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NEA President’s Frenzied Speech Overlooks Education

The address focused on politics and socially influencing students, not math and reading.

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Articles, Education, Opinion

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA), recently gave a keynote address in Philadelphia, where nearly 7,000 delegates listened to her advocate for President Joe Biden and bellow about needing to win “all the things,” especially amplifying diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Ubiquitously mocked on the Internet, Pringle’s speech was rife with animated antics and street-preacher inflections, yet her objective was clear: “[T]o unite not just our members but the nation, to reclaim public education as a common good, as the foundation of our democracy, and then transform it into something it was never designed to be — a racially and socially just and equitable system.”

Pringle politicized her dizzying 28-minute act within the first few minutes: “We worked hard to rid ourselves of a tyrannical, deceitful, and corrupt White House. The seeds of hate manifest themselves as attacks against our freedom to teach and our students’ freedom to learn. They’ve mushroomed into poisonous spores of a stacked supreme court . . . and they just this week laid the foundation to give that former president immunity from his crimes against Americans and America.”

Many people compared her fervent address to when Dwight Schrute, a character from The Office, was tricked into giving a Mussolini-inspired speech. The mockery, though, focused on the wrong part of Pringle’s verbose and repetitive oration, which mostly promoted the NEA’s political agenda, its desire to socially influence young minds, and its ongoing efforts to restrict school choice.

What does any of this have to do with education or organized labor? Is it any surprise homeschooling is on the rise?

A Glimpse of the NEA

The National Education Association has nearly 3 million members scattered across affiliate organizations in every state. Its website says it “is committed to advancing the cause of public education.” But it also states, “The NEA is growing the movement to win education justice for our students, schools, and communities. We are building and growing a community of activists committed to advancing social justice policies in public education.” It even offers “social justice training,” which “can be customized to address your community’s particular needs.”

GettyImages-1241176984 Becky Pringle

Becky Pringle (poto by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

The organization prides itself on bargaining for the “common good” and advises members, “When we expand the continuum of bargaining, we build power and go on the offense in order to fight for social and racial justice.”

So where does its money go? Open Secrets states, “Teachers unions have steadily amped up their political involvement: From 2004 to 2016, their donations grew from $4.3 million to more than $32 million.” Between 2021 and 2022, they’ve contributed roughly $4 million to Democrats and $24,000 to the GOP, slyly donating money to Republicans who are against school choice. Pringle gets her share, too. Her gross salary was more than $300,000 in 2022, excluding other compensations.

Some people believe that the teachers’ union broke public education, as Alex Gutentag, a journalist and former public school teacher who was a union representative for three years, claimed in a lengthy essay published last year in Tablet:

“Although it still has the veneer of a labor organization, the teachers union is an activist arm of the Democratic Party. Since 2016, progressive leaders of the AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and the NEA have increasingly prioritized political causes like Black Lives Matter and their opposition to Donald Trump. What’s more, external elements have also parasitized the union for their own objectives. For several years, left-wing publications and organizations pressured the teachers union to embrace social justice goals unrelated to those of traditional organized labor. The Democratic Socialists of America (an organization mostly composed of college-educated millennials) even made open attempts to infiltrate and influence the union.”

The State of US Schools

According to Education Week’s 2023 account of the “Nation’s Report Card,” math scores have had the “largest-ever decline since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began tracking data. Scores for 13-year-olds fell 9 points in math between the 2019-20 school year and the 2022-23 school year. The average reading scores have fallen 4 points.” History and civics also have plummeted.

Of course, the absence of kids in classrooms in 2020 negatively impacted students. Many still haven’t rebounded, but their decline in learning began before then. The school closures exacerbated an already existing problem. Not to mention, classroom attendance in several states is still down. Vox reported in January 2024, “Chronic absenteeism increased in every state where data was made public, and in Washington, DC, between the last pre-pandemic school year, 2018–19, and the 2021–22 school year.”

Meanwhile, more teachers are leaving the profession than entering it.

Yet the NEA seems more concerned with transforming schools to suit its ideals. Instead of discussing ways to improve teachers’ jobs and students’ education, Pringle went into a redundant motivational speech to end her monologue, occasionally banging her fists on the podium and flailing her arms.

Anybody not under the spell of the NEA might have perceived Pringle’s vehement address as her proselytizing DEI and other progressive ideals. But everybody should be wondering if transforming our students into activists and social justice warriors will help improve their math and reading skills.

Read More From Corey Smith

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