As the national teacher unions careen farther and farther left, they now brazenly proclaim politics and power as their goals, while openly dismissing quality education as their priority.
Education analyst and retired Los Angeles teacher Larry Sand observed that at the recent annual meeting of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, “politics is the centerpiece.”
Even mainstream Education Week noted that the NEA is “moving in a more openly progressive direction” and pointed to the union’s headlong dive into hot button non-education-related issues.
Meanwhile, the NEA rejected a motion that would have pledged the union to “re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America” and to “make student learning the priority of the Association.”
Evidently, the NEA could not abide the motion’s call for NEA programs to be evaluated by asking, “How does the proposed action promote the development of students as lifelong reflective learners?”
Not to be outdone, American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten, in a recent major speech, decried the fixation on math and English, even though around two-thirds of American public school eighth-graders failed to score at the proficient level in math and reading on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.
Rather than spending time on these vital core subjects, Ms. Weingarten said, “we need more civics participation,” which she said includes “the fight for social justice.”
In other words, less math and reading, more time for political indoctrination.
Shockingly, though, after inveighing against Trump administration policies and accusing the president of authoritarianism, Ms. Weingarten revealed herself advocated shutting down the free discourse of ideas.
“In a civil society,” she asserted, “there are no ‘both sides’ on matters of human dignity, equal rights, tolerance of diversity, civility and truth, or the rule of law.”
Translation: If you disagree with Ms. Weingarten and her political agenda then your views cannot be included in the discourse of civil society.
Indeed, Ms. Weingarten makes it chillingly clear: “These are not options against which other beliefs can be regarded as equally worthy.”
“We’ve changed the narrative,” Ms. Weingarten argued, “now we have to change the politics,” which “takes power.”
And what will the AFT do with that power?
Ms. Weingarten explained, “we need to build our power so we can move our agenda,” which includes not just pouring more tax dollars into public schools — which she never proved will improve student achievement — but also a slew of non-education-related political issues ranging from universal health care to climate change.
Ms. Weingarten’s emphasis on power and recasting what Americans are allowed and not allowed to believe reminds one of George Orwell’s observation from his novel “1984”: “Power is tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
Finally, in a kind of victory dance, Ms. Weingarten boasted that the AFT has been unaffected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which freed government workers from paying union fees.
Ironically, however, teachers may now find that the AFT and the NEA’s lurch to the left, push for power and use of children as political pawns, and Orwellian attack on freedom too much to take, serving as catalysts for their exit from the unions.
This is already the case in California. According to research from the Mackinac Center, they’ve documented a roughly 20 percent opt-out rate on average so far of union members in California leaving their union since the 2018 Janus decision. Nationally, the NEA has lost 2.8 percent of its membership since the Janus ruling.
Hubris, therefore, may end up being the unions’ undoing.
• Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. He is the author of the 2019 book “Choosing Diversity: How Charter Schools Promote Diverse Learning Models and Serve the Diverse Needs of Parents and Children.”