Teachers Unions Moving Toward “Penultimate Merger?”
Reported in the March 8, 1993, issue of The New American, was “the little-noticed January 28th announcement of the international uniting of scores of teachers unions to form a global colossus with enormous political power. Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden during the last week of January, Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Keith Geiger, president of the National Education Association (NEA), quietly merged their international affiliates.
“The NEA’s World Confederation of Organizations in the Teaching Profession and the AFT’s International Federation of Free Teachers Unions joined hands to form Education International, a global conglomerate with 240 teachers unions and over 20 million members from more than 120 countries. The president of the new organization is Mary Hatwood Futrell, the NEA’s immediate past president, and president of the NEA’s World Confederation. Shanker, who has the title of founding president, will sit on the group’s executive board, as will Geiger. Education International will be headquartered in Brussels, capital and bureaucratic nerve center for the sprawling European Community octopus.
“Does this merger of international affiliates portend an eventual domestic merger between the two million-member NEA and the 800,000-member AFT? Probably. And it is an alarming prospect. Although both organizations have adhered to pretty much the same leftward political agenda over the years, they have dissipated much of their energy an economic resources clobbering each other in turf battles. Already two of the most powerful lobbying forces in Washington, DC and in most of the state capitals, a combined NEA-AFT would add even more clout to their drive to socialize America.
“Both groups support the push to nationalize education and worked closely with President Bush on creating the much-ballyhooed National Education Goals and the national teacher certification board. According to the Washington Post, the NEA and AFT ‘shared phone banks in a joint effort to elect Bill Clinton to the presidency.’”
From a home-schooling perspective, the NEA is strongly on record that “home schooling program cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.” The Association believes that “if parental preference home schooling study occurs, students enrolled must meet all state requirements. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.”
Syndicated Columnist Opposes Home Schooling
Marilyn Vos Savant, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame for “Highest IQ,” provides a weekly column of brain teasers, entitled “Ask Marilyn.” In the March 14, 1993 edition of the column in Parade Magazine, Nerine Bou Aoun from St. Louis took Marilyn to task for her negative reply about home schooling:
“I read your negative reply about home schooling, and I do take issue with it. My two daughters and I began our home schooling several years ago when they were 4 and 5, and I cannot think of one negative aspect.
“Strangers often have commented on how well-behaved our children are, and our dearest friends are from different racial groups, so the girls are not isolated culturally. We’ve surrounded them with books, craft materials and animals and given them superior text-books. Schools don’t foster cooperation but competition. What better place to learn cooperation than at home?”
Marilyn responded: “You sound like a wonderful teacher, but I wonder how your daughters are going to cope with life when they grow up and leave home and discover that the outside world is fiercely competitive and that no employer will ever treat them the way their loving mother once did. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had the advantages of both a traditional school and you?’
Illinois PTA Resolution Proposes Regulations for Home Schools
Slated for approval consideration at its entire delegate body “convention legislation day” on April 30, 1993, the Illinois Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has proposed a stiff “Resolution on Home Schooling Accountability.” Reasons cited as motivation for the resolution include the group’s desire to promote legislation which would improve the quality of education, the rapid growth of home schooling throughout the nation, and the “unacceptability” of parents merely signing up to home school with no government regulation of their programs.
The resolution concludes:
That the Illinois PTA seek and support legislation amending the school code to require that parents who home school their children, annually:
- present a lesson plan demonstrating a well-planned curriculum appropriate for the child's age and ability, that meets the State Goals for Learning-as adopted by the State Board of Education in 1985, and
- present their children for periodic achievement testing to assure that these children will be literate and able to take their proper place in society.
Since the PTA has been largely unable to motivate a “quality education” in the public schools, it is indeed ironic that they now turn their concerns to one of the few viable educational alternatives that is producing consistent educational results. Nonetheless, the type of language used in the resolution is cropping up in more and more states, sometimes in editorial form and media features and other times in legislative proposals involving restructuring efforts.
Teacher Magazine Features Home Schooling
An interview with David Guterson, author of Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, filled a five-page spread in the February 1993 issue of Teacher magazine. He’s a public school teacher, but he teaches his own children at home—for reasons that do not emphasize religious convictions either. Editor Ronald A. Wolk commented, “Teaching is an act of love before it is anything else. And that is just as true in a public school as it is in a private home.”
In the March 1993 issue of the magazine, teachers responded to the article. Barbara Alward of Atascadero, California, offered praise: “Thank you for the article about the Guterson family and home-schooling. I also chose schooling at home for our two children, not on religious grounds but because I don’t agree with age segregation, overcrowded classes, lock-step learning, or the notion that learning must take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in a building called school.
As a parent, I have been learning with my children since their births. Together we are discovering the meaning and values of our lives and learning our place in the world. You can’t read an article about homeschooling without the topic of socialization coming up. Do institutions socialize individuals or do families socialize? I believe the latter if you define socialization as the ability to care for others and feel valued by them….
We make huge assumptions about schools as caregivers and custodians. We hand our children over and become strangers to them. My children and I will eventually grow apart and choose different paths, as many families do. But we will have known a place called home, a place you leave when you’re ready.
Miriam Shapiro of Evanston, Illinois, saw things quite differently: “The article on the Gutersons and homeschooling is disgusting. Why would educators committed to schools want to read about this family that scorns our efforts? Please give us articles about teachers who operate in schools.”
Real educators are committed to children. That’s why parents make such wonderful educators!
University Study Affirms Fact: Home-Taught Children Won’t Become Social Misfits
J. Gary Knowles, University of Michigan assistant professor of education, recently completed a study of 53 adults who were taught at home. His conclusion? “Teaching children at home won’t make them social misfits!”
Knowles found that none of the home-educated adults that he surveyed was unemployed or on welfare. “More than three-quarters felt that being taught at home had actually helped them to interact with people from different levels of society,” Knowles told reporters at Associated Press. He also found that “More than 40 percent attended college, and 15 percent of those had completed a graduate degree. Nearly two thirds were self-employed, [a fact which] supports the contention that home schooling tends to enhance a person’s self-reliance and independence.”
And the real clincher? “Some 96 percent said they would want to be taught at home again. They had many warm memories about their home schooling. Many mentioned the strong relationship it engendered with their parents while others talked about the self-directed curriculum and individualized pace that a flexible program of home schooling permitted.”
“Safety Warnings” Added to Student Report Cards
World Magazine (November 21, 1992) reports: “Inspired by the cautions on cartons of cigarettes, schools in Attleboro, Massachusetts, are adding warnings to report cards to shield students from parents whose disappointment with bad grades grows violent. ‘Restraint and caution should be used when interpreting this document,’ says the notice sent home with report cards from the Attleboro Public Schools.
‘Under no circumstances should this document…result in negative actions, especially physical.’ The superintendent of schools held out the new ‘warning label’ as child-abuse prevention: ‘In this time of increasing awareness and the increasing incidence of child abuse and violence, we don’t want to be a cause of it,’ he said, apparently not thinking of the possible benefits to his own bodily safety from parents fed up with educational mediocrity from the public school system.”
Once again, we note that students are shielded from parents by the agency that “knows better” about how to respond to their needs. It probably won’t be too surprising if one of the “benefits” of restructuring through outcome-based education isn’t the elimination of grades and report cards to parents—in favor of a computer database recording the student’s progress at the school system.