SOS Fest: Teachers Unions and Radical Left are in Charge
Teachers should think twice before marching in lockstep with this revolting crowd.
Americans have always had a warm spot for teachers. We all have memories of those who have taught us, who were there every day for us and felt like part of our family. But over the past 40 years or so, teachers unions have begun to chip away at the public’s perception of teachers. And this changing perception has accelerated during the recent fiscal downturn.
Education policy expert Jay Greene addresses this phenomenon in The Army of Angry Teachers which was posted on Education Matters, his own blog, and elsewhere last week. The crux of his piece is that typically people tend to look at teachers as an extension of their family. But now during stressful times for teachers, the teachers unions have whipped the rank and file into a state of deep anger. Greene writes “But when the public face of the teacher unions is the Army of Angry Teachers, they no longer seem like Mary Poppins and begin to look a lot more like longshoremen beating their opponents with metal pipes.”
Greene has hit on a major point. Not surprisingly, the post was met with negative responses by, well, angry teachers.
While some teachers may be justified in being angry about this and that, the teachers unions are doing their level best to convince teachers that they are underpaid and underappreciated and if not for the unions, teachers would be receiving minimum wage and spending their time being spat upon by the man in the street. This alleged “teacher bashing” couldn’t be further from the truth, but nevertheless, too many teachers have bought this nonsense hook, line and sinker and have become true believers of all things union. As such, from the inside out, the union’s game plan of making teachers psychologically dependent on them is working quite well.
These feelings of victimization and anger will be on full display this weekend in the nation’s capital. The teacher union-backed SOS (Save Our Schools) March on Washington – will have the Army of Angry Teachers and others taking to the streets and screaming about various education issues such budgetary shortfalls that must be made up by “taxing the rich.” Standardized testing and “teacher accountability schemes” are due for some harsh criticism also.
Because of the sorry collection of participants, this is going to end up being even worse for teachers than Greene alluded to in his article.
While the march itself will be on July 30th, there will be workshops on the 28th and 29th. Kicking off each of these days will be a keynote speech – one from 1960s relic Jonathan Kozol and the other from discredited education historian Diane Ravitch.
Education reformer Whitney Tilson refers to Kozol as a “dangerous crackpot who will cause this country’s most vulnerable children immeasurable harm.” Kozol has been beating the more-money-will-conquer-all-things-educational drum for 45 years now while blaming poor student performance on bogeymen like poverty and racism. Kozol conveniently omits the fact that the poor and minorities have made great strides when there is a real choice given to parents as to where to send their children to school – invariably to non-unionized ones.
Ravitch, whose scholarship once upon a time landed her on the prestigious Koret Task Force, a group that focuses on education reform options has now, for reasons known only to her, done a 180 practically overnight and become a shill for the teachers unions. In fact, she has done such a good job in her new career that the National Education Association bestowed on her their highest honor — the “Friend of Education Award” at the union’s 2010 national convention. (If there is anything more damning than to be honored by NEA, I can’t imagine what it would be.)
But the “be careful who you hang out with” warning goes way beyond Kozol and Ravitch. The endorsers of the confab include a laundry list of radicals — people and organizations — that are significantly outside the American mainstream. For example:
Students for a Democratic Society – Yes, they are still at it. The name sounds innocent, but this is the organization responsible for bombing the Pentagon and various police stations around the country 40 years ago.
Michael Klonsky – long-time proud Communist who was invited to China in 1977 to confer with his fellow Maoists.
Freedom Socialist Party – a typical progressive capitalist-hating socialist outfit, but with a feminist slant.
Rethinking Schools – Oh boy are they! From their website – “How do we bring the fight to protect and transform public schools into our classrooms? How do we connect our classrooms to the struggles in the streets? As the crisis over public education escalates, activist teachers are experimenting with new approaches.”
Radical Women – Their website proclaims this group is “the revolutionary wing of the women’s movement and a strong feminist voice within the Left.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Oh, one more thing. Washington can get pretty swampy during the summer and the organizers have a film festival planned in a hopefully air-conditioned theatre. The kickoff film is “The People Speak,” which concerns itself with the late Communist Howard Zinn. The former college professor perhaps hit the nadir of a rather dubious professional career by penning “A People’s History of the United States.” When called on the carpet for writing a history book that played very fast and loose with the facts, Zinn freely admitted it, saying that his hope in writing the book was to create a revolution.
In any event, I’m sure some legitimate gripes of teachers will be addressed at this four day event. However, the teachers unions and the radicals will get most of the press coverage and teachers will come out of all this looking like useful idiots or worse. As such, teachers would do well to distance themselves from this unseemly event. If not, whatever esteem Americans still hold for its teachers of America will erode further.
About the author: Larry Sand is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.