Saturday, July 5, 2014

Duncan Slapped by NEA Rank and File

The NEA resolution calling for the departure of Arne Duncan will be picked apart at great length this weekend. I'm pretty sure that Arne is not looking at his paper this morning thinking, "Well, damn. I guess I'd better resign then." Nor do I think his resignation would accomplish much in practical terms. But it sends a message-- several, actually-- and those are interesting on their own.

Leaving Obama Out of It

Interesting that the resolution calls for Duncan to resign rather than the President to fire him. Reminds me of the Declaration of Independence, which conveniently blamed the British government's misbehavior on the King, quite possibly because some folks wanted to leave the door open to deal with the Parliament (aka the people actually creating the offensive policies). It was a nice piece of political angle-playing, but I'm not sure it did much good.

Sending a Message to NEA Leadership

I've been assured by many folks that Dennis Van Roekel is a heck of a guy, and I have no reason to doubt that, but NEA leadership has blown every call every step of the way. In terms of leadership, they've looked a lot like a drum major who turned left when the band marched right, and now they are scrambling to catch up.

If the NEA ever got turned in the right direction, this was how it was going to happen-- a push-back from the states, refusing to behave as they were supposed to.

The Vergara trial and reactions to it have one more importance on top of all the rest-- it's the first time that NEA leadership and Duncan's office have actually disagreed with each other. I am NOT, please note, analogizing the parties involved, but from a tactical standpoint, Vergara may end up being the reformsters' Little Big Horn-- it looks like a decisive victory, but in the long term, it only serves to rile up the opposition.

I really enjoy the mental picture of Duncan on the phone with NEA leadership saying, "Hey, control your damn people," to which NEA leadership responds by shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Sorry, man, but they're pissed and we can't do anything about it."

The Darkly Cynical Read

I like the idea of NEA leadership reacting with a muted "Oh, bloody hell" when the resolution started to look like it had legs. But the cynical read is that this was not a breakdown of NEA's notoriously careful stage managing of its actions. I note this only because the wording of California's resolution dovetails nicely with the new OMGZ!! Bad Tests!! initiative of the NEA. If I wanted to bleed off some of the rank and file reform rage and make sure that it doesn't accidentally hit the Common Core, this is one way I would do it.

On the other hand, the dovetailing may just be a case of California doing a good job of reading the room.

But Let's Be Hopeful

Even if this was stage managed by NEA (and I have no real reason to believe that it is), it still represents a significant shift. NEA has played with similar crankypants motions before and they both died.

It would be nice if this is seem as proof positive to leaders in DC and NEA conference rooms that the union leadership cannot just deliver members in a nice neat package, all lined up behind whatever the bureaucrats and union officers decide in a quiet conference room. It would be nice if this is more proof that bogus polls and facile reassurances will not make the anger over reformy nonsense simply disappear.

So let's hope that this resolution is a message to all sorts of folks, most specifically NEA leaders and a bunch of folks in DC that teachers have had it with this amateur-hour bullshit trash-and-dismantle approach to our profession and the public education that we've devoted our lives to. Let's continue to make it clear to the folks in DC that we have had it with their assault on American public education. Let's continue to make it clear to the Democratic party it's not true that they don't have to stand up for us because we'll vote for them no matter how many times they attack us. And let's continue to make it clear to NEA leadership that we expect them to represent the teachers of America, and not politicians who keep attacking them.


  1. "Let's continue to make it clear to the Democratic party that they don't have to stand up for us because we'll vote for them no matter how many times they attack us."
    Is this really what you meant to say?

  2. Oops! Dropped a few words somewhere along the way. Fixed now.

    1. I figured that's what you meant.

      By the way, thanks for adding me to your blogroll, even though I also write about a fair number of non-education topics. I have reciprocated.