Duncan omnipresent as National Education Association Opens annual meeting

Videos of former Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer (and now current U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan were one of the most common experiences of the thousands of teachers and other NEA delegates who arrived June 30 and July 1 in San Diego California for the NEA's annual national convention.

The Representative Assembly (RA) has not begun on July 1 — it won't until tomorrow July 2 — but the registration lines are open as are the exhibits. What was odd this year as the crowd arrived was the near devotion (as it was noted by a number of people) being heaped on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

This year the convention center is full of — Arne Duncan.

There are Arne Duncan flat screen videos running continuously in the exhibit hall and scattered around the beautiful San Diego Convention Center.

There are posters of Arne Duncan all over the place.

And what is the key word? "Hope!"

It looks like we may get an Obamagogue/Arne Duncan/Van Roekel hugfest from the nation's largest teacher union this year.

Browsing the convention center the first day, one could notice:

Not a peep in sight about layoffs, merit pay, high-stakes exams, the militarization of schools, or the fear that is pervasive. Not a hint of "Fight back!"

Instead, "Go Arne Go!"

There is, of course, more already going on. The NEA-AFT merger crowd is more out in the open this year than in the past. They have a formal caucus with meeting rooms. And the NEA-AFL-CIO merger crowd had a booth in the exhibition hall. The exhibitors gave away a lot less stuff, and there were far fewer of them this year — the economy at work.

So far, considering where the NEA is meeting, it's odd that there is nothing at all visible about the California budget meltdown, thousands of layoffs, and the fact that the San Diego Education Association has no contract, and hasn't had one for a year. It's also odd that SDEA has done nothing to promote the reality of the RA among their members. Most of them don't know a thing about it.

Unlike other unions, NEA doesn't perseverate over elected leaders too much — at least not at the really distasteful levels of the AFL-CIO, where pictures ot the hacks are everywhere, their quotes are written over all the newspapers, etc. Instead of ubiquitous signs of the NEA's leaders, the delegates are being greeted with ubiquitous Big Brother signs of Arne Duncan. NEA leadership does have its perks — like more than $350,000 in compensation a year and a lavish expense account.

But the worship you see promoted in other unions is not part of NEA culture. 

Final edited version of this article posted at July 2, 2009, 1:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


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