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Troubling trends

Back to School | Some public schools continue their slide into transgender politics, Darwinian groupthink, and hostility to Christianity

Issue: "Back to School," Sept. 7, 2013

Propaganda trumps teaching

by Elise Grafe in Atlanta

At this July’s National Education Association (NEA) annual convention in Atlanta, T-shirt clad teachers pushed advocacy and debated lunch options. Explicit rap music blasted over speakers, and attendees waited in line for a chance to enter a giant game-show plastic tube with dollar bills blowing around inside. Union leaders dressed in suits led campaign chants while waving posters printed with pictures of themselves. 

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But no one talked much about teaching.

A handful of booths in the convention’s exhibition hall did promote teaching-related materials, especially “Common Core-aligned” curricula. Those new standards, adopted in nearly every state, have birthed a plethora of shiny new curricula, and representatives were on hand to cajole teachers into testing their products. A representative from BugbrainED LLC acknowledged that his company’s bright, bug-themed reading apps don’t have any real learning objectives except to drill Common Core test material. The new curricula promise a competitive advantage for schools trying to boost standardized test scores.

Attendees showed more interest in gay rights than student achievement. If the NEA was a typical high school, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus (GLBTC) would be the jocks and prom queens, and rainbow ribbons would replace Abercrombie shirts and letterman jackets as status signifiers. At packed-out GLBTC meetings, attendees celebrated the recent Supreme Court decisions. One speaker mocked the “group of bigots” fighting for traditional marriage, calling them small and crass, to the cheering and laughter of attendees.

But the GLBTC wasn’t just cheerleading. It pushed the convention to pass  a new resolution: “NEA will encourage all states and NEA Affiliates to use existing means of communication to promote developmentally appropriate instructional resources in order to help all educators integrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history, people, and issues into their instruction, such as, but not limited to ‘Unheard Voices’ an oral history and curriculum project for middle and high school students created in collaboration by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Story Corps.”

The Unheard Voices program includes lessons with interviews of gay individuals, like Jamison Green explaining his journey to becoming transgender (“my first lover suggested to me that I might enjoy having a sex change”) and a lesbian mom’s 8-year-old boy asking, “Mom, we’re lesbians right?”

A few brave pro-life educators manned a booth showing the growth stages of a human baby. Their booth proudly displayed the verse, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14). The group submitted a proposal to the assembly to “prohibit the use of dues money to support abortions.” But many NEA members booed the pro-life speakers, and the NEA assembly promptly squashed the motion. It kept instead support for “school-based family planning clinics” and abortion at any time.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)—a group that  works to raise the quality of teaching across the country through board certification—seemed to be the only organization at the convention focused on educational excellence. NBPTS compared the current teaching profession to the medical profession in the early 1900s, when doctors happily provided services from surgeries to shaves. Only 3 percent of teachers have earned board certification, which requires them to submit self-evaluations and teaching videos, and earns them higher salaries in almost every state.

One bit of good news: NEA membership is declining, giving the NEA less money to push its causes. According to the Education Action Group, membership fell almost 7 percent from 2008-09 to 2011-12, with 44 state affiliates losing members. One recent blow came when the 3,000-member University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) voted to disaffiliate. Although the NEA president traveled to Hawaii, he couldn’t persuade the group to stay. Other reasons for the decline: teacher layoffs, right to work laws that permit teachers to opt out of union membership, and laws that permit teachers to request “fair share” exemption from the political portion of their dues.

—Elise Grafe is a WORLD intern

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arrows_1.jpgAs California goes, so goes the nation?

by Angela Lu in Los Angeles

Martha Lin holds her squirmy 7-year-old daughter Lucia as she lists her concerns about sending her two children to public school in Los Angeles.

“I worry that they teach evolution over creationism,” she said, then looks down at Lucia: “They want to tell you that you came from a monkey.” That’s not exactly true, because Darwinism teaches only that humans and monkeys have a common ancestor, but Lucia responded with a logical question: “Because I’m good at the monkey bars?”

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