McClaughry: The teachers union’s new pupil indoctrination plan

By John McClaughry

The National Education Association’s assembly has passed two startling resolutions to push the union’s ideology of racial justice and equity, anti-capitalism, and white oppression into the public school classroom. The “remedy” of concerned citizens regaining control of curriculums only rarely succeeds. A better solution: let objecting parents send their children to independent schools, taking a large fraction of their public school equalized per pupil cost of education with them.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

There was a time, 50 years ago, when many teachers, superintendents and academics belonged to their professional group, founded as the Vermont Teachers Association in 1850. For many years public school teachers — mostly women — usually had the respect of the community but barely enough salary to pay their bills. So in 1969 education activists persuaded a Republican legislature and governor to enact a collective bargaining law. In 1979 the rechristened Vermont-National Education Association emerged as a labor union of predominantly teachers and school support staff members bargaining with local school districts for better salaries and benefits, which admittedly were overdue and beneficial to the state as a whole.

Today, the democratically-governed VT-NEA labor union represents over 12,000 members organized in almost all local school districts. It can fairly claim to be a leading advocate for the education of Vermont’s children.

Given that, and at the risk of oversimplification, the union’s traditional agenda can be summarized as compulsory membership, more teachers in smaller classes, higher pay, more generous benefits, more workplace control, resisting independent accountability for results, restricting parental choice and suppressing competition from non-unionized independent schools. (State law does not allow compulsory membership, and since 2018, a U.S. Supreme Court case has prohibited “agency fee” assessments on teachers who decline to join the union.)

Understandably, teachers unions have worked for years to shape education policy by controlling state legislatures. That’s notably true in Vermont, where the VT-NEA essentially owns the Democratic Party on matters of interest to the union. It has also enlisted the support of a wide range of organizations by supporting progressive causes, like private sector unionization, battling climate change, expanding gun control, and adopting single payer health care (for everybody else).

One may disagree with the union’s positions, but it has every right to work to advance the interests of its members. But here’s the startling news, reported in a July 8 Wall Street Journal editorial (“The Teachers Unions Go Woke”). Says the editorial, “the national teachers unions are adopting woke values and pressing them into K-12 curriculums across the U.S.”

As an example, “the NEA held its annual meeting last week and the measures approved by delegates deserve broader attention. One calls for the union to support and lead campaigns that ‘result in increasing the implementation of culturally responsive education, critical race theory and ethnic (Native people, Asian, Black, Latin (o/a/x), Middle Eastern, North African, and Pacific Islander) Studies curriculum in pre-K-12 and higher education.’ … [This ideology] teaches that a person is defined above all else by race, gender and sexual orientation, and that American institutions are designed to ensure white supremacy and ‘the patriarchy.’

“Another delegate-approved measure calls for the union to issue a study criticizing ‘empire, white supremacy, anti-blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.’”

The Journal concludes that “no one is opposed to teaching about America’s difficult racial history, including the evils of slavery and Jim Crow. What parents are awakening to is that their children are being told the lie that America has made little or no racial progress and therefore its legal, economic and political systems must be turned upside down. … Parents have a every right, even a duty, to fight back against this invasion of progressive politics in their schools.”

I daresay that many of VT-NEA’s teacher members are not supportive of their national union’s march down this ideological path. But where it does appear in our public schools, what is the remedy for parents and citizens who disagree?

“Fighting back” to recapture the public school curriculum is an exhausting process, largely dependent on overmatched citizen volunteers. A better remedy is for the legislature to give parents who don’t want their children fed such ideology in their classrooms the right to choose other avenues for their children’s education, taking with them a sizable portion of the equalized per pupil cost of education in the local public school system.

Independent schools that offer a more balanced curriculum, including curricula built upon moral and religious values, will attract empowered parents and children. Public schools that lose pupils because of radical indoctrination will seek to regain their market share (and lost union dues) by making their offerings more appealing.

Some activists, committed to a government-enforced public school monopoly and infused with the new radicalism promoted by the NEA, will find this a terrifying prospect. As for others — teachers, parents and citizens who seek to preserve what is good about America and essential for the success of its young people — what’s not to like?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Image courtesy of John McClaughry

15 thoughts on “McClaughry: The teachers union’s new pupil indoctrination plan

  1. Independently, many of us parents have fought for school choice for our children for many years. Perhaps now is the time, for all parents to realize the public school system is not there to merely educate your child but to indoctrinate and even turn children against their families. Yes, it is our money and it should follow the child!

  2. “anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism,….”

    Could you have imagined ever needing these various words during your education years?
    Now they are front and center, mandatory, and still meaningless???

    I like Capitalism, but I don’t use it as a swear word!

    • Go ahead follow the link to NEA video and discussion on teaching critical race theory
      . It just goes around in an endless circle. I never found the video or discussion.

      As if “We are the authority – and you need not pry into OUR Business…..”

  3. If you doubt Mr. McClaughry’s assertions, consider that:

    The Vermont-NEA Racial Justice Task Force was established in 2015 as a response to the National Education Association’s initiative to eradicate institutional racism in our nation’s public schools. The Task Force is composed of representatives of Vermont’s education agencies, legislators and government agency representatives, school employees, parents, and students from around the state. Vermont-NEA’s task force decided that a virtual toolkit, “Advancing Racial Equity Vermont’s Public Schools” would be the best way to reach every school district in the state.

    Peruse their web site and its references.

    • P.S. “The ‘remedy’ of concerned citizens regaining control of curriculums only rarely succeeds. A better solution: let objecting parents send their children to independent schools, taking a large fraction of their public school equalized per pupil cost of education with them.

      It’s called School Choice. And parents with children in grades 7 thru 12 already have the option to request that their school district provide a tuition voucher, equaling the Agency of Education’s ‘announced annual tuition’ to pay the independent school fees – including independent religious schools.

      For example, “The 2020-2021 Average Announced Tuition of Union 7th-12th Grade Schools is $16,233.00.”

      And the authorization for the tuition payment rests solely with your local school board.

      16 V.S.A. § 822 – School district to maintain public high schools or pay tuition

      (c)(1) A school district may both maintain a high school and furnish high school education by paying tuition:
      (A) to a public school as in the judgment of the school board may best serve the interests of the students; or
      (B) to an approved independent school or an independent school meeting education quality standards if the school board judges that a student has unique educational needs that cannot be served within the district or at a nearby public school.
      (2) The judgment of the board shall be final in regard to the institution the students may attend at public cost.

      • My last year of HS the town was charged $675 for the year. $25 more than Montpelier HS.
        I still have the town report that stating that amount. 1966

        • Yes, and when I attended college, my tuition was about $1000 a year. It just goes to show how old some of us are.

          In my district this year, however, we’re spending $7 Million to educate 315 students K thru 8th grade students. Our high school is even more expensive. That’s more than $22,000 per student. If all students used only the State tuition voucher, we’d save $6000 per student. That would be almost a 30% savings.

          It would be nice to see my property taxes go down 30%… don’t you think?

  4. Why? How?
    How can 2d grade children be lifetime guilty of racism? Why must they be assaulted by such a charge
    at an age where they cannot do anything about it, except fear and anxiety
    which will destroy their innocence and wonderful optomism of youth

    Start with the children, and grow from there, worked in the 30’s – hint.

  5. NEA provides very little to teachers now aside from legal representation. It’s over $600 a year per teacher to be a member and that money goes without return the majority of the time. Teachers should simply quit the organization. When they do, they will see no change to their employment. NEA doesn’t provide the advice they used to (which means that teachers still do all of the work on their contracts) and blast their members with emails and mailings promoting their agenda. We now have laws to protect our employment that didn’t exist when this union started and we simply do not need it now. Get rid of the morons.

  6. It is obvious that the teacher’s union believe they have the right and obligation to influence or set curriculum. They do not. This is the realm of the parents (who effectively hire the teachers), the ELECTED school boards and the teachers themselves.

    How did we get to the point where this self-serving (unelected by parents) organization is even allowed to influence curriculum choices when at the same time they are insulting parents.

    • Steve,

      As long as the State forces me to pay school taxes, it matters not if I have children attending school or not. I have an equal voice in the matter because I’m also ‘hiring the teachers’.

      I’m more than willing to step aside – just stop making me pay for the schools.

      • I have never had a child attend a VT school. My education taxes went up $500. last year. What I find disturbing is how some towns voted to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections but taxpayers that own second homes in VT aren’t entitled to a vote. Very unfair, but that’s politics for you.

  7. NEA- Teachers union, the controlling factor on Indoctrination of the students under
    there control, education is not on their agenda !!

    To all parents ask your children just a few questions, and watch the answers you’ll
    get, yes they are being indoctrinated on liberal policies, pretty pathetic from people
    who say they care.

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