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NCLB Outrages

Open Letter to the Rank and File Members of the NEA

by Horse Philosopher

Here Horse Philosopher presents the Educator Roundtable's response the NEA's denunciation of our petition to end No Child Left Behind.

Dear Fellow Educators,

On November 21, 2006 the Educator Roundtable launched an online petition drive to repeal the 2002 reauthorization of ESEA, the so called No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The response to the petition has been exceptional; in less than 30 days more than 20,000 signatures have been collected, all via the Internet without media support.

Unfortunately, the national leadership of the NEA has come out against our efforts to repeal this disastrous legislation, legislation that diminishes the professionalism of teachers, cedes local control of classrooms to federal and corporate manipulation, and, most distressingly, subjects our children to an endless regimen of high-stakes tests that provide little, if any, benefit to their lives.

Aside from being an ineffective way to educate children, the new educational culture of NCLB is patently destructive. Our children, in lieu of being prepared for contributive citizenship in our democracy, or even being prepared for the world of work, are being reduced to nothing more than passers of minimum competency tests. Your teaching is being judged only on whether you can bring your lowest performing students to meet the lowest of expectations on simplistic reading and mathematics tests, at the expense of all else -- including your best and brightest. For what purpose then does public schooling exist? Do we school to help all children develop into critical, reflective, engaged participants of their communities, or do we school to try to meet the expectations of ill-informed legislators and lobbyists who clearly have no interest in your children?

Considering the dire consequences unfolding for public educators, students, their families, and the communities housing them, one would think that the NEA would be the foremost voice of opposition to NCLB. Instead of demanding that America's classrooms be free from corporate intrusion, the NEA's leadership offers a watered-down approach seeking only to mitigate a few of the law's more egregious effects.

For the past four years the NEA leadership has failed to see the proverbial forest for the trees and, in so doing, has failed the very teachers it purports to represent. Now, when concerned educators and their supporters organize themselves to oppose reauthorization of the law, we are denied out of hand by the leaders of an organization that should be our greatest ally. Sadly, we have arrived at a time when the leadership that once protected our interests is willing to dismiss them in order to protect its own.

In contrast to their policy, the members and supporters of the Educator Roundtable, now 20,000 strong, are acting in the original spirit of unionism, organizing many small voices into a meaningful wave of self-advocacy. The Educator Roundtable asks teachers and their supporters to speak openly about the impact of the No Child Left Behind Act. We encourage everyone with a stake in public education—and that is everyone— to engage in a vigorous, heartfelt debate about what we want for public education and what we want for our children and our future.

In order to allow this broad debate to carry forward towards real education reform, we seek to end the current format of ESEA. We do not want to simply and stubbornly oppose the law without proposing "any positive changes or alternatives," as the NEA leadership accuses us, but we must establish an environment where open debate is possible—an environment free of NCLB—to move beyond the original ESEA to the betterment of our children rather than the destruction of public education. The key to this effort is, of course, openness, amongst ourselves, with the public, and with millions of disenfranchised educators both within and without the NEA.

While it appears that openness is not the policy of the NEA leadership at present, we hold faith that the rank and file members of the NEA are able to think for themselves, and we encourage them to read our public statements and to sign our petition. It might comfort them to know that many union members are sitting at our roundtable; several have been paying dues since the late 1960s. We hope you recognize that when leaders make mistakes, their supporters must make tough decisions, holding leadership accountable for the paths they choose.

It would be a different country if more Americans learned to do so.

The NEA has chosen to initiate a national campaign to discredit our organization, urging their members not to sign the petition. We believe that teachers, union members or not, are tired of being told what to do, when to do it, and how it is best done. If you share our belief, we urge you to join us by signing the petition calling for and end to NCLB.

The Educator Roundtable is an organization made up of teachers, parents, students, and educators with a shared vision for our public schools that preserves the ideals of vibrant and meaningful teaching and learning. We join the thousands of teachers who find it impossible to stay silent in the face of the destructive path of NCLB, and we will not be deterred by the leadership of an organization that ignores the voices of its own members. Please direct all inquiries to Dr. Philip Kovacs, Director of the Educator Roundtable, at www.educatorroundtable.org.

— Horse Philosopher


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