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[Susan notes: ]

Published in Phi Delta Kappan
03/01/2008

To the editor

NEA Not Selling Out

Probably the two arguments that pose the most difficult
challenges are those that come from either end
of the continuum-- those that are deeply based in
empirical evidence and those that are fantastical. The
proposition of the article by Susan Ohanian and Philip
Kovacs (December)-- that NEA's position on the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act (known in its
current form as No Child Left Behind) is corrupted by
its association with the Partnership for 21st Skills--
falls into the latter category. What is of most concern
is that something rooted only in the imagination of
the authors could take up space in a serious education
journal.

The Partnership framework--including high-level
thinking, analysis, communications, and learning skills
--matches the kind of education our members seek
for their students. The Partnership's principles with regard
to NCLB call for multiple forms of assessment,
including classroom-based assessments, in order to foster
these skills. It turns out that the increased public policy
focus on preparing students to cough out isolated
pieces of information is not only bad for education,
but bad for business in today's world.

Virtually all of the major educator subject-area groups
have collaborated with the Partnership to demonstrate
how 21st-century skills can be incorporated into content
instruction. Contrary to the "standardized curriculum" charge,
the Partnership has launched an interactive
website that encourages virtually limitless classroom-
based resources.

Ohanian and Kovacs imply that somehow the NEA
has "sold out," though they never define the exact bargain.
That may be because the only exchange is willingness
to work with others when they share our vision
for quality education.

--John I. Wilson, executive director,
National Education Association, Washington, D.C.

The Authors Respond

One of the most telling signs of the ethical bankruptcy
of NEA leadership is their steadfast allegiance
to the world view offered by corporate America. Wilson
calls us "fantastical." The truth is, we're mystified.
We've been all over the Partnership's website, and we
don't see the word "democracy" anywhere. So we're
troubled that NEA leadership uncritically waves the
Partnership's banner.

Apparently the Partnership put business before life,
liberty, and happiness.

Setting Wilson's ad hominem attack aside until the
editors at PDK give us more space, we'd still like to
know when, exactly, NEA leadership sold members out
for a seat at the corporate dinner table.

--Susan Ohanian and Philip Kovacs

NEA Executive Director & S. Ohanian & P. Kovacs


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