takes a long time. They must have extra resources now that American education's fixed and the largest issues of teachers' working conditions are all peachy.

- New Business Item 30
NEA will undertake a two-tiered campaign to educate the public about the alternative governance arrangements required of schools in year 4 of program improvement under the so-called No Child Left Behind Act and promote option (V) restructuring as the most reasonable under the circumstances. Specifically... I just thought it was interesting in a Freudian way that they say it's the "so-called" No Child Left Behind Act. You may disagree about its effectiveness, but I didn't think the name of the thing was in question.

- New Business Item 32
Move that NEA, utilizing existing policy, study the feasibility of initiating a boycott of Gallo wine. - New Business Item 47
The NEA will inform members about reasons for the boycott of Gallo wines called by the United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO.The NEA will ensure that Gallo wines are not served at any function of the Association. If anyone deserves a drink after work, it's educators, and they should have whatever they'd like. This targeting of companies because of their stand on the overarching union concept or an affiliated union's gripes is not only bad policy but, might I mention, UNRELATED to EDUCATING AMERICAN CHILDREN. The NEA wants members to further diminish their personal freedom of choice to protect the survival interests of an entity that they had no option to avoid joining.

- New Business Item 38
NEA Representative Assembly directs President Weaver to express NEA's opposition to the annual observance of "Take Your Child to Work Day" during the traditional school year to the appropriate organization(s). We request this worthwhile day be observed during a non-attendance day for students (or one with less impact on student learning). It's hard for me to believe one "field trip" has more impact on student learning than the shortened class periods, school days, and academic years which we're only beginning to see remedied on school-by-school, district-by-district bases, and which the NEA opposes.

- New Business Item 45
I move that NEA investigate the establishment of an affordable/workforce housing programs for members. Perhaps supporting merit pay and attacking the systemic fiscal corruption in the union and municipalities that skim potential salary resources before they reach the personnel budgets would help.

- New Business Item 53
The NEA deplores the inappropriate use of words such as "retarded" and "gay." The usage of slurs like this is demeaning in nature and conveys a negative stereotype. Whenever derogatory and abusive language is used in the public limelight the NEA, state and local affiliates should regularly and aggressively respond. The first sentence just made me laugh, inappropriately, I admit.

- New Business Item 59
The NEA through the Health Information Network will promote research and resources on women and heart disease by means of articles in the NEA Today, using the NEA website,
an exhibit booth at the annual Representative Assembly, This Active Life Again, they're doing so great with education, let's move onto science and medicine. NOOOO!

- New Business Item 60
NEA-HIN will coordinate resources and provide information through existing NEA publications and the NEA website to members regarding diseases that impact the learning environment as a result of the emotional functioning of students diseases and health conditions not widely publicized, such as Alopecia Areata, Lupus, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, any illness or disease that may cause temporary or permanent hairloss or baldness, etc. I do pity the hairless, but the question is whether the union should divert teachers' dues to deal with this niche issue among all other items needing attention?

- New Business Item 81
The NEA shall research the possibility of offering, as part of the existing training program, either regional or national levels of training that would support the significant history of labor unions. The training will have a focus that emphasizes delivery of age appropriate curriculum to students. From the cradle, you will be taught to love your overlords.

- New Business Item 88
NEA will ask the NEA Health Information Network to provide information to members regarding "acceptable" mercury levels set by the past administration as compared to the higher levels recently adopted by the present administration, and to educate members about the adverse impact of mercury exposure on student learning. Additionally, NEA will monitor the lawsuit Environmental Defense v. EPA, which challenges the EPA decision to increase mercury emission levels. NEA also will explore the feasibility of filing an amicus brief if and when the case is appealed. Instead of grappling with health and science issues from their inexpert position, perhaps they might address member concerns about deficient science curricula as compared to the rest of the world and the nationwide difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified science educators.

- New Business Item 91
In the interest of member health and safety at NEA sponsored events; NEA will explore alternatives to using LATEX (natural rubber) products (such as latex balloons and gloves) during NEA sponsored events. Another red-hot topic.

There's much more, like how much they DESPISE the idea of Social Security Reform even though it would allow working-class people like teachers (I don't know if they die younger from stress, but I wouldn't be surprised) to pass a legacy onto their families instead of forfeiting a challenging career's worth of contributions into the big black gov't chasm. Of course, the hierarchy of the NEA is just such an abyss. And we can't even see what proposals they're rejecting. Is it all wacky stuff, or were they measures to address the real problems? Outsiders can't tell from the website.

May the NEA one day be held accountable for its lousy stewardship of the dues and interests of its hard-working members and for its disservice to the children whose education it claims to support.


April said...

CAFTA? Your job has just gone to Central America. Tough shit for you and your family. This country CAN'T be in the business of protecting it's citizens, especially if it obstructs the free flow of money to the already wealthy.

As long as the corporation makes money for it's shareholders......that's what really matters!

The NEA helps insure teachers get paid in the ball-park of what they're worth. If left up to anti-union supporters, teachers would be getting paid about .25 an hour, and working 90 hours a week. In, fact...most of us would be getting paid .25 an hour.

Most of the teachers I know who burnt out, burnt out because of the indifference of the families of the students, not because they had to buy a ream of paper or a gross of pencils. I'm talking inner city schools...I really can't put violence in the schools down to the NEA...I can put a lot of it down to the NRA, and our gun-happy culture.

I don't shop at Wallyworld, either. Yes, Wally has bargains. Add to the bargain the cost to the evironment, and the living conditions of people in 3rd world countries where they get their products from (remember their "made in America" campaign? Until it was discovered that it was NOT made in America?). Add in all that, and their deals aren't deals. Good for the NEA for taking a stand. To paraphrase Jon Stewart.."should a refrigerator cost three dollars?"

Henway Twingo said...

Even when we buy material from abroad, it takes people here to import it, stock it, sell it, service it, etc. All CAFTA remedies is the unfair way we've been stacking the deck against competition. People in other countries have decent things to sell that Americans need and could afford to buy if they were allowed. And that would not only benefit American consumers but the many import and retail and transport businesses that employ people here. Tough shit is when enormous farm subsidies prop up the largest conglomerate farms, paying them to leave their fields fallow instead of growing on them and selling. Tough shit is protecting an industry like Big Sugar (a funny name since it employs so few people) while oppressing the enterprise of so many more. I have to laugh, though, because Splenda may kill Big Sugar yet. Everyone's finding a way to work around the corrupt spot and use less and less price-fixed sugar. Farm and commodity subsidies are truly wasteful, only paying a few people who ought to have to earn the business. Fair trade employs and feeds multitudes better than any other system, and that's an economic fact beyond stockholders or anyone's notions of some inherent evil of wealth.

Most citizens want and assume that education funding will go to teachers as well as toward classroom-level impact. But they don't see it. So, when people can choose their public funds to go to the schools of their choice, sometimes it's a charter school or private school off the NEA grid because the parents expect better results which public schools have been immune from having to supply. I NEVER hear people saying that teachers' salaries are the place they want cuts, but the union keeps claiming to "defend" something no one wants threatened. Ah, but their lavishly funded political agendas for a socialist utopia that's failed tragically everywhere it's been tried, well, that's different. A lot of people DON'T want that, including their members. The reason given for why the Service Worker Union took others and recently left the AFL-CIO is because of its relentless focus on political issues instead of workplace concerns. Just like the NEA which is one of the largest sources of campaign money and lobbying funds in the country. Period. In fact, unlike the NEA, many cities recommend large raises for teachers, but (here's the rub) with qualification requirements and performance-based increases. no, No, NO- NEA says. Seniority rules, regardless of competence. Advanced degrees and certification mean nothing. Someone told me a Masters' in her field would earn her up to 2K more a year. Whee! That doesn't attracts quality to the profession. If education spending has gone up hugely (and it has), and teachers salaries haven't, do you think between the municipalities collecting the taxes and federal funds and the school boards issuing contracts and the union cronies collecting dues, that somehow the money isn't getting down the level of the classroom? That's what I suspect.

EdWonk said...

This post was featured on the 24th edition of The Carnival of Education.

linda said...

Union members have rights under a Supreme Court decision to withhold the part of their dues that is used for anything other than collective bargaining. The unions cook their books, of course, and they make the process harder than it should be, but an activist nucleus of teachers can put a serious dent in the political nonsense.

Henway Twingo said...

I agree with you 100%, Linda. From what I understand, the accounting procedures of the biggest unions are Byzantine at best, thus making it hard to tell what went where even when members use the rights they have. Unfortunately, declining political usage for dues doesn't seem to trim the instinct for waste on miscellaneous lobbying, boycotts, and unscientific research, though it should. It just redirects the overtness of political contributions.