The Politics of the NEA

The gay agenda has received quite a boost from the National Education Association (NEA) in recent years. Indeed, the NEA has been instrumental in promoting most of the "progressive" ideas of the education establishment. The NEA describes itself as "America's largest organization committed to advancing the cause of public education:" Was it advancing that cause when it adopted a plan on February 8, 2002, to make schools safe and hospitable for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students and education employees?

The NEA's press release promoting the plan said the union would endeavor "to provide students, education employees and the general public with accurate, objective and up-to-date information regarding the needs of, and problems confronting, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students." Any such information, according to the statement, would be "nonjudgmental in terms of sexual orientation/gender identification." "Nonjudgmental," of course, in instances like this means substituting one judgment for another: that is, approving the "judgment" that homosexuality is morally neutral behavior and disapproving the "judgment" that it is not.

In fact, the NEA is colluding with gay activist groups to promote gay issues in every state in the Union. It encourages public schools to arm their principals with "Just the Facts," a so-called primer on sexual orientation and youth that it has formally endorsed. Here are a few passages from the primer: "Sexual orientation is one component of a person's identity, which is made up of many other components, such as culture, ethnicity, gender, and personality traits Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth must also cope with prejudiced, discriminatory, and violent behavior and messages in their families, schools, and communities. Such behavior and messages negatively affect the health, mental health, and education of lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people. These students are more likely than heterosexual students to report missing school due to fear, being threatened by other students, and having their property damaged at school."

The brochure goes on to say that such treatment leads to isolation and lack of support, which in turn accounts for "higher rates of emotional distress, suicide attempts, and risky sexual behavior and substance abuse" among gays. Since gays are afraid of being harassed or hurt, the primer urges schools to create an environment that is "as open and accepting [of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals] as possible, so these young people will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns."

No one approves of actual bullying or harassment of any groups or individuals for any reason, including sexual orientation. The problem some have with the message of "Just the Facts" and related propaganda is that it assumes that the "higher rates of emotional distress, suicide attempts, and risky sexual behavior and substance abuse" are the result of "bullying" rather than something that might be linked to the lifestyle behaviors themselves. Beyond that, though, the real civil rights issue here is the discrimination against students who uphold traditional religious beliefs about homosexuality. There is no legitimate reason for the public schools to assume a charter to reshape the religious beliefs of students or to deny them the right to freely dissent from this propaganda. "Bullying" is legitimately punishable-and always has been. But the idea that traditional religious beliefs should be subverted by the public schools as a matter of course and duty is ominous.

Many believe the NEA and its rival union, the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), are the strongest forces standing in the way of true education reform. Together, these unions represent some three-fourths of all public school teachers (K-12) in this country. One expert estimated in 1996 that their combined annual revenues were in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion, exclusive of their political action committees (PACs), various foundations, and special purpose organizations. With that amount of cash and thousands of highly paid staff employees, they wield enormous political power-primarily over educational issues-though their influence is not limited to that.

Since the NEA established its PACs in 1972 it has supported and endorsed every Democratic presidential candidate. While it claims to be bipartisan, it overwhelmingly endorses Democratic candidates at the congressional level as well. In 1996 the NEA employed more political operatives than both major political parties combined." The union has even developed a handbook on dealing with the "radical right's crusade against the public schools." The text opens, "They won't go away. No matter how bizarre we believe their beliefs to be, no matter how illogical and inconsistent their goals appear, and no matter how often we reassure ourselves that 'this too, shall pass,' the political, social, and religious forces that make up the radical right in contemporary American society will not go away."

Later in the body of the document the tirade continues: "The overriding goal of the radical right is to impose a new political, social, and religious order on the nation. The ideal New America, for the radical right, would be one in which citizens conformed to the rightwing views on everything from foreign policy and constitutional interpretation to the selection of textbooks in our classrooms."

The position paper goes on to trash the so-called radical right's supposedly inconsistent opposition to abortion and support for gun rights and capital punishment.4 A more interesting inconsistency is what these issues have to do with education and the interests of teachers. In its own published statements, such as this one, the NEA reveals itself to be a crass political arm of the left wing, distracted by various and sundry political views having nothing to do with its mandate. And when it does discuss education in literature such as this, it is in terms of partisan name-calling, suggesting that when "stars of the radical right" like Phyllis Schlafly come to town, "that's a pretty sure sign that plans are underway for some kind of assault on the schools or the Association or both."

The NEA, as has been noted, spends an inordinate amount of time off the education message. It actively supports "reproductive freedom," the current euphemism for "abortion rights." Dictating these views to teachers sometimes forces the union to confront dissent. Dennis Robey, a teacher, put union officials on notice starting in 1995 that he objected to supporting the NEA because of its positions on abortion, homosexual rights, and its efforts to interfere with parental rights. He thus asked for an exemption from dues on the basis of his religious beliefs. The union, in the 1999-2000 school year, not only rejected his claim, but also submitted him to "probing questions about his personal relationship with God [and] his religious affiliation."

Robey fought back and in October 2000 the Equal Employment

Briefly-and it's far more complicated than this-but Second Amendment advocates, in addition to championing freedom, are fighting for the right to defend themselves and their families, which is the essence of a pro-life position. And while this is grossly over simplified too, pro-life proponents fight to protect the most innocent of human lives. In also favoring capital punishment, they are likewise advocating respect for life-and recommending execution for those who are adjudicated guilty of ending innocent lives.

Opportunity Commission ordered the NEA to curtail its annual questioning of teachers who request their dues to be paid elsewhere for religious reasons. Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said of the decision, "For years the NEA union has used this particular illegal scheme to intimidate and harass teachers of faith who dare to challenge their radical agenda. The EEOC's finding of a violation further underscores that the nation's largest teacher union has systematically persecuted people of faith."

Another case involved school psychologist Kathleen Klamut of Ohio. She also tried to have a portion of her union dues diverted to charity because she opposes abortion, which she saw the NEA as supporting. She too met with resistance. After an eighteen-month-long fight, the OEA, the Ohio counterpart of the NEA, relented and granted Klamut's request. But again, the fundamental question is: why is a pro-abortion agenda a legitimate interest of a teacher's union? Regardless, should the NEA seek to force its political views into public schools?

The NEA is also fully supportive of what are called the "multicultural" and "diversity" agendas. In two resolutions issuing from its 1999 convention it affirmed its commitment not only to "diversity" based curricula, but to their introduction in early childhood (from birth through age eight) education programs. In its resolution it stated "that a diverse society enriches all individuals." Part of this enriching diversity, it went on to say, is people with differences in "sexual orientation."

In a separate resolution on "Sex Education" it stated "it is the right of every individual to live in an environment of freely available information and knowledge about sexuality." It further encouraged the establishment of sex education programs to include information on many things, including "diversity of sexual orientation" and "incest."

Given the poor educational performance of America's public schools-a performance that was famously encapsulated in the phrase "a nation at risk"-it might be better if the nation's leading teachers' union were more concerned with reading, writing, and arithmetic-and leaving the moral beliefs of Christians alone.

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