Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages


Philip Kovacs Comment, Educator Roundtable:

Dear NEA Leaders,

It's been a while since we "talked." Last December's PDK to be exact, but the exchange was for subscribers only.

I saw that your letter to the editor condemning our piece in that issue (what, two essays to our one was not enough for you?) was printed in this month's edition.

Your decision to ignore our charges got me to thinking, and I have a few questions for union leadership, and ultimately the union members who support you.

1. What, exactly, has NEA LEADERSHIP done for democracy in education over the past decade?

2. Why, outside of buying insurance, should I support the NEA? And don't give me any of that credit card shit. Four years ago when we invited you to address 200 future teachers and you showed a commercial for an NEA credit card I vomitted in my mouth. I still have a hard time getting the memory of that taste to leave me alone...probably a matter for a shrink...

3. How much money do you make in advertising fees from test and textbook publishers?

4. How much does the president, vice president, executive officer, chief lobbyist (et. al i'm sure...) make compared to the average dues paying member?

5. Why have you sold membership out via silence over NCLB's privatization initiatives. Do you realize that your members are losing their jobs as underqualified "teachers" fill charter schools opened via NCLB?

I'm not sure you can answer these charges, and I'd like to ask NEA members who visit this site to think carefully about them. I think membership now supports that which the NEA once protected members from, and that is not good for any of us...

Ohanian Comment: Take a look at the website of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills--and ask yourself why NEA is so relentless in their defense of these fellows.

Subscribe to Phi Delta Kappan, and read the December article. Philip and I had a lot more questions for NEA leaders than their alliance with The Partnership.

Remember, NEA leadership denounced Kovacs and me for calling for the dissolution of NCLB. As they state in the article, their primary purpose is to sit at the table with corporate politicos. there are no teachers, parents, or children at that table.

Phi Delta Kappan, March 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

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

— J. Wilson, Exec. Director, NEA, P. Kovacs, & S. Ohanian
Phi Delta Kappan


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.