Oops, He Did It Again

So, D퀌�j퀌� vu-ers, it’s time, again, to take a look at our favorite example of Washington verbosity and his latest gaffe. I refer, of course, to none other than Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s statement last Monday, February 23, at a private meeting in the White House with the National Governor’s Association, that the National Education Association is a “terrorist organization.”

Paige and his lackeys quickly backpedaled, of course, but not without a further slam against the NEA, hollering a backhanded apology that the organization’s Washington lobbyists are fighting against real improvements.

Furthermore, a local president of a different teacher’s union, Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, associated with the American Federation of Teachers (the union which represents Portland Public Schools), claimed that Paige had used the word before, when greeting her as his “favorite labor terrorist.” She believed he was trying to be sarcastic or humorous.

She also pointed out that the NEA “isn’t militant enough to be a terrorist organization. They’re barely militant enough to be a union.”

Militancy, humor or sarcasm aside, the fact that Paige felt comfortable enough to refer to the NEA in these terms, in this era when casual remarks about terrorism and terrorists are laden with all sorts of intense emotions, is chilling, inappropriate and uncalled for, especially given the context. A week previous, Paige announced that the administration was relaxing test requirements for the No Child Left Behind law. Paige and his subordinates have been aggressive defenders of NCLB, even responding when criticized in the Vanguard (as I did last fall).

Many are rightly concerned about the effects of NCLB, especially given the lack of Federal funding for the testing and programs demanded by the law.

Despite Paige’s claims to the contrary, an attack upon one of the major professional organizations for teachers is an attack upon teachers. How could it not? Many teachers agree with the NEA position on NCLB. Most public school teachers are either members of the NEA or its rival, the American Federation of Teachers. If one were to follow logic, then those in the School of Education, either as teachers or counselors, are terrorists in training.

One could even make the case that the School of Education is promoting and developing terrorism, considering the numbers of us School of Education grads who are potential or current NEA members. Certainly, some of Paige’s right-wing fellow travelers, including Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldnet Weekend, and the author of a rant claiming it was correct to identify the NEA as terrorist and that no apology is necessary, would agree.

Absurd, ain’t it?

But what else can we expect from the current Administration? Clearly, it’s getting to the point where principled opposition is at risk of being labeled a terrorist act. How many readers have had elementary or secondary teachers they’d consider terrorist? Who’s next on the Administration’s little list of annoying opponents to label?

As for me, a future secondary special education teacher and potential NEA or AFT member, if the Administration wants to call me a terrorist for disagreeing whether the No Child Left Behind Act is as beneficial as they’d like to think, then let it be. It’s just another illustration of how it seeks to define patriotic Americans who disagree with its policies as terrorists, no matter how absurd its claims. What’re they going to do when everyone but the most die-hard, knee-jerk Bush jihadists are labeled terrorists?

Think about it.