A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Another Post that'll keep me off the NEA Today's bloglist, subtitled, The NEA: A National Organization Out of Touch With Teachers?

Lots of my compatriots have been writing about the NEA lately.

Edwonk has been challenging the NEA to set up a comments-enabled website, and even suggested a name here, which then inspired a response at Thespis Journal accusing the Edwonk of being "Right-wing" (pause to let me wipe the tears from my eyes....) here. Hey, Thespis people! There are fine folks and pals in the edusphere FAR more virulent in their criticism of the NEA, and frankly, with the rottenness of the CTA, who can call it "bashing?" Jeez, we can't get our voices heard in the national organization, and when we use our very own blogs to try to critique the NEA like grownups, we get hysterics-- and yes, I did intend to imply the classical meaning of that term, as sexist as it is. I have always stated that I would prefer to belong to a professional organization rather than a union (like the AFT, which makes me uncomfortable in its stances even worse than the NEA.) But it would help if the place WAS professional in its positions and its behavior.

I am not "Anti-NEA," and I sure as hell am not "right-wing." (I've got TWO wings, because otherwise one tends to fly in a circle or flutter helplessly to the ground to get trampled.) I belong to this organization and am a member of the executive board at my district. I just wish this organization acted like it belongs to me, instead of me belonging to it, like some sort of medieval flunky.

I believe that the local NEA does many good things for teachers. That said, I also believe that the national organization should focus on improving excellence in teaching, work to protect academic integrity and defend against attempts at harassment by incompetent school administrators, et cetera.

As I've stated before, the NEA should NOT

protect incompetent or unprofessional teachers like these lovebirds or these freaks here, whom I am just using for examples since I don't know that they're members of NEA or AFT. We all know of situations where this type of thing has happened in NEA.

I don't think the NEA should be taking a position on issues like abortion-- and people, don't go trying to parse my stance on that very complex issue from that comment! I just think it has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH HELPING ME DO MY VERY DIFFICULT BUT REWARDING JOB! I would give the NEA a grade of 25%, which in my universe is an F.

What's so scary about the idea of electing our own national officers? Why should the NEA spend my dues on non-educational causes with no veto power by me? It's that kind or insane lack of focus that keeps some teachers from joining NEA. They know they need a professional organization to help them establish working conditions which help both us and our students (don't climb down my back, now, Darren. We're on the same page.) But I respect the discomfort of my conservative colleagues who disagree with many stances of the NEA. That's the truly liberal (in the classical sense of the word) side of me coming through. These positions make me unhappy, too, especially because they prevent you from belonging to your local organization, which can come in very handy if Assistant Principal Plea-Bargain has decided for no particular reason that he doesn't like you and wants to make your life a hellish nightmare.

So who would be up for something different? Any suggestions? The floor is open-- unlike at the NEA.


At 1/8/06, 1:25 AM, Blogger EdWonk said...

I think that the healthiest thing that the NEA could do would be to permit the rank-and-file to choose the leadership of our own Association in open, fair, and contested elections.

I can think of no better way to excite the membership (and get 'em involved) than to have two (or more) candidates present their visions of the NEA as a positive force for public education as well as the effective advocacy of better working conditions for teachers and fair compensation.

Some might argue that such elections (and campaigns) would be overly expensive. But in this age of electronic media, candidates for the NEA's national officers could hold debates and town-hall type meetings via streaming video or audio. Position papers could be published online. The possibilities are limitless!

The actual voting could be via telephone, computer, or even mail-in ballot to a secure third party auditing firm. (Such as Price Waterhouse.) Given the overall operating budget of NEA, the costs of administering such an election would definately not be prohibitive.

Some folks might say that such elections would cause unneccessary division within the union's ranks.

While it is true that hard-fought elections do often cause a certain amount of discord, when the process is considered to be fair and honest, this discord tends to be relatively short-lived.

This is because when the election process is perceived to be fair, folks will tend to accept the outcome. I believe that the line of thinking is similar to, "We gave it our best shot, and the people have spoken. Better luck next time. Let's pull together for the common good."

We have seen this occur time and time again in our nation's presidential elections. (Except in 2000, when the process was considered by a large number of people as being inherently unfair, which serves to bolster our point.)

I've always found it curious that the NEA doesn't take advantage of electronic polling in order to discover the preferences of its membership on a wide-range of issues. Considering the ease of operationalizing such polls, this is long overdue. If for no other reason, electronic polling would provide useful feedback to the leadership from the membership at the grass-roots level.

A comments-enabled weblog is also one of the relatively inexpensive methods that the NEA should be taking advantage of to disseminate its message. Such a blog would have a built-in abilitiy to reach thousands of members and the public each day. This site should foster the free and civil exchange of concurring and dissenting opinions among commenters.

The name that we suggest for the NEA's blog in the EduSphere is: NEA Voices.

Finally, if the NEA is truly desirous of encouraging the active participation and increasing the support of its rank and file, it should be willing to take a serious look at implementing these positive changes in order to democratize the organization.

At 1/8/06, 8:56 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I'm with you two on this one. Unions ar so arrogant; I'm amazed that they exist at all nowadays.

At 1/8/06, 2:41 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

No, I understand and support why unions exist. There's a need for them, since policymakers refuse to consider the needs of those who work. I would never have been able to go to college if it hadn't been for the union- won wages my dad brought home.

But the NEA-- now THAT"S arrogant.

At 1/8/06, 7:13 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

NEA, the state teachers associations and local teacher associations primary focus should be on their teachers salaries, benefits and working conditions. Toss all the other CRAP out.

In addition to what the Edwonk said above, IMO, NEA could also improve by posting its bylaws and constitution online for all to see. This might include provisions for its rank and file member teachers to be able to make changes in how this organization is run/operated.

At 1/8/06, 9:29 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Exactly. My point is there is a lack of transparency. Where there are elections, there would be a debate of these stances, many of which are unrelated to the concerns I want my professional organization to address.

I also know from personal experience that many people don't belong to their local organization because they vehemently disagree with the stances of the state and national groups. This hurts our ability to bargain collectively.

I really don't think an organization that blows money on extraneous matters can plead poverty when asked to hhold elections, either. Puhleeze.

At 1/10/06, 8:06 PM, Blogger Thespis said...

Have you had time to forget the firestorm of criticism directed at The National Education Association prompted by The Wall Street Journal last week? Can you imagine the mainstream media getting a story so wrong that they have to retract their original reports? Well, the NEA was the subject of several harsh pieces in the blogosphere, and on the Fox News Channel last week. In fact, the NEA is so despised by the conservative media that many of these “journalists” forgot to do their fact-checking. Instead, they invoked the harsh rhetoric and classic invective that implies the disdain and disregard that these people have for the NEA

At 1/10/06, 8:08 PM, Blogger Thespis said...

Please check out this post.


At 1/15/06, 9:00 AM, Blogger Pigs said...

Good post! The NEA might also out your blog in a public forum complete with your name, but I'm not saying anything....


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