The NEA is concerned about bullying.
Specifically, they are concerned about the Trump Effect, which is one more name for one of the plumes of toxic smoke curling up from the dumpster fire that is Herr Donald's Presidential campaign.
There is reason for concern. Herr Donald's campaign has freed many folks from the restraint of what we could call "political correctness" or "general decent treatment of other human beings," and nothing bad ever gets loose in the general population that does not also breathe its toxic breath into the atmosphere of schools.
Anecdotes abound. The high school students who cheered "Build a wall" at their mainly-hispanic opponents. The endless supply of stories about children who are worried that the next President might deport them. There's absolutely no question that Trump's campaign has loosed some slouching beast into the political sphere, and that in turn has dropped a big bucket of ugly into schools across the country.
It's a topic worth discussing. Just not like this.
Instead of addressing the issue of bullying and the effects of our bad political discourse on the tiny humans of our nation, NEA has grabbed this issue and ground it up as campaign fodder.
A buttload of money will be spent to make ad buys in many, but not all, states, with a focus on swing states and states considered critical for the Presidential election. And they will, apparently, focus strictly on Herr Donald, concern trolling about how he poses a threat to our nation's youths by amplifying racism and intolerance and just general bullying.
These are the times when I kind of hate my union. This is transparently political, and really dangerously close to using children (and bullied children, at that) as props for political advantage.
Is bullying a tremendous issue that should be addressed regularly and forcefully? Absolutely. Is Donald Trump a terrible excuse for a Presidential candidate? Without a doubt.
But this PR push is not what happens when a bunch of people sit in a room and say, "Bullying is a tremendous issue for our students. What message could we put out that would help push back against it?" No, this is the kind of push that happens when union leadership says, "What's a message we can put out there for the Clinton campaign that looks somewhat connected to our mission as teachers?"
Yes, I'm probably still a bit cranky about the general shafting that Bernie Sanders got from the Clinton camp. And, yes, I've about had it with my union selecting and promoting candidates who promptly stab us in the back. But I would also like to not have to try to make excuses for my union when civilians see actions that are clearly based on political calculus and not on educational concerns. This is why union activity can be dismissed as simply political leveraging. This is also why the same young teachers who see Clinton as more of the same-old, same-old are inclined to reach the same conclusion about the NEA.
I know that politics matter, and that politics and politicians set any of the rules that govern how my life in the classroom goes. I don't think I'm all that naive. In fact, I suspect I'm less naive than those who think that this campaign will be seen as anything but what it is. I suspect I'm also less naive than the people who think this campaign will give people a lower opinion of Herr Donald, or a higher opinion of teachers and their unions.