Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:02 pm

To the Editor,

I don’t begrudge David Nance his misrepresentation of the words of Bob Chanin, former General Counsel to the NEA. He, like many others, got this talking point directly from ads sponsored by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group. As a conscientious member of a political group, he obviously knows better than to twist someone’s words to serve his own purpose. I can only conclude that he must not have read the entire quote. I present it here for your other readers who might not have come across it as well:

“So the bad news, or depending on your point of view, the good news, is that NEA and its affiliates will continue to be attacked by conservative and right-wing groups as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees, and for human and civil rights. And that brings me to my final and most important point. Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. 

Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. 

And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. 

We have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

That is to say, despite the fact that the NEA has creative ideas, holds positions of merit, cares about children, and has a vision of a great public school for every child (again – it does have or do all these things), despite that, the thing that allows it to argue effectively on behalf of teachers is the money provided by dues. Once more, just to drive this home. Chanin did not say that the NEA doesn’t care about children.

It’s also worth noting that Nance gets his sources mixed up a bit, which perhaps explains why he leaves out a gap in years. That quote about counteracting the influence of home and Church? It didn’t come from Willard Givens but John Dewey, and it was delivered in 1928. I suppose that there is a chance that the NEA has not changed since those days, which were, historically, a testing ground for socialist ideas. 

Then again, even George Wallace changed his position on segregation within his own lifetime.

I’m not going to argue for or against the effectiveness of teachers’ unions here. You’ve had pro and con arguments recently (although I will point out that Nathan Castleman’s “the union will tell you to take 10 bottles of water plus a wagon” argument is the type of accusation we tend to call a straw man argument. It may be true in some cases but is certainly not true in all). 

I would prefer it, however, if everybody involved actually put their words into a proper context so as not to mislead the good people who read this paper.

With appreciation,

Jeff Stumpo


wcp 3/22/11

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