Today's NEA is not your father's NEA. It's more like your grandfather's NEA.
reminds me of the GOP of the last two Presidential elections -- they've
heard of the technology stuff that the Young Folks are using, what with
their social medianting and playing with their twitters, but it's
probably just some passing fad (like the rap) and, anyway, the people
who know how to work with that stuff don't seem quite like Our Kind of
People, so we'd rather not have them in the parlor, please and thank
you. And that equipment they use-- it would probably smudge our
upholstery and ruffle our throw rug, so just ask them to stay out in the
front yard and we'll consider their advice, but probably ignore it. And
by the way, why don't any of the young folks ever stop by to visit?
Consider twitter. Even Job Bush and the Chamber know enough to try to at least fake a twitter presence.
Word on the street is that Arne Duncan's tweets are intern-generated,
but at least there is communication going on through an account with his
name on it. He even attempts the occasional #AskArne, which is a
terrible terrible idea, but which shows at least a rudimentary
understanding of how twitter works and what you have to do to use it.
Weingarten may be an active and engaged union leader, or she may be a
manipulative woman bent on establishing herself as a national political
power. I've heard both theories and everything in between, and
personally, I don't know where the truth lies. But you know what I do
know-- you can find her on twitter pretty much every day. And you know
who she'll talk to? Pretty much anybody, and she'll do it live enough
that I have to believe that she just goes ahead and types it herself.
on twitter, you can check out Dennis Van Roekel's account. Well, you
can sort of check it out, because it's locked and protected. It says
that DVR is following one person and has thirteen tweets. This is better
than NEA vice president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who has apparently never
used the account at all. It looks like Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle
is doing slightly better-- twenty-two tweets, half of which came from
the Kansas Legislature-- with photos. The NEA PR team and NEA Today both
have very active corporate accounts.
Facebook is even
worse. The National Education Association (you won't find them under
"NEA") has a page; out of the three-point-something million members,
just under 32,000 have liked the page. NEA Today's page has just over
64,000 likes. For comparison, the Bad Ass Teachers group just topped
42,000 members with nothing resembling actual organization. The Network
for Public Education, another group that isn't collecting a zillion
dollars from millions of members and is barely a year old , is just shy
of 10K likes on Facebook.
If I were a young teacher
trying to get a handle on the various teacher-related groups out there,
and I were trying to do it by looking around the interwebular materials
available, I would find precious little to clarify NEA for me (of
course, much of the NEA site is closed to non-members). If I scoured
social media, I might conclude that NEA is a group that used to exist
but has since gone out of business and is now run by bots.
and let's not forget GPS Network, a discussion board and internet
community software package that now functions as one of the biggest
ghost communities on the internet. There have been several rotations of
"hosts" to perk up the chatty discussions, but check out the forum on
Common Core, arguably the hottest hot button in the teaching world, and
you'll find nothing but a handful of shills posting perky praises to
CCSS at the rate of one or two a month, while the internet equivalent of
tumbleweeds fill the gaping empty space in between.
only way NEA could be on the right track is if their new motto is
"Trying To Avoid Putting a Human Face on a Large Corporate Entity." The
groups out there in the reformy world that actually ARE big soulless
corporate entities are doing a better job of faking humanity than the
country's largest collection of living breathing human teachers.
mind bad policies, stupid choices, and an all-too-typical rush to jump
on the CCSS bandwagon before checking to see if that wagon has wheels--
NEA's presentation of itself and use of twenty-first century tools is
enough explanation all by itself for their dwindling grasp of anybody
Guys, I am fifty-six years old. My
computer basis was a course about programming in BASIC on punchcards. I
have every excuse in the world to be a cranky old luddite fart who
refuses to learn his email password, and yet, I'm up to my elbows in
this stuff. Hell, Diane Ravitch is no chicken d'spring, and she has built a huge voice by dogged and smart use of all the 21st century tools. And that means nobody who is not my mother has an excuse for
being as stunningly bad at all of this as NEA.
Add to this
new media illiteracy to a message astonishingly out-of-touch with many
(if not most) of the rank and file, and it's a miracle (or perhaps
simply a demonstration of collective inertia) that NEA still manages to
limp forward at all. Even if the NEA message were forward-thinking and empowering, who would ever hear it??
But the backwards media is just a symptom. Witness NEA's reporting-- reporting!!-- last week on the growing test revolt. They offer a warmed-over recounting of what's going on and some words of support-- all in reference to one of the biggest movements currently going on in education, and with which the NEA has absolutely nothing to do. The new NEA Today tagline might as well be "Reporting the News That's Important in Education, But To Which NEA Is Irrelevant."
Do I think it can get better? I
have my doubts. In an organization this hidebound you don't rise up
through the ranks by doing anything that rocks the boat. And it's very
hard to turn around an organization that believes its members are to be
managed rather than listened to.
But I'd like it to be
possible, if for no other reason than it would be nearly impossible in
today's climate to create something from scratch like what NEA is
supposed to be. I don't think we can make an impression on the national
union, but I think we have a better shot in some cases of getting a
useful response from the state-level association, and I think the states
could get through to the national corporate level. If anybody has the
contacts or means of doing that, sooner is probably better than later,
because the process will be slow. After all, we might have to wait for the
national office to type a response out on their remington and send it by