Sunday, September 20, 2009

Trading One Agenda for Another

This quote from the EFF blog on the St. John's educators voting to disaffiliate from the WEA and NEA is fairly fascinating:

“It is liberating to declare our independence from the big teacher unions,” said Ms. Gfeller, who teaches at St. John Elementary School. “Our politics just did not mesh with the politics of the WEA, and we couldn’t see throwing any more money to their causes.”
That's an interesting viewpoint, and it makes one wonder--what are the politics of the Northwest Professional Educators and their umbrella organization, the Association of American Educators? In fairness I'm going to use the same exacting standards that they've applied to the WEA and NEA and say that if anyone affiliated with the AAE ever said something in any place, ever, then that's clearly the viewpoint of the AAE as well. Let the games begin!
  • We'll start with their very own official September newsletter, which leads off with a reprint of an article from Education Week on national education standards (so long, local control!), and then moves into the usual attack on using seniority in layoffs (which I've talked about here).

  • Their July/August issue is even better, because the front page story is a bold, principled attack.....AGAINST PRE SCHOOL. I'm sad that the teachers in St. John would stand against pre-school, but for better or worse that is their choice, because after all, that is the agenda of the AAE.

  • Hey, look, they have a foundation! Who's on that foundation? Why, there's one Anne Canfield, of the lobbying firm Canfield and Associates Inc. of Washington D.C., and before I even go on you know that this won't end well because, crap, they're a lobbying firm, but if you follow the string you'll find that C&A is working for big pharma companies like Wyeth and Merck (remember Vioxx?) and industry trade group Consumer Mortgage Coalition to the tune of $1.5 million dollars in 2008.

  • The whole enterprise was founded by one Gary Beckner; let's see what he thinks the schools should be doing:

    Not so, says Gary Beckner, head of the California-headquartered Association of American Educators (AAE), a growing national teachers organization.

    In a recent speech, Beckner observed that: "We can all agree that we must raise our academic standards.However, for our children's sake, indeed, for America's sake, we must at the same time raise our moral standards." Although modernists and liberals will scorn the suggestion, Beckner says that our moral standard must be based on religious principles such as those contained in the Ten Command-ments and Christ's Sermon on the Mount: "In other words, our Judeo-Christian foundations-and that is what we suggest should be the underlying principles of any good character education program."

    Religious principles are key because they transcend time, fashion, and individual opinion.Since they are based on the premise of a "supreme being" as the final authority, Beckner argues that religious principles answer the question of "‘who says' I should or shouldn't do something, or what is right or wrong." "Without a final moral authority," says Beckner, "it is very difficult, if not impossible, to teach morality."
    Agnostic? Atheist? Buddhist? Strongly believe in the separation of church and state? Questioning? Here's the face of the AAE saying that you don't really matter.

  • I'd make a run at the Northwest Professional Educators, but they haven't updated their newsletter archive since 2006 because they don't have much to say.
In reality, though, we know that this whole thing is an exercise in stupidity. It's very easy to go and take quotes out of context, or from a different time, or on a different subject, and make anyone look foolish. This is especially easy in a group context, when you can look at everyone associated and try to say that they ARE the group. It isn't right, and it isn't good argumentation.

But that's the brush that the WEA and NEA get painted with every single day by those who are opposed to public sector unionism in general and for teachers in particular. A debate at the WEA Representative Assembly on gay marriage doesn't make the WEA an organization in favor of gay marriage; the same applies to the NEA. It's rhetorically lazy, and I'll probably be doing it again tomorrow because hey, this is blogging.

This angels v. demons dichotomy that's been set up simply isn't based in any kind of reality. NWPE can pound the drum of "professionalism" long and hard, but I can show you just as many people in the WEA ranks who care passionately about kids and schools as they can on their side. Further, they can poo-poo involvement in politics all they want, but it's Olympia that decides what we're paid, it's Olympia that's taking unprecedented involvement in what the local curricula is, it's Olympia that decides who gets to be in the classroom or not--any "professional" organization that would conscientiously run away from those issues isn't a real professional organization in the slightest.

Welcome to the AAE/NWPE agenda, St. John. You don't like pre-school, you don't like local control, you're happy to throw senior teachers out to save money, Sunday School is now Monday through Friday as well, and you're a friend of Big Pharma. That's the agenda you're standing with, now that you've chosen to make the agenda the issue. Good luck with it.

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Blogger The Science Goddess said...

It may be a matter of what they don't want---rather than what they do. In other words, it may be just what they've said: they don't want to be part of the WEA anymore.

In traveling the state over the past year, the thing I have found most surprising is the number of teachers who do not want to be associated with the WEA (or any union). I would put the numbers close to 25%---far from a majority, but greater than one might expect. They feel they are under duress and are being bullied into belonging to the WEA.

Peer pressure is an ugly thing and has no place in a "professional" organization. Just because you or I might not choose to join the AAE doesn't make those who do be people of poor judgment. It just means they choose to stand up and say "No, thank you." to the WEA.

I respect and support their right to think and assemble as they choose. Kudos!

9:11 PM  

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