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Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2001 / 17 Elul 5761

Don Feder

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Welcome to NEA-dominated schoolhouse -- AS millions of children head back to class this week, members of the National Education Association will be at the schoolhouse door, waiting to warp impressionable minds.

Between them, the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (its ideological twin) represent upward of 85 percent of the nation's public school teachers. In terms of shaping the content of public education, the NEA is more powerful than all the school committees and education boards in the land.

As its 2001 national convention demonstrated, the NEA's platform is indistinguishable from the agendas of the ACLU or People For the American Way. Little wonder that last year the NEA sent more delegates to the Democratic National Convention than the state of California.

A popular button spotted at the association's Los Angeles assembly read, "Jesus loves ya, Dubya, everyone else thinks you're an (obscenity)." Thus do progressive educators teach tolerance and show their respect for the office of president.

When it comes to protecting public education's monopoly status, the NEA functions as a medieval guild. Predictably, the convention passed resolutions deploring charter schools, vouchers, home schooling and standardized tests, while demanding substantial increases in education funding.

But the NEA also took stands on issues not remotely related to education. It supported statehood for the District of Columbia, comparable worth legislation, abortion and "proscriptive" (confiscatory) gun control, but opposed official English and space-based defense.

The NEA's political program translates into indoctrination in the schools. In La-La land, the guild embraced multiculturalism, global education, environmental education and race, gender and sexual-orientation studies.

All of these courses are based on dubious premises and designed to advance a cause. One side of the argument is treated as received wisdom, the other essentially ignored.

In its resolution on environmental education, the NEA pledged to push courses promoting "the concept of interdependence of humanity and nature," "an awareness of ... population growth ... on human survival" (but no consideration of the contributions of population increases to productivity), "solutions to such problems as ... global warming, ozone depletion" and acid rain (which science has yet to establish as problems) and participation in Earth Day celebrations.

All that's missing is a demand that Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance" be adopted as a textbook and a call for teachers to collect contributions for Earth First.

In another of its knee-jerk resolutions, the NEA declared "the struggles of working men and women to establish unions ... should be an integral part of the curriculum in our schools." They're not talking about teaching the history of organized labor, but getting kids to love and trust union bosses.

In 1997, the California Federation of Teachers came up with a swell way to introduce grade-schoolers to the Jimmy Hoffa worldview. The federation is an AFT affiliate, but the curriculum it devised (called "Yummy Pizza Company") has been endorsed by the NEA.

Kids role-play as workers who make pizzas. Management (the teacher) cuts their wages and increases their hours. The children are then encouraged to organize, engage in collective bargaining and go out on strike. Since the NEA is the largest union in America, and its members frequently strike for higher wages, there's more than a little self-interest at work here.

Students are also given problems to solve. One involves a business called "Kids for Hire," owned by Mr. Ink, which employs children to cut lawns, wash cars and baby-sit. Ink pays them less than he charges his customers (otherwise known as capitalism -- a concept teachers, as government workers, are probably unfamiliar with). The kids think it's unfair. Mr. Ink tells them to quit if they're dissatisfied.

But he's the only employer who'll hire them, the lesson plan instructs. (Are the kids incapable of offering these services on their own?) Students are asked, "What do you think the children should do?" Oh, go on strike, slash Ink's tires, throw rocks through his windows, and beat up scabs.

Lenin said give me a child for the first five years of his life and he'll be mine thereafter. The NEA has your child for 12 years. Vouchers are looking better and better all the time.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate