To the manifold observations of others, I can further the point by adding my own close encounter with the rabid intolerance of left-wing tolerance mongers. In March of 1996, I was invited by the Hamilton County School Board in (Chattanooga) Tennessee to offer the conservative opinion on a very liberal education plan under consideration. The Public Education Foundation pitching the plan to Hamilton County was closely allied with Hillary Clinton, whose long-standing involvement with education policy dates back—even prior to being First Lady—to her stint as a board member of the National Center on Education and the Economy.
My appearance at the Hamilton County School Board meeting was so well advertised by parents who also opposed the liberal education plan that the event had to be moved to the largest school auditorium in the county. That night I spoke for over an hour to more than a thousand taxpayers and received several standing ovations as I aggressively criticized the wacky education plan. The education proposal had almost nothing to do with academics and everything to do with promoting outcome-based education, moral relativism, and political correctness. The plan even went so far as to give a new diploma to students who achieved the desired humanist and socialist worldview.
Not only that, first hiring preferences were to be given to these “achieving” students by local businessmen who might be looking for a dumbed-down, low-paid workforce that could perform menial tasks. Although I was well received by the common sense parents and taxpayers, local liberals from the NEA and its offspring, the PTA, attacked me viciously. In the next morning’s Chattanooga newspaper, the local PTA president and NEA mouthpieces yammered, “Mr. Howse is an extremist comparable to that of the Ku Klux Klan and the black listings of the 1950s.” Another NEA mouthpiece exploded, “Who will be the next speaker who comes to town, a terrorist with a gun in his belt?” For the next several days, NEA-lovers went after me with all they could in the local newspaper, television, and radio.
I must confess I wear that as a badge of honor. But as with winning any medal, it came with a price. Shortly after stepping off the stage to a standing ovation on the night of the board meeting, a livid supporter of the liberal education plan approached me and predicted I would be audited by the IRS. Although I shrugged off the comment at the time, to my amazement, within weeks, I received my audit notice from the IRS.
Looking back, I realize I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, I was opposing locally the very education plan the Clintons were trumpeting on a national level. Hamilton County was to be a test site—one of the first school districts in America to implement the Clinton education plan Hillary and her friends had been writing and speaking about when she was overseeing education in Arkansas. And because I was being critical not only of the Clintons’ education agenda but also the NEA and PTA, I shouldn’t have been shocked to be the focus of extreme and untrue insults, to say nothing of IRS harassment.
You see, liberal connections in education run deep. In December 1991, while angling for the presidency, Bill Clinton told the NEA candidate screening panel, “If I become President, you’ll be my partners. I won’t forget who brought me to the White House.” (Footnote #13)
Clinton kept his promise, and in 1993 while addressing NEA delegates, Clinton thanked the NEA for “the gift of our assistant secretary.” The “gift” was former NEA staffer Sharon Robinson, who became the U.S. assistant secretary of education for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Clinton also reminded his allies, “I believe that the president of this organization [Keith Geiger] would say we have had the partnership I promised in the campaign in 1992.”
The NEA’s Commitment to Socialism and Humanism
The NEA’s historical waters run deep, too. In 1929, John Dewey authored Individualism, Old and New, in which he wrote, “We are in for some kind of socialism; call it by whatever name we please, and no matter what it will be called when it is realized.” (Footnote #14)
That same year, after returning from the Soviet Union, Dewey published an article in the New Republic. In it, he fawned over the USSR’s school system and the socialist worldview it instilled in its students: “the marvelous development of progressive education ideas and practices under the fostering care of the Bolshevist government . . . the required collective and cooperative mentality. . . . The great task of the school is to counteract and transform those domestic and neighborhood tendencies . . . the influence of home and church.” (Footnote #15)
After becoming one of the NEA’s formative leaders as well as honorary president of the NEA, Dewey, in 1933, co-authored the Humanist Manifesto. And as if his position was still not quite clear enough, he wrote A Common Faith in which Dewey described his disdain for Christianity, its commitment to moral absolutes, and its contention about the sinfulness of man and need for a savior outside of himself. This John Dewey—the same one who traveled to Russia in the 1930s to help organize and implement the Marxist educational system there—is today known in America as the “Father of Progressive Education.” And yes, this is the same John Dewey who, in 1935, became president of the League of Industrial Democracy, an organization originally called the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. To say the least, it puzzles me to think we should revere someone with such anti-American sentiments, and it should put us all on red alert against the rhetoric and influence of the NEA.
Even though a major one, John Dewey is only one of many Marxist influences in American education. As far back as 1940, a state of California senate committee investigated how various foundations were using their resources to promote certain philosophies and to control teacher training. The committee discovered the Rockefeller Foundation had spent millions of dollars rewriting history and creating new history books that undermined traditional patriotism and support for the free enterprise system.
The committee was shocked to discover that curriculum—which was funded by the Rockefellers and promoted by the NEA—taught blatantly socialist ideas. The committee reported, “It is difficult to believe that the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Education Association could have supported these textbooks. But the fact is that the Rockefellers financed them and the NEA promoted them very widely.”
What is the motive behind the NEA removing traditional history from our schools? Quite simply: if our children do not know where they come from, they will not know where they are headed—or worse, they can be headed wherever the NEA wants to head them.
This approach is frighteningly parallel to Karl Marx’s dictate: “Take away the heritage of a people and they are easily persuaded.” Our heritage is decidedly on the side of individual freedom and American sovereignty, and yet the NEA has actively promoted the United Nations and its global education plan. The NEA-supported, United States version of the UN plan goes by the euphemism, Goals 2000.
Although we think of it as a new idea, the globalization concept for education has a long pedigree among NEA socialists. In the January 1946 NEA Journal, editor Joy Elmer Morgan wrote an editorial entitled “The Teacher and World Government,” in which she outlined a nefarious plan: “In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher . . . can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation. . . . At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher, and the organized profession.”
Wow! Did you get that? One-world government starts in the classroom!
On a parallel track lies the educators’ goal for eliminating free enterprise:
In the December 1933 NEA Journal, editor Morgan wrote an editorial calling for government control of corporations.
On June 29, 1938, the New York Herald Tribune reported on the NEA Convention being held in New York City: “Dr. Goodwin Watson, Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, begged the teachers of the nation to use their profession to indoctrinate children to overthrow ‘conservative reactionaries’ directing American government and industry. . . . (He) declared that Soviet Russia was one of the most notable international achievements of our generation.”
The NEA’s main objective has always been to assume national political power. It has publicly boasted of its plan to seize control of the agencies and boards that decide who is allowed to teach and what is to be taught. Now the most powerful special interest group in the U.S., the NEA’s lobbying has brought about a seventeen-fold increase in federal education spending in the last twenty years. That translates into more central government control of education in America.
To make sure we’re together on exactly where this powerful group stands on the many liberal vs. conservative issues of the day, here’s a rundown of key ideals espoused by the NEA:
• Strongly supports hiring of homosexual teachers
• Believes union contracts with local school boards should require all teachers to pay dues or fees to the union
• Opposes merit pay for teachers
• Opposes voluntary prayer in schools
• Opposed tuition tax credit legislation
• Opposes the use of school facilities after school for voluntary religious meetings
• Opposes any constitutional amendment that requires a balancing of the federal budget
• Favors socialized medicine
• Spent millions of dollars in 1992 to elect Bill Clinton president and supported other liberal candidates for Congress
If you think these agenda items are simply a sideline to the NEA’s central focus of encouraging excellence among its teachers, then think again. What does the NEA think about traditional teachers who obtain a teaching degree in order to inspire academic achievement and impart real knowledge to their students? Let the NEA speak for itself. In 1971, the NEA publication Schools for the 70s and Beyond: A Call to Action, declared, “Teachers who conform to the traditional institutional mode are out of place. They might find fulfillment as tap-dancers or guards in maximum security prisons or proprietors of reducing salons or agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation—but they damage teaching, children, and themselves by staying in the classroom.”
We’re now well into our fourth decade of this prevailing attitude. As another example, then-president of the NEA George Fischer told NEA representatives during a 1971 assembly, “A good deal of work has been done to begin to bring about uniform certification controlled by the unified profession in each state. . . . With these new laws, we will finally realize our 113-year-old dream of controlling who enters, who stays, and who leaves the profession. Once this is done, we can also control the teacher training institutions.”
If the NEA had its way, our nation’s colleges and universities would be using cookie cutters to create American teachers. Under the NEA’s uniform certification, every teacher leaving a training institution and entering the profession would be an anti-American socialist, working toward the goal of being “an agent of change.” Every teacher under NEA control would want to indoctrinate—not educate—our children. Former NEA president Catherine Barrett, in the February 10, 1973, issue of Saturday Review of Education, makes clear the objective of this powerful organization: “Dramatic changes in the way we will raise our children in the year 2000 are indicated, particularly in terms of schooling. . . . When this happens—and it’s near—the teacher can rise to his true calling. More than a dispenser of information, the teacher will be a conveyor of values, a philosopher. . . . We will be agents of change.”
The teacher no longer teaches skills. He or she is now a philosopher who conveys “values.” Is that why parents send their children to school? To be subjected every day to philosophical manipulation and indoctrination by the godless purveyors of humanistic “values”?
Make no mistake. The NEA will do whatever necessary to accomplish their goal, including intimidating or ostracizing teachers and parents (taxpayers—the ones paying teacher salaries, remember?) who disagree with their agenda and worldview. And by the way, the NEA has long wanted to make sure you can’t grade its teachers on their work. In 1969, the NEA Journal published an article by Sidney Simon, who wrote, “The grading system is the most destructive, demeaning, and pointless thing in education.”
Why does the NEA condemn letter grades? Because grades evidence the complete failure of our educational system under NEA’s control. As long as there is a system of letter grades, the American people can determine whether their tax dollars are being used for what they were intended—the educating of children.
At their 1995 annual convention, the NEA passed resolutions that clearly show its liberal, humanistic, anti-American worldview:
The NEA supports socialized medicine (which recognizes “domestic partners” as dependents), statehood for the District of Columbia, gun control, taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens, a national holiday honoring Caesar Chavez, ratification of the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child. . . . The NEA even wants the purpose of Thanksgiving to be changed from thanking God to a celebration of “diversity.”. . . The NEA even opposes “competency testing” for the hiring, evaluation, placement, or promotion of teachers. (Footnote #16)
The NEA’s extreme “religi-phobia” is demonstrated by an incident that occurred in July of 1997 at the NEA Convention. At the convention, “a choir of young black singers sang two religious songs, one of which was ‘What a Mighty God We Serve.’ The following day, NEA president Bob Chase apologized from the platform for the religious songs having been sung, as he emphasized they had not been cleared by the NEA. However, a lesbian caucus at the convention promoted a ninety-minute video titled ‘It’s Elementary: Teaching about Gay Issues in School.’” (Footnote #17)
While some of the NEA’s orientations may go both ways, clearly their religious inclusiveness does not.
NEA & Failed Educational Policy
The trickle-down of the NEA’s high-ranking proclivity for things left of center has left some committed teachers drowning in a cascade of harassment. Adela Jones, a geometry teacher in Georgetown, Delaware, refused to grade on a curve, use grade inflation, or implement other trappings of Outcome-Based Education (OBE). Instead, Adela taught her classes using traditionally high standards for performance in a math class. Geometry, after all, is a college track course, and as far as she was concerned, there is one right answer to math problems. Consequently, her students should be graded on the absolute standard of right or wrong, correct or incorrect, understanding of the subject.
Predictably, because Adela’s colleagues were more politically correct in their approach, Adela’s classes had the highest failure rate of any teacher in the school. (And remember, no one is supposed to fail in OBE!) When administrators told Adela to bring her failure rate in line with the other teachers, she refused to play the numbers game simply to please the left-leaning administration and was fired.
Notably, Adela’s students did not see her as a failure. On two different days, they walked out of school to protest her firing. They carried signs and banners proclaiming, “It was not Adela Jones’ fault that I failed!” When “Dateline NBC” picked up the story, only one student went on camera to speak negatively about Adela, and even he said that, between geometry class and soccer, he could not keep up his grades.
The dismissal case went to court, where the judge learned of Adela’s commitment to her students. Although often on duty from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., she was happy to give extra instruction to any student who asked for help. In addition, she conducted a pre-test study group for those who wanted to participate. Students were even allowed to call Adela at home if they needed help in the evenings with their homework. Fortunately, the judge ordered the local school board to reinstate Adela Jones, but no wonder many excellent teachers are leaving the profession (and many who aren’t leaving send their own children to private schools).
Peter Brimelow and Leslie Spencer, “The National Extortion Association,” Forbes Magazine, June 7, 1993, 79.
14 Cuddy, “NEA: Grab for Power,” 11.
16 Ibid., 49, quoting the August 1995 Phyllis Schlafly Report.
17 Ibid., 51.