NEA Convention Report, Day Three... The NEA Representative Assembly Part Three “We Mis-Educate Our Members and the Nation! No Bullying! Obama! Money=Values!

With memories of the orgiastic fireworks display over the Washington Monument fresh in my mind’s eye, mixed with equally bracing memories of a sonic boom caused by a Navy jet purportedly 30 miles into the Pacific that shook my San Diego house six miles inland on June 30th, I joined about 7,500 NEA delegates, dutifully trooped into the Washington, D.C. Convention Center for one more go at it on July 5, a prompt 9 a.m beginning.

The Big Deal of the day came toward the end. Stick around, I promise.

Entering the NEA 2012 "RA," NEA members were reminded where the NEA stood on Race To The Top and other Obama administration policies. As usual, Obama snubbed the teachers, not wanting anyone to see him surrounded by hundreds of union members. Unlike 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was nowhere to be seen, as observers knew that even the tightly controlled NEA could not stop the teachers from booing the man who had ordered the "turnaround" of hundreds of public schools, forced charter schools across the USA, and made No Child Left Behind look sane and sensible. Substance photo by Rich Gibson.The RA kicked off, as noted earlier, with unfortunate Jane Watson of California trying, one more time, to get her New Business Item in support of the Save Our Schools group reconsidered by a body which had rejected her proposal, overwhelmingly. She got as far as saying, “Disinformation...” when chair Dennis Van Roekel (DVR) shut her up. “There was a motion to reconsider all business at the close yesterday. You are out of order.”

“But can’t I...” Plaintively.

“No, you cannot.” Take a seat, Ms. Watson.

Next, as the delegate in front of me and to the right passes into a deep slumber, slouched over into the next chair; New Business Item (NBI) 38 passes: “Adopted As Modified--

Through existing resources, NEA will inform its members on ways to challenge administrator, i.e. principal evaluator, etc., abuse of teachers and other education employees, and support the locals effort to defend the rights and dignity of teachers and other education employees.

This NBI can be accomplished at an additional cost of $8,625.”

No bullying! A tight fit into one of the major themes of the RA, along with the soothing, “We Educate America!” in red, white and blue. Don’t forget those incredibly ugly SHARK bags opposing bullying, that are themselves so offensive they amount to inartistic bullying, and I plan to remind of that again. Ugly!

The California caucus spent a good deal of too-early-morning time on NBI 40, which at base, opposed genetically modified foods (of course — California). It was defeated on the floor of the RA, but it was a pleasant diversion from the secretiveness about wars, class war and imperialist wars, everywhere escalation. Eat right! Be healthy! In a room with far too many morbidly obese people, that might not go far.

Forward! NBI 41 adopted: “NEA will encourage its state and local affiliates to help gather any written communications received from teacher recruitment organizations and/or their operatives that discourage member empowerment and activity in the work of the Association. NEA will then support its local and state affiliates in communicating the inappropriateness of this behavior.”

No bullying! Don’t pick on us! Don’t dis-empower us! Or else, for sure!

NBI 42 passed: “NEA will inform our members and the general public that in 2005, Congress made student loans virtually undischargable in bankruptcy, and the crisis this has caused. These were the only loans affected. NEA will: Publish information in NEA Today existing, planned articles on economic conditions of educators and on the NEA website social media sites - Contact Senator Dick Durbin's office to ask how we can support him in his work to rescind this provision.”

Barack Obama's stand-in for the NEA RA was Vice President Joe Biden, whose wife Jill has been a teacher. Biden received a polite response from the majority of the delegates despite the widespread hatred among teachers of his administration's "Race To The Top" policy to privatize public education and scapegoat teachers. Substance photo by Rich Gibson.The banksters abuse us! We can defeat finance capital, gifted $12.9 trillion by the Obama administration and Republicans in concert in 2008, an irreversible move which cannot be undone, from which there is no retreat, which finalized the corporate state and cut the legs off of every working class kid in the US, with a letter to Dick Durban. “We will Educate America!” with this one, and end that kind of bullying-abuse.

NBI 43. I will call this the “keep the dues flowing, even from members who got laid off after we promised them that round after round of concessions would save their jobs. Now, they are subs, but they can still send some dough.” motion.

Adopted but amended: “Using existing resources, the Membership Committee of the National Education Association will research policies of local and state affiliates (in regards to substitute teacher and substitute ESP membership, dues and inclusion in the bargaining unit) in order to highlight information that may assist locals who desire to organize substitute teachers and substitute ESPs as a means to increase their membership and NEA membership. The Committee will pay particular attention to how such policies affect former members who have been laid off and are now working as substitutes.

COST IMPLICATIONS (low balled this time) This NBI can be accomplished at an additional cost of $5,071.

A most pleasant interlude–National Teacher of the Year from California, Rebecca Mieliwocki, a seventh grade English teacher from Luther Burbank Middle School. This young, attractive, blond white woman can tell a tale, and who cares if it is, in essence, insipid?

She’s got jokes (paraphrasing, “I was teaching with my slip around my ankles...”). She knows how to loop a beginning to the end. She is full, absolutely full, of hope and joy, “I want you to always speak positively about our PROFESSION!...Let’s be positive together! Be proud! Open your doors to the community!” Rebecca even said, and I quote, “It is time for a revolution!” She is online here

I recommend Rebecca as the best tub-thumping feel gooder of the RA. She’s better than anyone and may over time become a very dangerous person, walking right through or around security devices with an escort.

Argh. Back to the tedium.

Resolution J 3. While this, along with NBI 46 and 47 didn’t occur in order in the RA, I’ll lump them for brevity and re-emphasis. J3 passed: “Members participating in local, state, and national association activities must be free from all forms of bullying.”

The S.H.A.R.K. bags were ubiquitous at the NEA convention, part of the anti-bullying campaign. Substance photo by Rich Gibson.NBI 46 and 47 passed; 46 via referral to a committee. 46 addressed bullying against everyone, but especially against gays, while 47 addressed taunting and other forms of harassment against the LGBQT community.

No bullying! Cut that out! Or else, we may definitely write a letter.

We took a jump to a Resolution, B-11 (it takes a scorecard and a lot of coffee to keep up with this, even for an old hand–no snoozing except for that guy in front of me. I learn he stole a woman’s chair and she is most unhappy as it is a prime chair, near an aisle. I’d be mad too. Go sleep in the damn isle!).

But I digress. B-11 is introduced by another of the few really stirring speeches at the RA from a woman in California who had 262 students in English classes and, when her boss found that she was still in school at 9 p.m., the generous employer gave her an alarm code so she wouldn’t trigger an annoyance, rather than offering her about 202 fewer students (as Mitt Romney and his teachers at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, enjoyed).

B-11 is a remarkably modest proposal, even woeful, and it was referred to committee: “The National Education Association believes that excellence in the classroom can best be attained by small class size.

“The Association also believes in an optimum class size of fifteen students and a maximum unique teacher/student contact ratio of no greater than 150 students (???!!!) for teachers of core content areas (English, math, science, history) in regular programs and a proportionately lower number in programs for students with exceptional needs. Class size maximums must be based on the type of students, subject area content, physical facilities, and other criteria. Weighted class size formulas should be implemented to reflect the inclusion of exceptional students. State departments of education should collect and report class size data that reflect the class size experienced by most students.” (Emphasis and commentary mine).

Back to the Good Health world. C-25 was a long, long, proposal that addressed good food, habits, medical care, etc., in and out of school. Coming from Tennessee, it emphasized care presented by experts in a variety of fields: counseling, nutrition, birth control, nursing, and so on. In a body where buckets of chocolate, cupcakes, potato chips, cookies, and much more are passed hand to hand through the delegations, it didn’t have much of a chance.

Now, real business: D2. It passed. This resolution spoke to the need to recruit and train new school workers (teachers are workers, not professionals — stop that), especially minority school workers but all who are or should be educated in NCATE approved colleges of education and to bring them into work with the “association.” (Note the language shift from “union”).

Here, NEA seems to recognize two important things: teaching is a largely segregated job yet minority students now may outnumber white folk — a potentially difficult cultural gap. And, young people in the US have no knowledge of NEA, strikes, how teacher collective bargaining and most of the benefits, wages, and retirement funds were won through job actions, nor do they know what a scab is. NEA’s own extensive surveying, which they conduct regularly and expertly, showed them that young teachers do not care about or connect with unionism for 15 years that I am sure of (and kudos for Chicago for apparently turning that upside down–a ‘how’ story that needs to be written, perhaps after the strike, should it have to happen, is won).

The rub: It’s been NCATE approved institutions and their cowardly tenured faculties that have aligned their syllabi with the nation-wide regulated curricula and high stakes standardized tests, making future teachers even more stupid than they made them in the past. Without a reversal of the entire process of schooling as illusion mills and human munition factories, which would require an upending of the entire structure of current American society—without even a critique of those vicious realities–NEA merely offers a chance to collect dues and makes things still worse.

The “train,” a term used for decades to describe the rush to finish on the last day of every RA I have ever attended, is moving faster now.

10 NBI’s were referred to committee, on the request of chair DVR, fast.

A good one, now, out of chronological order but worth recognizing: NBI 21 presented by California’s Judy Olson, articulately and passionately. This item deals with a key problem of lecturers and other contingent faculty (now the majority of profs) who have “no reasonable assurance of employment,” semester to semester yet in most states other than California (where the Cervisi decision protects them–note applicants!) they are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Kudos to Olson, a contingent faculty member in LA herself, for preparing and bringing this forward so well. It passed.

But it’s a redoubled “HOO HAH!!!” now.

Obama is calling in!

No, wait! No he’s not? It’s not him?

Yes it is! No, wait, it’s not him!

Third try...DVR: “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?” Much good-natured laughter and applause. But a lot of people complain he comes through garbled. Not me, not even with tinnitus.

It is HE! The ONE! The PRESIDENT OF THE USA, calling in from his campaign tour in Ohio!

Standing O! Much waving of white on blue “Educators for Obama” signs–ubiquitous.

The song, “Standing Strong for America!” Flags, bunting, red, white, and blue, plus Obama pictures on the big screen.

He speaks! DVR is raptured, as are nearly all. DVR: “We are SO PROUD to be the first union in the United States to endorse you! We believe in your vision for America...We are so proud that Vice President Biden and Dr Biden (visited us)....”

Remember those suck-ups, even going back as far as elementary school?

The damn speech is linked here

He likes teachers and the other guys are really rotten.

He spoke for about seven minutes, from 1:35 to 1:42 on my beloved Timex.

Crowd goes wild again.

“Four More Years! Four More Years! Four More Years!”

DVR: WE MUST RE-Elect President Barack Obama! (repeats, twice more). We’re behind you all the way!

Cameras and video sets were going off among the delegates so much during the speech, I am not sure many people paid attention to what BO had to say. I didn’t frankly, but I rarely do. I too was taking pictures–of him, the crowd, whatever. It’s all crap. When two Harvard grads are at each others’ throats, but most certainly will be doing group hugs in a year, just as Obama made his peace with the killer-cuckoldette, Hillary Clinton, I think of one of my main men, Holden Caulfield himself.

“Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding.”

So (I try hard not to fall into the NPR/PBS trap of beginning every sentence with “So...” but I am tired and fallen), what the ....just happened?

NEA delegates, drilled home against bullying for four intense days, after foisting ugly SHARK bags representing an anti-bullying campaign on every delegate who expected a quality carry-on, NEA bosses brought forth one of the biggest bullies in the world:

*toady to the rich financiers and industrialists, bottom dealers, who looted the economy and destroyed jobs in the US, thinking, “after us, the deluge,”

*drone-assassin, murderer of thousands of innocents, warrior promising endless warfare,

*while his barbarized Veterans Administration routinely denies benefits to damaged vets and forces them via an economic draft and Stop Loss rules to return again and again to conflicts even more hopeless than Vietnam,

*owner of private armies of mercenaries and the CIA,

*purveyor of more weaponry to the world’s dictators than anyone else on the planet,

*signer of the brutal National Defense Authorization Act,

*boss of Gitmo and other black torture sites,

*jailer of more than 2 million mostly black and Hispanic people,

*the well-protected toughie whose national terror squads coordinated violent attacks, and quasi-legal assaults, on the Occupy Wall Street and activist student movements in the last 24 months, driving them into retreat as his intelligence agencies, and unionites, diverted or jailed them,

*pimp for the pharma and insurance lobbies, hustling Obamacare as a step ahead,

*author–with Arne Duncan (DVR said, during a debate, “we cannot throw Duncan under a bus”) and Rham Emanuel, of the rotten Race to the Top (RaTT) which is the No Child Left Behind Act on meth,

*the grinning thug lawyer who ignores the murders of children in his falsified home town of Chicago,

*the member of the Bar who’s busied himself with destroying privacy laws and whistle-blowers,

*who extends the border fence behind the Border Czar, fascist Alan Bersin, the President who has deported more people than Bush II,

*the bogus Bible banger who couldn’t direct the arrest and trial of Bin Laden, rather the murder, as BO knew his own promotion of mysticism helped create a nation of irrationalists who could not stand a prosecution that said to OBL, “you’re nuts, have fairies dancing in your head; people make gods, gods do not make people, you murder people for a sham god,” even though only a better idea will defeat the AL Queda Jihad,

*the demagogue with the quick patter, who applauded the firing of Rhode Island teachers

*while his errand boy with the evil middle school child grin, Arne Duncan, declared Detroit the worst school system in the USA, then let the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the only hope the city had, sink in a sea of corruption and incompetence,

*This well dressed slippery little fuhrer over the corporate state and the best hope of the ruling classes to continue their rule without uprisings,

*Obama, an conscienceless herald of injustice hails.....

...NEA’s massive assembly of school workers who proclaim each day to oppose bullying and “an injury to one is an injury to all,” and They Love Him, an unconscionable bullying piece of shit.

Wowee! Meet the Old Boss! Same as the Old Boss! We shall vote our way to bona fide salvation this time around–certain!

Did he know he was taunting them? Of course he did. Saps. Rubes. Suckers. Easily gulled.

Now he can return to real friends who can’t be conned like JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon (who just lost, probably, another $9 billion of depositor money, and who said to Hank Paulson, begging Jamie for Morgan money to stave off a certain world financial collapse, riots in the streets, and worse: “Hank, I would do anything for the United States, but not at the expense of JP Morgan.”) and his other pals at Goldman Sachs.

They know, as Biden enunciated: Money=Values, and vice versa.

Thank goodness for Holden. This has happened before, and will again: “People never notice anything.”

It doesn’t always happen. Things, certain, change. Criticism, ideas, can defeat men with guns. We soldier on, with a keyboard and bad knees now. Can’t outrun the coppers. War of the mind and mouth for the duration.

Back to the salt mines.

In discussion with seat mates, I was reminded that NEA’s RA, last year, passed a resolution designed to attack Teach for America, under the guise of staff doing research on the damage the group had done–or so said my colleague. Remarkably, a report came back this year with this quote inside: "No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions."

Indeed the staff said most NEA locals have no big problems with TFA and what they really hope to do is recruit the younger TFAers to NEA. Whether or not that will clang against the thoughts of those who have hated Wendy Kopp and TFAs little profit machine for years is beyond my reach. For my own part, I always agreed with what the staff reported, felt the TFAs might not be worse than many of the sluggo school workers I have witnessed conducting high stakes exams while ignoring crying, even vomiting children, but I can easily see how others will differ.

I shall have to leave for tomorrow, sad to say, key items promised for today: The budget (values=money), the Left at NEA (or the cartoons pretending to represent it), and a final Why are things as they Are? Trying to be almost exhaustive in coverage, making Substance the only reportage of this kind–but for the disingenuous bullshit NEA will run, I see I came out a little long.

I must close, however, with John Stocks, NEA’s Executive Director, rouser of a speech that had delegates all abounce once more.

Stocks called for “Social justice patriotism,” so much an oxymoron that Holden would want to barf.

He added, hyping for all it is worth, “NEA is an organization with a soul...(we need) to defend democracy, fight for equal opportunity and create a more just society...(teachers) played a huge role in fostering social justice patriotism throughout American history. Not only have educators instructed each generation about the core principles upon which America were founded, but you have, in many instances, acted as the conscience of the nation we love."

Stocks did the Good-Obama, evil Romney, sing-song, offering delegates the chance to ratify evil, as many know, one slower step at a time.

He went on for nearly 30 minutes. I offer a link if you have the stomach

Is this mass convention hall noise I hear like ululation or is Stocks imitating and initiating mass glossolalia?

Stocks, remember, is the Social Justice Patriot who fired 57 senior staff–with a phone call. DVR said that saved about $7.1 million. Values follow the money.

I end today with a quote from a good friend who will be unnamed as I want him to remain employed.

“This is just another union of the empire, a corporate state union. We are teaching behind enemy lines.”

People conducting that kind of work, under somewhat different circumstances, prevailed before.

But is that a knock on the door?

Rich Gibson,, is a co-founder of the Rouge Forum although he has not been a spokesperson for the RF for more than five years. The RF will hold its 16th annual conference in Detroit in 2013. Plan ahead. Gibson is an emeritus professor from San Diego State who has warned that the US will look like Detroit for about a decade. An injury to one does indeed precede an injury to all. “To be awake is to be alive.” Thoreau. Pay attention to Detroit, as you must to Chicago.


July 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM

By: Doug Selwyn

NEA convention as comedy?

If Rich Gibson's commentary were not so accurate it would be good comedy... but we as teachers continue to give over our power, our decision making, and our consciences to those who know virtually nothing about education and who care less. We are the ones who give the tests, who carry out the abuse of our students. If we agreed to not abuse our children and our souls much would change.

PS: most robots I know can answer that math problem below....

July 10, 2012 at 9:38 AM

By: Jean R Schwab

Obama supporter on NEA's direction

I like Rich's writing and usually agree on most, if not all, of his views. I disagree with his views on Obama. I do not perceive Obama as he described him. He is not perfect in everything, especially choosing Duncan as Secretary of Education. I hate Duncan's programs. I agree with Obama on his environmental and immigration views. My perception of the Obama administration is very different than Rich's. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about the NEA and am a little concerned about the direction they are headed.

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