Damage control at the NEA.


A couple of days ago a reader sent me a video of a speech NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia made to the Campaign for America’s Future.

The CAF is a liberal Democratic Party group. The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa  have served on its board of directors.

The video began with Eskelsen Garcia telling some silly story about being on a plane with a guy who called her “darling’ and who challenged her as to what teachers did.

The NEA President then proceeded to list all the things teachers do, listing them in a rapid fire way.

My reader included a copy of a statement from a national group of lawyers that represent parents of special needs students. It condemned Eskelsen Garcia’s speech.

There was horror, angst and disgust felt this past weekend when Lily Eskesen, the President of the National Education Association gave a speech about all the tasks teachers do and listed the “chronically ‘tarded” and the “medically annoying” as part of her list.

In the days since, a number of national organizations representing people and students with disabilities have voiced outrage and issued statements demanding an apology.

I listened and watched the video several times. I wrote my friend back and said that I was skeptical Eskelsen Garcia said what they said she said. It was hard to make out because Eskelsen Garcia was speaking so fast. I don’t believe the NEA President would have used the offensive term “chronically ‘tarded.” It sounded to me that in her speedy delivery she had stepped over the word “tardy.” I mean, whoever heard of the phrase “chronically ‘tarded”? As for “medically annoying”? I couldn’t even figure out what she meant.

I didn’t post anything. I wanted to wait and see.

Well the stuff hit the fan. The Youtube video of her speech got a million hits.

Garcia had to offer an apology. And she did.

Epic fail. In my attempt to be clever and funny, I stepped on a word in one phrase, and I created another phrase that I believed was funny, but was insulting. I apologize.

Fair enough. Her speech was clumsy and offensive. But it wasn’t policy.

It will be up to the families of children with special needs to decide if the apology is accepted.

This week the NEA has been asking members to call Washington in support of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Yet there has been not a word from the NEA or President Garcia about the spectacular weaknesses in the bill when it comes to special needs students.

The weaknesses include language that approves of Pay for Success initiatives for special needs students. Pay for Success is the program that pays a bounty to Wall Street investment firms like Goldman Sachs for every needy student not receiving special education services.

There has been no apology for that. And it will really hurt students with special needs in ways that a mispronounced word or a thoughtlessly awkward phrase won’t.

6 thoughts on “Damage control at the NEA.

  1. Without using any profane terms, of which several come to mind: this is just criminal. What if the child was your child? Since when did we come off the rails? For those who love to spout ROI and all the business terms and phrases, etc. Wouldn’t it make sense to invest know and save in the future or is it not even worth it? Sadly, people can sleep- knowing this and advocating for this? Disturbing to say the least!

    “The weaknesses include language that approves of Pay for Success initiatives for special needs students. Pay for Success is the program that pays a bounty to Wall Street investment firms like Goldman Sachs for every kid not receiving special education services.”

  2. I teach speech communications…She meant to say chronically ‘tardy’….give her a break.There are kids who are chronically tardy…nobody is chronically retarded. Get over yourself. I think there are too many educational haters and language cops, and she apologized. She wasn’t being mean to what teachers do!

    1. Raymond,
      You teach communications? Did you take the time to read what I wrote? Did you skip over the part where I said I thought she had stepped on her words and meant to say “tardy,” not “‘tarded.” And that I decided not to post about it when I first received it. And that I thought the real issue was policy, not awkward language? Maybe somebody needs to get over themselves. But check a mirror.

  3. Thank you, Fred, for posting this & going where others (for their own stupid, politic reasons) fear to tread. You are more than fair–you’ve included Lily’s apology–where others might not be.
    That having been said, much worse, of course, than what Lily said is the NEA’s (& Lily owns this, as well) unbelievable, educationally inexcusable exhortation for we rank-&-file members to blindly line up behind Lily & the leaders and make calls to SUPPORT (yes, I’m yelling, here!) the ESEA, with the glaringly unacceptable S 1177, “Pay for Success.” “Sticks & stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us,” RE: what Lily said.
    However, what Lily asks (encourages) us to DO is another matter, creating a world of hurt for special ed. students, parents and those general ed. students, whose classrooms will be overcrowded with peers who will need more help and attention, thus pulling the classroom teacher & aide (if they’re lucky enough to have one) away from the majority of the class.
    Kudos to you, Fred, and the ever-stalwart Bev Johns for keeping us informed as to what we all must do to prevent even more damage to our kids.
    The last won’t come from the NEA or the AFT.

  4. Off-topic and I don’t mean to tell you how to run your blog, but that Zuckerberg post currently on your Twitter feed deserves wide-spread attention. I just emailed it to everyone I know. Peter Greene covered the issue quite well on his blog, but even he didn’t delve into all the financial advantages that Zuckerberg will be reaping from this “donation”. The media, however, including the “left-leaning” media like Salon, are hailing this as a good thing.

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