It’s disappointing—though not surprising—that the National Education Association has doubled down on prioritizing far-left political activism over the best interests of America’s children.
By asserting that the problems with America’s educational system stem from systemic racism, the NEA is, in effect, blaming others for the failures of the country’s public school system—while absolving itself of any culpability whatsoever.
Consider the fact that in 2019, the NEA voted against rededicating itself “to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America,” yet approved resolutions to “incorporate the concept of ‘White Fragility’ into NEA trainings/staff development, literature, and other existing communications on social, gender, LGBTQIA, and racial justice,” to “promote the Black Lives Matter Week of Action,” to “educate members and the general public about the importance of reparations,” and to “call on the U.S. government to accept responsibility for the destabilization of Central American countries (including, but not limited to, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua), and that this destabilization is a root cause of the recent increase of asylum seekers in the United States.”
While those positions may be worth debating on a national stage, it’s not clear what they have to do with the organization’s stated mission of “fulfill[ing] the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.”
No one opposes “teaching the truth,” and it’s disingenuous to caricature critics of critical race theory and anti-racism activism as doing so. But then again, straw men are much easier to knock down than motivated, educated adversaries.
So, what’s actually behind this K-12 uprising that has the NEA lashing out?
As a recent poll conducted for Parents Defending Education found, respondents oppose the introduction of discriminatory policies and curriculums into their schools—which is what’s being done in district after district around the country.
Parents oppose their children being segregated on the basis of race in 2021. They oppose finite school budget dollars being spent on diversity consultants. They oppose their school districts making active efforts to hide and obscure controversial lessons from families. They oppose their children being taught that showing your work in math class is “white supremacy culture,” and being forced to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix.”
Even before the pandemic, America’s schools weren’t doing particularly well. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, in 2019, only 35% of fourth-graders were reading at or above proficiency, while only 41% of fourth-graders were performing at or above proficiency in math.
That, of course, was while students still had the benefit of in-person education. It’s unlikely that the next round of NAEP scores will show that a year of virtual school had anything other than a negative effect on student achievement.
And while schools were initially closed out of an abundance of caution in the spring of 2020, let’s not forget that in jurisdictions such as Los Angeles, union officials issued a laundry list of demands before they would consider returning to in-person teaching— including so-called “Medicare for All,” defunding the police, and a moratorium on charter schools in the state of California.
Mental health advocates have sounded the alarm about young people’s mental health after 14 months of a global pandemic. But it’s hard to see how lessons that shame students for alleged “privilege” or dividing students into groups based on skin color, thereby implying that students process news events differently, would help struggling children.
To the contrary, those activities further undermine, isolate, and divide students at a time when they desperately need affirmation, support, and kindness.
The NEA can point the finger at “systemic racism” all it wants to explain away its shortcomings, but in most other professions, if less than half of the desired outcome is achieved year after year, most other enterprises would admit failure and close up shop.
The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email [email protected] and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.