Teachers are my heroes.
As I searched my heart and my options back during my high school days, I decided I wanted to be a teacher.
No particular academic subject fired this ambition . . . I simply felt a desire to affect positively the minds and direction of a lot of young people while I lived on this planet. So I figured I'd teach English, a happy middle of the road subject, and try to be a good role model like the many teachers who were influencing me.
Singing, acting, TV, and other pursuits interrupted those plans, but never dulled my admiration for the almost anonymous citizens who train and serve in America's classrooms, educating and directing our kids. I believe — no, I know — that the vast majority of working teachers share my early desire not only to do a good job teaching subjects, but also to help their young charges find their way through this maze called life.
However . . . There's a giant organization, the nation's wealthiest lobbying group, the NEA (National Education Association) union, that is turning the world's most honorable profession into a self-protecting and self-promoting business. And although it may initially have done good things like getting teachers' pay raised and long hours shortened and retirement benefits increased, as any good union wants, the immense power this union has gathered to itself seems to be corrupting its original intents and purposes.
Major case in point: Research shows that, instead of really improving its education, America is slipping drastically in relation to other (and often much poorer) countries. Test scores in crucial areas like math and science and technology and economics-and even reading and literacy levels-have been steadily dropping!
America's future, and even much of our present, depends on the excellent education of our young. And, to a disturbing, troubling extent, we're not getting the job done. Yet the mighty NEA is dead set against any teacher evaluation, any benchmarks by which teachers and schools can be held accountable! It's shocking, and downright irrational. It's like not holding a banker accountable when he can't come up with the money you deposited there, and entrusted with him, just last year.
Hey, this is a very valuable asset — our kids and their future. And we want an accounting! If they're not getting what we're paying for, we want a change and quick!
There's a valiant, capable group doing something about this bad mess, actually confronting and challenging the bloated NEA that pays out salaries and fringe benefits over $100 million annually. It's The Foundation Endowment, based in Alexandria, Va. They're a small but dedicated group of patriots, headed by Dr. Joseph Horn and Sylvia Crutchfield, and determined that teachers should be held at least as accountable as butchers, auto mechanics, plumbers, and shoe salesmen: If their product isn't what you're paying for, you quit paying for it!
But no, in their latest mailing, the Foundation Endowment reveals that the 8,500 delegates of the NEA's Representative Assembly, in last month's annual convention in Philadelphia, adopted this position on evaluating teachers and other employees in education: "The Association also believes that the use of student achievement measures such as standardized test scores or grades to determine the competence, quality, or effectiveness of any professional educator is inappropriate and is not a valid measure."
Instead, the NEA says evaluation procedures are to be "supported by professional development programs" that "enable all education employees to keep abreast of developments in their areas of specialization. Such procedures, with sufficient resources, can help ensure job competency . . ."
In other words, as the Foundation Endowment points out, the NEA wants teachers to be judged by whether they have participated in its recommended very liberal "professional development programs," which are indicative of compliance, not accomplishment, and are just code words for "certification" in NEA political agendas.
The NEA is a heavily politicized union, and it assiduously courts government office holders and politicians. Since 1990, it has given more than $27 million to political candidates . . . 93 percent of them left-wing Democrats. And at this year's convention, seven Democrat presidential candidates delivered speeches. Only one Republican did.
This year, the No Child Left Behind education law is up for renewal in Congress, and the NEA is pushing to prevent the incorporation of any objective measurement of teacher competence into law.
It's sort of a Montessori method for teachers, not students: Just set your own pace, use only the mechanical NEA guidelines, do not develop any other standard, teach only what the NEA dictates — and be held accountable by nobody but the NEA. And get great benefits, have tenure (you can't be fired), and act as a parrot programmed for the complete genetic re-engineering of the teaching profession and its ethics. Parental concerns and objective evaluation needn't trouble you; your NEA big brother will take of things.
Teachers, individual honest hardworking teachers, are still my heroes. I hate seeing them railroaded into a robotic machine operated by liberal ideologues. I urge you to get to know the Foundation Endowment better via firstname.lastname@example.org to see what together we can do to set our teachers free. Free to be proud, effective, and accountable.
Responsibility is a kind of freedom. And freedom is a responsibility.
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