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A World To Win


The NEA Representative Assembly Proves the Education Agenda is a War Agenda
by Rich Gibson, July 20101

Rank and File Summary

The 2010 Representative Assembly (RA) of the 3.2 million member National Education Association offers clear proof that the U.S. education agenda is a war agenda. It is an empire’s war agenda and a class war agenda. NEA demonstrated that its massive leadership structure of 8,174 delegates approves of the U.S. education agenda and expects to be paid for it. Top NEA leaders will be paid especially well. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will be paid more than $450,000 (less than his predecessor, Reg Weaver, who was paid $686,949 for his last year of service).

Lesser NEA officers and delegate leaders are willing to exchange support for American wars in trade for jobs and income.

The NEA RA slogan, “Hope into Action,” really means, again, “Hope into Hype.”

Given that schools are centripetally positioned in North American life, especially considering decades of de-industrialization, teachers are well positioned to struggle for equality and social justice but their largest organization, NEA, and its leaders, determined to drive that potential into the electoral arena, into voting booths, where capital’s favorite question, “What about ME?” dominates every decision- a dead end useful to labor mis-leaders as it:

* keeps the rank and file busy,

* appeals to illusions about democracy in a nation where capitalism tramples pluralism,

* and creates the appearance of powerful action in place of organizing in schools and communities for direct action, strikes, that could lead to sustainable control: real power.

The massive NEA, the largest union in the country, by far, has a budget of $357,993,880, and is going to devote its efforts to continue to support what has rapidly become a corporate state. That budget is a big win for NEA tops who exchange their control over the rank and file, thus labor peace, for dues income offered in the form of check-off operated by employers.

This Devil’s deal provides a very good life for a few. It will lead to more layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, less academic freedom, and the continued organized decay of what passes for “public education,” but is in reality segregated Race to the Top-run mis-education preparing most youths for endless war and bad jobs, or no jobs.

In 2009, the San Diego RA glowed with photos and videos of Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Indeed, Van Roekel hugged Duncan, as I reported in Substance News. There was no reminder this year of Obama Chief of Staff Emanuel’s comment about why schools exist: “They’re conveyor belts for the economy.”

This year, NEA, which poured millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the demagogue’s campaign, erased Obama’s and Duncan faces and, dodging direct personal attacks proposed by delegates, criticized only their polices. Specifically, Van Roekel dragged out the old liberal saw:

“If we are not the activists in politics, we will be the victims of politics,” Van Roekel warned the delegates. “ We simply cannot sit it out. There is too much at stake!” Van Roekel remains proud that the White House still lets him in. Nevertheless, Van Roekel had to acknowledge a growing movement opposed to the blind canyon of electoral work, demanding organizing for substantive, to-the-root, change.

NEA competes on par with US corporations in campaign funding. The union, or “professional association,” as many prefer, raised $1,552, 585 so far in 2010. We’re but six months in.

Van Roekel’s  threat to those who created the NCLB-in-hyper-speed Race to the Top (Ratt), meaning the Obama/Duncan team? Send a post card, in fact, a lot of postcards! Power! Hope! Action?

The most glaring example of the NEA bosses’ dedication to an education program devoted to war was their determination to crush Legislative Amendment.13. The text which has been deleted from the NEA RA web site reads:

“NEA opposes any war funding bill designed to continue our military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq even if it has riders with educational components. The Rationale: The best way to fund our schools and employ our teachers is to end our wars and direct that funding to education. Submitted by Tom Wolfe, Iowa, and 50 delegates.”

That motion was defeated, overwhelmingly.

NEA offered its authoritative director of governmental relations to make the opposing case: “If this passes, we would oppose saving members’ jobs.”

NEA delegates shut down debate about every anti-war motion, and defeated several, but for one which suggests a withdrawal with no specific target date: essentially weaker than the lie Obama presents about July, 2011.

NEA rejected a call for a Day of Strikes and Action on October 7th , the call from the March 4th committees, ad hoc groups that shut down thousands of schools that day in 2010, involved hundreds of thousands of new activists with a critique of capital and war that offers a glimmer of hope.

While there were clear indications of rising dissent in the union, as with the need to hide the memory of Van Roekel hugging Arne Duncan, NEA delegates, chose to severely limit debate about war and inequality. However, they did spent a notable 24 minutes debating whether to adopt the term, “staph,” or “staphylococcus,” in one motion.

The power of the chair, the ability to control NEA employees, and dangle jobs or promotions before delegates, worked well to divert attention to trivia while what can only be called fascism evolved within and without the convention hall. An organization with a culture more than 150 years deep finds old habits hard to upend.

NEA mis-leaders repeatedly urged delegates to “focus,” meaning, take on a cycloptic view that isolates schools from society and, at base, look out for yourself, be one of those thousands of forms of selfishness that keeps capital afloat. Their “focus” seeks to freeze images of emerging change and disconnect the ties of war, exploitation, requisite assaults on reason to produce obedience and loyal subjects, and schooling.

The core issue of our time is the real promise of perpetual war coupled with rising, color-coded, inequality met by the potential of mass, class-conscious resistance which will, clearly now, have to fight its way through a union bureaucracy willing to use money, deception, illusions, and force, in order to defend the system of capital, its wars, and now, demolition of the earth itself.

Tomorrow and in coming days in Substance, a detailed, day-to-day, analysis of the RA, NEA culture, and thoughts for future NEA activists and delegates.

The RA adjourned July 6th, at 7:28 on my watch. See you in Chicago for the 2011 RA. And good luck to us, every one.

Rich Gibson

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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The Rouge Forum – Update May 10th 2009

A message from Rich Gibson

Dear Friends

Less than one week to the Rouge Forum Conference in Ypsilanti, Michigan at Eastern Michigan University. Keynote speakers include Staughton Lynd, author, radical historian, civil rights leader; Greg Queen, winner of the National Council for the Social Studies “academic freedom award,” and Rebecca Martusewicz, eco-justice educator and activist.

Education News

Students at Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High walked out of school last week in protest of budget cuts:

People are being positioned so that the fight-back is almost inevitable. The question is: Will it make any sense and win?,0,1000273.story
Call it paranoid but it is not entirely coincidental that the LATimes is running a series of articles on “bad teachers” and UTLA (which may well be true) just days before the planned UTLA walkout on May 15. The walkout, unfortunately, is scheduled for that date in order to not disrupt district testing, but it is one of the first direct-action responses to come from any large NEA or AFT local. The walkout came to being after considerable rank and file struggle inside the union, demanding collective action.

The LATimes does not have much to say about the reasons for rising inequality and the real promise of perpetual war, that is, capital’s relentless quest for profits. Nor does it deal with the daily lives of children in Compton and when it does mention them, it does so in terms of being under privileged, not super-exploited.

But, come to think of it, UTLA doesn’t speak in those terms either.

Its parent body, CTA, is working with the Gropenfuhrer to pass the anti-working class tax hikes, trying to panic voters into taxing themselves rather than the rich. A recent CTA news spends most of its glossy pages telling teachers how to adjust to the financial crises, rather than how to fight back, dealing with the consequences of the crises rather than to address the causes at the root.

There are alternatives:

Here is the New Yorker’s abstract of an article touting the partnership of the American Federation of Teachers and Steve Barr, of Green Dot charter fame: and a response from Susan Ohanian

But the fact is that the education agenda is a war agenda, and vice versa:

Industry, Finance, War, and Pedagogy

Chrysler Gets Judge to Allow The Bankrupt Company to Borrow $4.5 Billion from USA! Huh?$4.5+billion

Don’t forget those Good For the Rest of Your Life Rouge Forum Posters:

Chalmers Johnson on the Signs of Decay

The banks behind the Meltdown (Center For Public Integrity):

One-half million people are now fleeing the Swat Valley. Whether the guerrillas will stand and fight or melt away is yet to be seen:

In April and May, 1975, US forces fled Vietnam, the world’s most powerful empire forced out by peasant nationalists who fought imperialism for decades, making huge sacrifices. The US defeat was caused, mainly, by Vietnamese military and political operations, but also by the actions of soldiers in the US military and civilians in the anti-war movement. Here is a clip from the film, Sir No Sir, as a reminder that people can resist, under harsh conditions, and win

May 9 is Victory Day (May 8 in the US–Victory in Europe day) seemingly forgotten in America now. But the sacrifices of the people of the world in defeating fascism should be remembered:

Thanks to Joe B and the entire Ypsi gang for pulling together a great conference and to Adam and Gina Renner for taking the lead in developing the most recent edition of the Rouge Forum News: It is the only clear expression of education radicalism in the US.

Thanks too to Susan H and O, Amber, Diego, Ernesto, Lucy W and S, Jesus, Joseph, Amilia, Candace, Bob and Tommie, Wayne and Perry, Steve, Big Al, Nancy, Lisa, Marisol, Ricio, Chantelle, The Wailers, Harv, Ned, Ray, Earl, Sandy and Van, Mickey, Jim, Phillip and his entire gang, Selene and Frank, Carolina, Maria, Bruno, Daniel, Natalia, Nereyda, Edgar, Edwardo, and Gil

All the best and good luck to us every one.
Rich Gibson



Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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The Education Agenda is a War Agenda: Connecting Reason to Power and Power to Resistance


Rich Gibson and Wayne E. Ross have written an excellent paper that links the US education agenda with its foreign policy and the current economic crisis.


You can view it at:


Glenn Rikowski

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