NEA Convention Report. Part One... The National Education Association Representative Assembly 2012... 'Patriotism! Democracy! It’s About Us! We Teach America! '
The National Education Association held its "RA" (Representative Assembly") in Washington, D.C. over the July 4 week. The National Education Association representative assembly (NEA-RA) began for some delegates on June 26th, ending on July 6th, late in the afternoon. Preliminary reports counted 7,403 delegates and 3,630 guests, a total of 11,038 educated dollar signs filling the hotels, buying drinks and meals, and otherwise filling the coffers of Washington, DC tourism sharks during a time of low tourist travel–in interminable 102 degree heat.
Chicagoans will be pleased to know that RA delegates voted to back the Chicago Teachers Union. (*”NEW BUSINESS ITEM 13--Adopted... The NEA supports the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) in their negotiations with Chicago's Mayor and his hand-picked school board. COST IMPLICATIONS: This NBI can be accomplished at an additional cost of $920.”)
NEA did not note just what it would do for support for Chicago, but the language is there and may be hard to upend.
NEA delegates come from all over the US, and parts of the world. The Federal Education Association, NEA, represents school workers in international US schools. Every state is represented. Alaska and Hawaii pay a steep price to come.
This year’s delegate count is down more than 1,000 from past RAs, reflecting membership losses and budget cuts discussed below.
In 2012, as in years past, 30 percent of the delegates represent ethnic minorities, reflecting a traditional affirmative action project in NEA that is unlike any union in the US, often bringing forward extraordinarily talented people who might not have otherwise had a chance and, in a few cases, jamming in incompetent people who use their offices for little but self-aggrandizement and free food.
In the vast majority of instances delegates, as one might predict, are friendly, helpful, honest, extremely diligent, polite, gentle, and willing to put up with many abuses that parents would not tolerate if aimed at their children or other students — and teachers wouldn’t either. For example, delegates willingly stand in long lines to board busses — in 102 degree heat–largely without complaint. They are shrink-wrapped for hours on end, shoulder to shoulder, in uncomfortable chairs, while well meaning supervisors take attendance in trade for travel and expense money. Delegates tolerate, don’t boo or hoot, dozens of stupid, irrelevant, but rarely rude, interruptions from the floor and the dias, dragging out the RA hour on RA, but there they sit, and mostly pay attention.
When they do boo, perhaps at Republicans or anti-abortionists, they are reprimanded gently from the chair and settle down fast. They were probably the good students, back in the day.
There are some delegates who arrive merely to extend vacations, who sleep through sessions, eat a lot, and, at best, take up space–at worst do what they are told: given a shove they leap up and vote the party line. Those, however, are a tiny, tiny minority.
Delegates are accustomed to receiving top-of-the-line carrying bags for the reams of material available at RA’s, stuff from the Exhibit Hall where everything from Jeeps to curriculum to God-fearing anti-Darwinist material is on display. This year, delegates were tossed what may have been the ugliest carrying bag every sewn: SHARK! (See photo). Rather than complain, resigned delegates left those bags in their rooms; carried others.
NEA delegates are, of course, leaders of some sort, but the overwhelming majority are not on the union payroll — they are teachers, social workers, counselors, librarians, education support personnel (ESP’s) of all kinds: bus drivers, custodians, lunch workers, and more. In short–they are not the run-of-the-mill union hacks who run most unions–they work, have rank and file jobs, and, for the most part, are not angling to become union bosses. They are career educators. They are not rich and never planned on it.
They are also patriotic. They will rise and cheer for flag, god(s), country, on cue. They’re nice. They loved it when an aging Mr Hill proposed to Ms Elliot (surprise Ms E) from an RA mike and she, called to another mike, accepted tearfully, on the big screen. They hold moments of silence for passed members, and, in this case, Andy Griffith on the impassioned plea from a member from the Carolinas.
They are conveniently uncritical, innocents. They want to believe the best–in America, in the branches of government, in Democrats, in their own leaders (“so what if NEA President Van Roekel makes around $465,000 a year; don’t you have or want a nice income?"). They believe anyone can be President. Those beliefs take on religious forms, can’t be shattered by evidence. But, when those who are being played, stage-managed, know to a degree they are being played, but don’t really understand the Big Play, are they players or guiltless?
Guiltless, perhaps, but hungry and aging, for sure.
Judging from ten complete strolls down every aisle in the DC convention arena, it’s clear to me that the members are growing old, grey, and obese. Hundreds are morbidly obese, despite with the joint Michelle Obama and NEA calls for healthy food, diets, and exercise. Aging, twenty pounds on the overplus side, and with bad knees, I feel a bit of solidarity.
However, NEA’s own surveys beginning a decade and a half ago showed that younger people entering teaching have negative views of unionism. This is a warning sign to NEA’s concerns about membership losses, addressed soon, but more importantly to those who project job actions in a society that’s lost its rejection of scabbing–in fact where most young people don’t know what it is.
Some NEA RA delegates are little convention wizards, enjoying the floor mechanics, the NEA’s versions of Robert’s Rules (more on this to come), and especially liking their faces on the screen as they call for points of order or personal privilege. Others are minions of NEA tops who plan carefully about how to take control of the mikes, fob off remaining times to key speakers, and control the debate. But the vast majority of delegates are only peripherally in that game. Even so, they follow the order of the agenda, make notes of the dozens of decisions made about nearly 100 New Business Initiatives, Resolutions, and Amendments. They endure.
Teachers have been both the aristocrats of what is left of de-industrialized America’s working class as well the nation’s dutiful bureaucrats, missionaries for the capitalist state. If the lucre is evaporated, not there to purchase their pay, tenure, benefits, retirement, and relative on the job freedom, yet they are still vitally need as bureaucrats, then what–and this should be the rub, the hint of class war, but it is not.
Outside a few beacons of resistance, like the Chicago Teachers Union strike vote, Substance as a national clarion of resistance, the recent Oakland, CA, school sit-downs and some Occupy Wall Street continuations, the school worker unions, professional organizations (National Council for Teachers of English, National Council For the Social Studies, the American Historical Association, and even the Historians Against the War) whined a bit, but accepted capital’s division of labor, split discipline by discipline, then systematically mystified, disorganized, demoralized (“there is no alternative, the budget crisis is real”), school workers who, in turn, became tools of their own, and their students’, exploitation.
We will see how this unfolded in microcosm at the NEA-RA of 2012. But, how to portray people who you would want to like, when they do terrible things? Why do they not understand that education is, and always has been, in the hands of the bourgeoisie state; always segregated, always teaching lies to children using methods that, depending on parental income, make kids learn not to like to learn, or to learn second-rate trivia, a compendium of disconnected, and thus worthless, facts? How to explain a communal flight from reality?
NEA delegates have learned, a last, that NEA is a union, not just an “Association,” as demonstrated in repeated pronouncements from the chair that, “NEA is the largest union in the USA!’ which, indeed it is, by nearly a factor of three. At issue: what if unions are not what people think they are?
The details, the menu of commonplace for-profit journalism, cannot be grasped without understanding the body they live in. That would be studying veins without knowing the heart.
The context of the NEA-RA is complex, but grim. As former National Security Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski illustrated in his recent book, “Strategic Visions,’ the US is in the midst of a dramatic, rapid, decline. The things that made the nation powerful in the US in the past (the economy, the military, the culture) are all decaying. Oppositional political consciousness of all kinds rises world wide. The US is challenged by coming superpowers like China and other rivals on every continent.
As recently deceased CIA-asset and analyst Chalmers Johnson predicted, the “Sorrows of Empire” are coming home, “Nemesis,” the god of retribution is at the gate. Lost wars, financial collapse booming inequality, predict serious problems ahead: even the reality of the corporate state at home and perpetual war around the world.
The core issue of our time is the realness of the promise of endless armed conflicts, imperialist wars, children of the poor killing other children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands, rising mysticism, and grotesque transparent economic injustice–met by the potential of mass, integrated, class conscious resistance. NEA leaders want none of that, not a critical examination of reality, not reason, and assuredly not meaningful resistance.
Rather, the highly paid leaders of NEA (NEA past president Reg Weaver was paid $686,949 for his last year of work and took a retirement job at Education International which we will meet soon), prefer to run a racket, to con NEA third-tier leaders into shoveling themselves and their members into voting booths, ratifying the ongoing organized decay of both schooling and the nation in the name of whatever democracy may mean today. In the duel of capitalism and democracy, the workers typically lose, capital with the trump cards of violence, government, and starvation.
Real democracy would require a population protected from the endless lies from the press, enlightened by correct information that connects the dots of the world, and people not coerced to individualist (what about ME?) decisions by economic demands. Such a population cannot exist in a capitalist world. Far more often than not, parliamentary action beclouds class struggle, ties workers to their bosses–a move every union boss likes as it matches their line of “partners in production, New Unionism,” the common interests of workers and employers which denies the very reason people join unions: contradictory interests of employees and bosses. It’s downhill from there.
Why the relentless betrayals from the unions? In part because those union bosses are very well paid, as noted. They take the empire’s bribe and know it. Teachers took the bribe too, for years, and didn’t know it.
There’s more. Teachers, missionaries, believe deeply in voting. Much of the RA was composed of speeches insisting that voting is “the cornerstone of our democracy,” as if we could vote the rich out of money, requisite state of war, and greed. Their belief in American democracy, now become invisible in an electoral campaign that already sucked up more than a billion dollars, with candidates both fully funded by bankster and warriors, is indeed a new religion that American rebels of the past rejected out of hand: understood.
Their faith makes school workers extremely valuable campaign workers. They are literate, educated, usually well spoken, easily trained—make great volunteer workers. And, they will dig into their own pockets. Delegates at the RA donated $182 per person to an NEA fund that will back Obama. And, that quest for dollars, too, was a focus of the RA.
True enough, delegates had to be pressed on the Obama campaign this year. As earlier Substance articles documented, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel held a mass phone call prior to the RA insisting that nothing at the big meeting could be allowed to offer the press a scintilla of criticism from the NEA about Obama. That message, too, was a drumbeat of the RA.
NEA and the AFL-CIO, along with other reform groups moved quickly on the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement that emerged well over a year ago. They held planning meetings, assigned expert staff, to divert, disorganize and demolish the movement that could have raised big banners about capitalism, class war, imperialism, and blowback in the USA. Instead, that movement pretended to have no ideology, when its ideology was the lowest common denominator in the room, usually, “bring back our beloved myth of the glory days of good capitalism.” OWS also claimed, “no leaders!” when in fact leaders were easy for me, and the police, to spot, or for elites to fashion in the case of, for example, the messianic blowhard Chris Hedges, or the bulbous millionaire Michael Moore--create them and shove them to the front.
The effort, obviously, worked. OWSers wandered off after offering themselves to be repeatedly corralled and maced–and identified, while on the job direct actions became marches on state capitals to fight for tax increases, really a demand to pay your jailer: California. Or, in Wisconsin, a pudding head move to recall a Governor, under the demand for reinstating “collective bargaining.” On one hand, collective bargaining was rarely if ever one at the ballot box. Rather, it was won either through mass, direct, actions, a la the Great Flint Strike of 1937 at General Motors, or it was a gift from employers eager to use the union to control the work force, a la Henry Ford and most of the “organizing” of the early American Federation of Labor.
On the other hand, since unions, as in Wisconsin, had already conceded every substantive demand their bosses had made (wages, hours, working conditions, retirement, etc.) it is now evident that when Big Labor says, “Collective Bargaining,” they really mean, “Dues check off.” That, at base, is the employer becoming the union’s banker (Ford learned that) while the union leadership sells labor peace from employees, controlled by the labor tops, in exchange for cash. Over time, as organizing as a vision of unionism was obliterated, dues check off, coerced income, became utterly necessary for US unions with few exceptions. We shall see what happened in Detroit when the agency shop was removed from union control.
Still, elites in the US are in a terrible fix. Finance and industrial capital are a mess: 2008, the Euro, and Barclays corruption; what is truly Government Motors–GM. The fact of a corporate state, fascism, grows clearer as billionaires create imperfect, but real, mergers, with government arms and the militarists who haven’t had a good war since 1945, if then.
Nukes in Iran? Israel? Pakistan. The merger of the Taliban and Al Queda leadership.
Drone-bombing civilians, and Americans, in Yeman as Osama bin Laden laughs in his graves, having drawn the US into the blind canyon he offered in 2001.
A gloomy Dexter Filkins of the New York Times gloomily said this spring, “this is the beginning of the end,” in Afghanistan. When guerrillas fight you to a standstill, you lose. Filkins drew direct lines from the loss in Afghanistan to Vietnam which destroyed the US economy and brought uprisings to every mid-sized and big city in the country.
Military suicides are at one per day for active duty troops, 18 per day for non-active duty and discharged veterans according to the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Engels said (paraphrasing), “troops who suicide are one step from shooting their officers.”
Aristotle recognized that inequality is the birth mother of riots and revolutions. Rulers have known that for centuries, if the plebes have not. Lost wars, too, can serve as change accelerators, especially with trained armed men and women returning to the homeland to find bad medical care, no care (in spite of hollow calls to”support our troops,” created to wreck memories of the Vietnam wars), and no jobs. About 20% of AfPak and Iraq vets are jobless.
Brzezinski: The US is the most inequitable country in the developed world. The public is ignorant, politically unconscious, for now. Yet the US has no plan for real reforms. At hand are three potential crises. (1) Economic collapse. Escalated military adventures and riots in the streets. Sliding backwards against rivals as there are no ideas about political, economic and social change (2) Domestic drift and organized stagnation. (3) complete failure abroad—or, reform at home and retreat abroad. Zbignew is not optimistic.
Idiot, corrupt national political leaders: George W. Bush, “Our nation is blessed by God.”
Dick Cheney, “We are going to war. You should continue to shop. Two thirds of our economy is moved by consumerism.” Well, Americans did that.
Still, General John Allan, running the Afghan war after the firing of General McCrystal who called Vice President Biden, “Joe Blow Me,” said on March 23, 2012, “We will be in Afghanistan for as long as I can see into the future.” Perpetual war.
Open use of terrorist state force in the homeland--violence against peaceful protestors in every big city in the US, low-lighted by cop Lt John Pike’s calm pepper-spraying of peacefully seated UC Davis students, widely circulated on you-tube, a practice the coppers apparently like: scary so stay away. Preposterous arrests of activists prior to major demonstrations in the US on charges of terrorist scheming and weapons stockpiling, charges dropped when the demonstrators are gone.
Massive incarceration, 2 million and more–aimed at black and brown people, both to imprison those who might resist hardest, and an example to others who might resist at all.
Homelessness. Hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes empty and on the block–and the homeless have not yet moved in. Yet.
Welfare cuts, begun with the Carter/Reagan and gutted by the liberal Clintons. More cuts now.
Joblessness, especially among black youth, but everywhere, and an economy in a slow stagnant collapse as the rich, especially financiers, think, “after me the deluge,” seek to loot what is left, and reject investments in jobs program a la the New Deal.
Evident desperation on the part of rulers: the Pentagon spends over 4.7 billion dollars a year on public relations, using 27,000 public relations experts, all of them beasts who cannot live without uniforms. Ideas are important. You cannot rule in modern times by force alone.
Coerced concessions and attacks on unions when they are not useful to rulers: In San Diego, NEA moved to fire a middle of the road San Diego Education Association executive director, Craig Leedham, and remove a middle-of-the-road president, Camille Zombro. In secret, as Substance has reported, the new leaders secretly negotiated a contract that could mean pay cuts of up to 17%, Then a dubious vote was held to force ratification, when many members had left for vacation. Similar moves were made at the United Teachers of Los Angeles.
In Detroit, over the course of about 20 years (that would be under Bushes and Obama and part of Clinton in other words, bi-partisanship) what was once an American Federation of Teachers bellwether local has been destroyed along with the Detroit Public School system. After making concession on concession (all covered in Substance alone), plagued by dishonest and corrupt leaders, having for the time being defeated internal opposition through vote fraud, suspensions of members, distortions, all supported by the national AFT, the DFT was torn apart. A state law eliminated dues check off. 86 percent of the members quit. Later, a judge issued an injunction restoring check-off, demonstrating the usefulness of some unions to the state, but the walk-away rate shows the DFT is a goner.
Earlier, NEA worked with California Governor Brown to suppress an American Federation of Teacher (AFT) “millionaires tax,” which threatened to create even a tad of class consciousness, and replace it with a sales tax, in the state already bearing the highest sales tax in the US, and a bite at the rich–meaning NEA members joined their boss to dun taxpayers with what will become, over time, yet another purely regressive tax. Subsequently, Brown moved to gut Calworks, the California welfare program, both in payments and shortening the duration of eligibility from 5 to 2 years–and to slash child care grants at the same time. NEA has said nothing about the welfare attack--opportunism underlined.
As experts from the other side, like Brzezinski and Johnson know, everything is in place for a real massive effort to upend the ways that rule in conducted all over the world–except the change of mind that creates class consciousness. What is known among scholars of revolution–accelerators, events like a self-immolated fruit vender in Tunisia who sparked the counterfeit Arab “revolutions,” events await in the USA: Chicago.
Elites, and their minions, like the leaders of the NEA, will exert every effort to prevent that from being born. What defeats men with guns? Ideas.
Perhaps certain thoughts come to you only when you are being marched under guard. I hope not. Everyone is not chained, completely, to the machine. But too many are, and either think they win while cuffed, or they are oblivious.
Teachers and other school workers sit in the centripetal organizing point of deindustrialized American life. They have more freedom than most workers, still. They are, in fact workers, though they like to think they are professionals (who do not set their pay, hours, curriculum, etc), and they have reason to connect with their entire class (though private sector unions typically vote against public sector taxation). Consider school workers’ contradictory products: the next generation of workers, warriors, and prisoners–and historical reason itself.
In brief, school workers have terrific potential power. It wasn’t recognized at the NEA RA. Rather, it was deflected and deflated, awaiting discovery on another day.
NEA Tops–Introduction and Goals
While the NEA lists the top salaries of NEA officers as between 250 thousand dollars and 300 thousand a year, the US Labor Department exposed, if briefly, their real salaries. President Dennis Van Roekel made $465 thousand two years ago. VP Lily Eskelsen made nearly $300,000, as did
Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle.
John Stocks, the Executive Director’s, salary, is hidden within the budget although it is reasonable to say he at least matched Van Roekel’s (also know as DVR). None of NEA’s officials took pay cuts in these years of “there is no alternative; we must make concessions.”
DVR, Lily, and Becky (NEA usually calls leaders by nicknames or first names, rarely using the union terms, “brother,” “sister” which is fine by me but it is a soft method of linking people who should not be tied together—Personifications of delusions, Quislings, who enjoy the prestige of whispering into the ears of the rich and powerful and those who do the work, pay the traitors to interpret reality and act for them, as in a church where faith replaces investigation. Part of the project is to split those who do the work from those who betray them for cash.
NEA, more than 150 years old, is without question the more democratic of the unions in the US. To my knowledge, and I have worked on or for NEA since 1983, the staff and leaders do not cheat on votes—although voice votes and standing votes too often go their way. They don’t use violence against members. Theirs is a soft coercion that plays well on their members illusions.
They know that to appeal to the middle class: never mention class war or their position in it.
NEA’s top leaders have at hand an experience, educated, very well paid (NEA decided, about 30 years ago, that its staff would live “first class,” yet be separated from the rank and file, hence the Uniserv–united service–designation; NEA staff are banned, for example, from the RA floor making NEA different from most unions where staff and governance are the same, with governance shoving forward for staff jobs), RA directors: sound specialists, keyboardists, pr experts, parliamentarians, convention planners–an entire hierarchy where one watches ten, etc, that serves as a blockade to investigative, activist, unionism.
NEA bosses had a lot of goals for the RA:
1. To be sure the focus was on the presidential election, setting aside very real local problems in, say, Los Angeles, San Diego, Rhode Island, the Race to the Top, Chicago’s Rham Emanuel as puppet and pal to Obama.
2. To engage delegates and the members at large in a massive fund-raising and PR campaign for Obama.
3. To abolish the memory of DVR and Arne Duncan hugging at past RA’s, especially in 2009, indeed, nearly all memories of failed wars and financial bailouts–the corporate state.
4. To be sure no countermove can be made versus Obama by arguing the debate was settled a year ago when NEA became the first union to endorse the demagogue, right before the Communist Party USA.
5. To use patriotism, delegate kindness and sympathy, individualist and craft interests (“Save Public Education,” Save the Middle Class” and to hell with the poor on welfare or foreign casualties), and every possible delegate weakness to guarantee massive NEA backing for Obama.
6. To get delegates to adjust to an NEA budget crisis, thousand of members lost, cuts on the horizon, “things will never be the same,” as if there was no alternative, like organizing in ways that people would flock to NEA through inspiring movements for direct action.
The ideas of the Obama election have the stench of being raised from the dead. It would take a heavy handed sell, and it was.
“He is worse than Me!”
“I will save you from corporate control.”
“I’m just like you! Harvard? What’s that? Goldman Sachs is who?”
With local grievances crushed by deception and coercion, as with the San Diego and LA experiences, planning was going very well when the RA opened on June 26th for resolutions committee delegates. But the RA really convened on Monday, July 2nd.
It would be impossible, even in a full Substance issue, to cover every event at the RA. As an elected California delegate, to be paid nearly in full for the trip, I worked as any diligent delegate did, sat in my uncomfortable chair elbow to elbow with other delegates, dutifully signed in, stayed on the floor when in session (though I did grab coffee and fruit and watch the work on the big screen). I photographed, took careful notes, and will highlight what I thought was important, funny, moving, annoying, or horrific.
Every morning, usually at the ungodly hour (for a prof) of 7 a.m., state caucuses convene in their hotels. The huge California delegation, the biggest in the RA, filled most of a mid-sized Hilton conference hall. California, as always, had submitted by far the most motions and every submitter wanted their moment to fully discuss their motion, axe to grind, or cutting edge idea.
At the outset of the California caucus, a hint of resistance from Oakland: “ NEA has been in a steady retreat to the right for a decade. NEA once stood for a strong labor movement but ...abandoned that view.”
That, however, was quickly overcome by talk of internal elections and the Obama campaign.
The caucus endorsed the hierarchies’ favorites as people move up the NEA national ladder (Vps become Presidents, Secretary Treasurers become Vps, and Presidents retire on good new salaries at Education International). The caucus endorsed Becky Pringle, Joyce Powell, and Greg Johnson, all later winners by big margins, Pringle by a 90% plus landslide.
The RA itself convened in the DC convention center, surrounded by construction and not far from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the inheritor of the wreckage of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers’ demolished strike recently interrogated by George Schmidt in Substance.
California delegates passed the NATCO building every day while being subjected to rolling, repeated, drop down videos on the busses—DVR importuning a vote for Obama.
On time, nearly precisely, the RA began with a rock star beginning, a rouser easy to dance to drumbeat song, “Standing Strong for America, Standing Strong for Schools!” confetti flying, delegates cheering, red white and blue bunting flowing across the big screens. Yippee! It is US!
Lily Eskelsen, who one California woman described me as “an aging brunette Barbie whose pancake makeup melts after awhile under the lights,” got things off with a patriotic song on her guitar followed by a kiss on the cheek of her gray haired mother who “flies the flag 365 days a year, a proud immigrant woman!”
Then, a moment of silence filled with religious pap from Ecclesiastes—o no not again!–“for every thing there is a season....”
Then a parade of NEA’s (and much of my) past; introductions of former presidents and executive directors: John Ryor who went on to work for Carter and became my boss in Florida, one of the first to try to merge NEA with the vile, bankrupt, corrupt, AFL-CIO; Keith Geiger, former president from Michigan; Mary Hatwood Futrell, now with Education International (EI), the inheritor of the cold war CIA sponsored education unions and one of the last presidents to actually participate in an NEA backed sit in strike in Michigan; Reg Weaver, now also at EI; John Wilson, former executive director; Don Cameron, my boss at NEA national and exec from 1983 to 2000; John Stocks, current exec, and a list of NEA elected governance officials too boring to recite.
There was no mention of the forced retirements of 57 highly placed NEA staff member, many who did not want to go but were told, “there is no alternative,” and no moment of recognition for their years of service.
Then, DVR to more wild cheers: “We need to recharge our efforts to elect Barrack Obama (henceforth, BO)!!! Shouting, “We, YES, we NEED to elect BO!” We know the power of collective action. This is a CRITICAL TIME!!! Let’s GO GET IT!!!” And so on.
If I had to quite subjectively gauge the support from delegates, by enthusiasm, on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being orgasmic as with back in the last election, I would fix delegate hysteria at about 90 percent, not as much as before, but the recharging will be more than possible.
While the Washington Post of July 6th dishonestly portrayed a groundswell of opposition to Obama as well as NEA’s near-goonish demands for support (“We must have 90% of this convention joining Educators for Obama!” DVR) no such movement of any import existed (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gop-teachers-balk-at-obama-centric-nea-convention-that-leaves-conservatives-on-the-sidelines/2012/07/06/gJQATT1ARW_story.html) A video followed with school workers embarrassingly stumbling through their importance to America.
Then, a lively debate about the NEA’s cherished parliamentary maneuver: Object to consider. In Roberts’ Rules describes the order of the motion as:
An objection to the consideration of the question
Can interrupt a speaker who has the floor (until debate has begun on the motion to which it is applied).
Doesn't need to be seconded.
Can't be amended.
Requires a two-thirds vote against consideration to sustain the objection.
Can be reconsidered only if the objection is sustained.
Object to Consider should address a motion that is so odious, nobody should discuss it, is destructive or threatening to the organization, etc., but NEA has interpreted it for years as a method to silence debate about anything the leadership fears or doesn’t like. In the past, it was used to halt any discussion of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Israel, and the bailouts.
Roy Weatherford of the Florida United Faculty (profs) rose to debate: “This measure is designed to silence debate.”
Lily Eskelsen, VP, quickly intervened, called to end debate, and Weathford’s proposal was smashed, overwhelmingly.
Eskelsen then broke into a homily about DVR and his vast abilities to defeat “the dark forces who want to destroy our union.” (A former top NEA staffer told me the NEA maintains a few closed sites called NEA-Watch which targets organizations set out to destroy NEA, including a lot of the left).
“This man DEEPLY believes in YOU! He is open and honest with NO HIDDEN AGENDAS (emphasis hers)!”
DVR is introduced to tympani drum music.
“This is the 150th annual meeting and 90th Representative Assembly of the NEA! We, the 3 million members of NEA, WE EDUCATE AMERICA! Our work is so important to our country and the economy.
“25 % of our students live in poverty. Yet THEY blame teachers. The NCLB (RaTT is never mentioned) with its emphasis on standardized testing, has narrowed programs at the expense of art, literature, history, and so on. We have demands for a longer day, a longer year, with one exception, early childhood education...WHICH ONLY BO SUPPORTS!”
“What’s missing is the WHY of public education! It’s always about the students. ..to be good citizens, to teach AMERICAN values, equal opportunity and democracy! ...We have to address the needs of the Whole Child!”
DVR then launched into schlock about dropping off his own children at school.
“The election this year is the TURNING POINT for all of America! WE must do all we can to elect BO! (Mild applause). He did Obamacare! He did the Dream Act! Affordable school loans....
We WILL ELECT BO! ARE YOU READY??!!! (Mild applause). We must not allow teaching to be reduced to test preparation. We must oppose privatization. “
“We are part of a system that assigns inexperienced teachers to poor children. We cannot accept bad teachers (olive branch to the undecided voters). We stand for equity and opportunity. Every child deserves a good teacher. Let us ensure professional development for everyone.”
“Let us participate in deciding the curriculum that works best!”
...”We are the NEA! We Educate AMERICA! My youngest grandson will enter kindergarten next year, along with 4 million others in the class of 2025. We EDUCATE, WE EDUCATE, WE Educate America!!!! Thank you!!!”
More tympanies. Standing ovation.
The song again, “Standing Strong for America!” flags, red, white and blue bunting. Photos of Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, fireworks.
Followed by a video, “Our Win in Wisconsin!” Huh? In short, you lost. You got clobbered, at the cost of millions of hours of wasted time and millions in money. You lost. Wake up.
Tomorrow, the completion of the Chronology, NEA and CTU and SOS, the NEA budget, the Left at NEA, and Why are things as they are?
Rich Gibson is a co-founder of the Rouge Forum which will have their next conference in Detroit in 2013. He is an emeritus professor at San Diego State University. Rgibson@pipeline.com. Disclosure, Gibson worked for years at affiliates of the NEA and receives a very, very, very, small pension from the union. He will probably lose money on the RA but will be reimbursed for most of his expenses.