Why Turning Our Schools into a Workforce Development Pipeline is Bad for Democracy

corporate capitolism

Being a worker means taking orders, citizenship means being an independent thinker. The two aren’t compatible. One demands obedience, the other autonomy.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth we must face as a society: the workplace isn’t a democracy. Never has been, never will be.

The workplace has always been run as a dictatorship. The boss decides what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Obedience is the most valued skill an employee can have.

If we allow our public schools to be turned into a workforce development pipeline, we’re also giving permission to corporate America to further erode what’s left of our democracy.

Being a worker means taking orders, citizenship means being an independent thinker. The two aren’t compatible. One demands obedience, the other autonomy.

The workplace is about selfishness. How to rise above your co-workers in status and income. For business, this translates into putting profit before employees.

Democracy is about prioritizing the greater good ahead of self-interest. It requires a citizenry who have the ability and personal courage to ferret out lies, distortions, half-truths and a state willing to protect these individuals against retaliation and violence.

One of the biggest cons perpetuated on labor was the idea that management and workers were on the same team. They aren’t.

Wonder why union leadership continues to sellout their rank and file comrades? Corporate unionism: where union leadership prioritizes their comfortable relationship with management over the needs of membership. No messy or uncomfortable conflict required.

Dintersmith NEA friend of Education

Corporate government is the same thing. It assumes the goals of business are the same as citizens, but clearly they aren’t. Citizens want a healthy environment, corporations want deregulation. Citizens want their kids to have a great education, corporations are looking for a new market with guaranteed profits. See a pattern?

Oh, and one state mandated course on civics isn’t going to reverse the damage caused by corporate governance. In a political system dominated by two corporate parties, teaching kids to vote has a zero chance of changing the system. If anything, it teaches kids that politics is a semi-passive activity that you only think about during an election cycle.

How does that challenge the current power structure?

It doesn’t.

-Carolyn Leith

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The National Education Association (NEA) and Bill Gates

To follow is an open letter to NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia written by teacher and parent Kevin Ohlandt and originally posted on Exceptional Delaware.

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An Open Letter To NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Dear Lily Eskelsen Garcia,

As President of the National Education Association, I am very curious why the NEA Foundation accepts money from the Gates Foundation. While that foundation does have some very noble projects going on with health issues in Africa, they also have some very disturbing things that have caused serious disruption in public education.  I can’t remotely fathom how anything even associated with the largest teachers union in the country would want anything to do with the Gates Foundation.

Gates and all the other foundations that support corporate education reform want to bust the teachers unions. They want to privatize education and make schools 21st Century community learning centers.  Everything the NEA stands for will eventually crumble to dust.  Gone will be a teacher instructing a class.  Instead, they will get training on how to guide students on their 1:1 devices.

I am not a teacher. I’m a parent.  I understand NEA is about teachers.  But lately, at least in terms of leadership, it seems like those leaders are all about themselves and their personal quest for power.  It isn’t even about the teachers anymore.  If I were a teacher, I would consider it a slap in the face knowing NEA actually collaborates with these entities.

I can only assume you are well-connected with these organizations and know exactly what they are planning. As an education blogger, I’ve written about it as have many others.  The writing is on the wall but you seem to be worried about that one tiny corner in the room with a tiny cobweb.  At least that’s what you tell your membership.  I find it abhorrent you would sell out those who elected you.

But what I find even more bizarre is the buzzwords coming out of NEA and all these education organizations pretending they know what is best for children. If you are following the corporate mantras then you lost touch with what is best for kids a long time ago.  This makes you, NEA leadership, and the NEA Foundation a part of the problem, not a hope for a solution.

When I first began blogging over two years ago, I soon find myself rooting for teachers. I joined the Badass Teachers Facebook page and began to see how all of this affected teachers.  But I find myself wondering why the supposed leadership of teachers is getting in bed with companies that want to destroy you and your membership.

I would like you to explain this. Not for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of teachers who elected you as President of the NEA.  Also for the students who are under the care of teachers for 1/3rd of their life until they graduate high school.

I understand many will take offense to this very open and public letter to you. But I also know what is coming up in the very near future, based on the seeds planted by the privatizers of education.  You keep watering those plants and they will weed out what is left of public education.  I warned you and AFT about jumping on the Every Student Succeeds Act and begging your membership to support it before the final legislation came out.  That law will destroy NEA and the American Federation of Teachers.

You seem more concerned with Donald Trump lately than the very real danger facing teachers as every state in the country submits their ESSA state plans. It doesn’t matter who the next President of this country is.  Our national government sold their souls to corporations and foundations a long time ago.  This is all just distraction so they can get their final pieces in play. I suppose that is why the NEA Foundation is actually helping to fund all these ed tech conferences and global future forums.  It is complete nonsense and they are taking teachers money and investing it in what will replace them.  Doesn’t that bother you in the slightest?

In my viewpoint, this is like the snake giving you the apple. But you don’t just take a bite out of it, you start taking tons of apples, begin making apple pies, and sell them for the snake.  It is just wrong.  If you can’t look out for teachers and their future, please step down.  And for those who are also subscribed to these viewpoints in NEA and AFT, you should step down as well.  The price for teachers and students is too big to have power brokers dancing with the devil.  I’m sure the viewpoint of parents is the last thing on your mind, but we are sick and tired of those who think they know what is best for our children but are selling them out behind the scenes.  You seem to forget that today’s students are tomorrow’s teachers.  What you do to them now will make sure NEA will become an archived post on Wikipedia that gets less readers by the year.

If you want our schools to become personalized learning competency-based career tracking community schools of the future, where students have no privacy and everything is catalogued while they earn to learn, then please, go work for a cyber charter school. If not, then please detach from any corporation that wants to destroy what you lead.  Only then will I truly believe you have teachers best interests in mind.  Your job should be leading teachers away from this madness, not embracing it.

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

Podesta emails show NEA behind the scenes on the Clinton endorsement

 

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Candidate Hillary Clinton and NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia

 

From:bi@globalculturalstrategies.com

To: john.podesta@gmail.com

Date: 2016-03-13 17:06

Subject: From Bill Ivey

…Secretary Clinton is not an entertainer, and not a celebrity in the Trump, Kardashian mold; what can she do to offset this? I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging.

There should be concern when union leaders cozy up to established power rather than work in the best interest of their members.

I keep my ear to the ground on what teachers are saying around the country and after reading comments shared on Facebook and Twitter, it sounded like the fix was in on endorsing Hillary Clinton by the National Education Association (NEA) well before the primary. There were several teachers online who voiced dissatisfaction with an early endorsement of candidate Hillary Clinton without participation of the majority of members.

To follow is an excerpt from an article written by Steve Singer titled The NEA May Be About to Endorse Hillary Clinton Without Input From Majority of Members that was published on September 21, 2015.

The largest labor union in the United States may be about to endorse Hillary Clinton for President without a poll of its membership.

Leadership at the National Education Association (NEA) has been making troubling moves toward endorsing Clinton that could commit the organization to supporting the Democratic presidential hopeful with no regard for the wishes of its 3.2 million members.

An endorsement could come as early as Oct. 2-3 when President Lily Eskelsen Garcia is expected to propose a primary endorsement of Clinton at the NEA Board meeting, according to multiple NEA sources. Then the PAC council would vote. If approved, it would go to the board for a final decision.

However, since this is only an endorsement for the primary election, the matter would not need to go before the Representative Assembly (RA). In effect, the move could sidestep the voices of the RA’s 8,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession.

The decision would be made by a handful of leaders and the PAC council. Though there are thousands of PAC council votes, they are distributed by the amount of money raised by each state’s members. This means that little states like Delaware – where members donate greatly – have a larger vote relative to their membership than other states.

The voices of the great majority of members would be silenced.

Already leadership at the highest levels seems to be trying to consolidate Clinton support.

Last Wednesday NEA Directors were invited to an hour-long conference call with Clinton. Few directors were allowed to ask questions and only if those questions had been submitted in advance.

After Clinton left the call, only three state presidents had a moment to speak; all gave positive reflections on Clinton and how she supports teachers and public education.

Despite the fact that several Democrats have been courting the NEA’s endorsement, only Clinton was invited to this call.

Last summer, the NEA invited all presidential candidates to participate in the union’s endorsement process. Only Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders did so. Each made a video statement that was shown at the summer’s RA meeting and posted by many to their local groups. Though more candidates have entered the race since then, none have chosen to interview with the NEA.

Ironically, at the same RA meeting, the assembly voted specifically NOT to ignore rank and file membership before endorsing a Presidential candidate. New Business Item 79 states:

NEA, as an organization, will actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.

It seems if the leadership goes through with the primary endorsement as outlined above, they may be violating NBI 79.

The move is doubly troubling because of the strong-armed manner in which the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) endorsed Clinton in July.

Though the AFT Executive Board voted to endorse Clinton, there is little evidence it did so after adequately gauging members opinions through claimed multiple surveys and telephone town halls. The move caused an uproar and claims the AFT endorsed too early and without rank and file support.

Despite politics at the national level of the NEA, some state affiliates have already made endorsements. For instance, Vermont NEA already endorsed Sanders, their state’s Senator.

“We want to let the whole country in on what we in Vermont have long known,” Vermont NEA president Martha Allen said in a statement. “Bernie’s core values are in line with ours: He is pro-family, pro-worker, pro-education and pro-labor and we believe the time has come for his vision to become a national reality.”

Alternatively, the New Hampshire NEA endorsed Clinton in September. Scott McGilvray, NEA-NH president, called Clinton a “tireless fighter” for students and teachers.

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The concerns that teachers expressed about leadership not being responsive to membership is confirmed in two emails brought to light by Mike Antonucci at EIA (Education Intelligence Agency) after sifting through the Podesta emails provided by Wikileaks.

In the first post titled Wikileaks Reveals NEA’s Efforts to “Manage the Activists at the RA” Re: Hillary Endorsement Antonucci writes:

Wikileaks is releasing a large number of hacked e-mails to and from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. One of them should be interesting to readers of this blog, who include both those who follow the inner workings of teachers’ unions and those who are the inner workings of the teachers’ unions.

It’s a June 17, 2015 memo from Nikki Budzinski, the Clinton campaign’s labor outreach director. She describes various status updates with the unions the campaign is courting. It was written only four days after Clinton formally launched her campaign, and two weeks before the National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) in Orlando.

It suggests that Clinton declined an invitation to attend. Here is the relevant paragraph:

NEA. Today the formal decline for the RA was discussed internally and what steps would be needed next. The NEA (more then (sic) any other union) is more Democratically driven in process. They have requested several future commitments that I have noted in the spreadsheet. They are sincerely doing their best to manage the activists at the RA. It only takes 50 signatures to raise a resolution on the floor and I have been warned about a Northeastern Sanders contingent. I think it would be good to be organized on our own behalf with a few key folks in the room (NH and IA leaders) in case anything comes up. I am a little nervous about this event. That said, their steps are moving toward a October 2nd/3rd endorsement all going to plan. I would love to know any thoughts on this you might have.

Delegates to the RA and NEA’s many Sanders supporters may have thought they were participating in an open debate over which candidate to endorse in the Democratic primary. They did not know that NEA’s leaders already had a plan in place to endorse Clinton before she had even formally announced.

Sure, many of them suspected there was manipulation going on , but it’s quite another to find the cold evidence in a campaign memo. And, in fact, Hillary was endorsed at the NEA board meeting on October 3, after she was forced to make a last-minute personal appearance.

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In the second post Wikileaks: NEA Was Ready to Call Off Hillary Endorsement Vote, Antonucci writes:

The release by Wikileaks of the e-mails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, revealed that the leaders of the National Education Association were determined to win an endorsement for Clinton well before determining the wishes of the union’s representative bodies.

Despite constant pressure from NEA’s leaders, and a positive recommendation from the union’s PAC Council ( although I suspected some manipulation there as well ), there was still serious doubt whether the proposed Clinton endorsement would meet the 58% threshold needed from the union’s board of directors.

NEA’s executive officers acted quickly, urging Clinton to appear in person before the board on October 3, 2015 to answer any questions and alleviate any concerns. This she did, and the board ultimately voted to endorse her.

But NEA was prepared to call off the vote and whitewash the setback if things had gone awry. A Podesta e-mail dated September 29, 2015 described the situation and NEA’s plan to Clinton:

Here’s the status of things, which you may already have been briefed on. Executive Committee of 7 (3 officers and 4 others)) voted unanimously to endorse. Next step is the PAC Committee, which is weighted by PAC participation and the votes are there to endorse. Final step is a vote of the full 120 member Board where the threshold for endorsement is 58%.

Sanders forces are working furiously to put off an endorsement. We do not have certainty on hitting the 58% threshold despite the intense work of Lilly and John Stocks. You are scheduled to see the full Board on Saturday morning. John’s assessment is that your appearance is critical if they are going to get the endorsement this weekend. There is some risk though that you show up and they remain uncertain of a successful vote so that they put it off for further work by the leadership.

They will not call the vote unless they are certain that they will hit the threshold. Downside is that the Sanders people will spin that notwithstanding the PAC Committee recommendation, the Board delayed action. All here assess that it’s worth the risk and that you should show up and try to get the endorsement now. If the vote is delayed, Lily and John will say this is a multi-layered process and good progress was made by securing the PAC Committee recommendation. I wanted you to have a good sense of the state of play, because they have to let people know that you will be there no later than tomorrow early am. I and the rest of the team think you should confirm participation, but wanted to give you a chance to discuss if you have a different view.

Just wanted to note that NEA’s Executive Committee has 9 members, not 7, and that the board has 170 members, not 120.

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So teachers, don’t take for granted that your union leaders at the local, state and national levels are consistently working in your best interest. Take an active role and make your leadership accountable.

Dora Taylor