Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2004 / 3 Adar, 5764

Michael Graham

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Ask parents who the education terrorists are | "[Calling the NEA a 'terrorist organization' is] the most vile and disgusting form of hate speech, comparing those who teach America's children to terrorists." — Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Of course Rod Paige was wrong when he called America's most powerful teacher's union a "terrorist organization." Al Qaeda isn't nearly as bad at terrorism as the NEA is at educating our children.

Everyone agrees, including Secretary of Education Paige himself, that his flippant comment went too far. He apologized, the White House is pleased that he apologized, and the Democrats are thrilled to have yet another opportunity to prove they have sold out totally and utterly to Big Labor, particularly the teacher's unions. So everybody's happy.

Everyone, that is, except parents who care about children trapped in the wildly expensive, pathetically underachieving government-run school system. And why are these moms and dads trapped? Because of a political cell of heartless, vicious, ideologically-driven extremists who are willing to sacrifice the future of millions of American kids for the sake of their personal gain and ideological principles.

No, the NEA is not a "terrorist group." Not quite.

For example, nobody believes the NEA actually wants our kids dead. But they certainly don't care to see them educated, either. And parents who want the best education for their children don't go to bed each night in fear of the teacher's unions. But perhaps they should.

When Secretary Paige made his unfortunate remark he was meeting with a group of governors, all under pressure from teacher's unions back home to wiggle out of the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind" act. According to the states' own testing, about 25% of public schools perform so poorly that no student should be forced to attend them. Keeping kids trapped in these schools almost assures they will either drop out, or flunk out, or receive an education so useless it will limit the economic opportunity of their entire lives.

What kind of heartless monsters would want to continue to force children into these failing, educational rat holes? That would be the NEA.

The teacher's unions are terrified of Bush education policies that might allow families to escape the worst-of-the-worst public schools. Why? Because that's where the worst-of-the-worst public school employees go to get their paychecks. Does the NEA care that these schools are so lousy they couldn't teach a University of Colorado football player how to get lucky in a Vegas bordello? Of course not.

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In Washington, DC, the NEA is desperately trying to kill a voucher program that would rescue a handful of children from the worst performing, most dangerous schools in America. Is it because these vouchers take away money from an underfunded public school system? Only if you D.C.'s $12,000 per student is "underfunded."

Washington schools aren't underfunded. What they are, and have been for a generation, are cesspools of educational incompetence. And yet the NEA is screaming, yelling and suing to keep low-income black kids trapped inside those walls. The closer those children come to a quality education at a private academy or parochial school (for about half the cost, by the way), the more frenzied the teachers' unions become in their efforts to shove these children back down.

Is this willingness to sacrifice these children for the sake of politics a "terrorist act?" Maybe not. But the words "despicable," "horrifying" and "sick" come to mind.

And it's not just Washington, DC. In America's ten largest cities, 80% of public school fourth-graders — 80%! — are scoring below "proficient" on the NAEP tests. Despite 30 years of pouring more and more money into the system--a 90% net increase in education funding and a record $26.3 billion federal education budget under President Bush — what do we get from the NEA? The dumbest possible kids at the highest possible price.

Could you do it? Could you hold the keys of hope in your hand — a tax-funded voucher to a successful education and future — and tear it up right in the face of a seven-year-old trapped in a school system with a 70% drop-out rate and where only 10% of the students test at their grade level? Could you do something so desperate and destructive, solely for the sake of your ideology, your politics, your "world view?"

I couldn't. When I see government schools with metal detectors in every doorway and test scores lower than Christina Aguilera's waistband, I know I would never send one of my four children there. No caring parent would unless they had been given no other choice.

Calling the current school bureaucrats "terrorists" would actually extend them the compliment of assuming they are doing such a lousy job on purpose. If only the social carnage and destruction they inflict were intentionally, then we might persuade them to abandon their ideology and turn the education system around.

Unfortunately, it appears the school system is doing the best it can. And that is the most terrifying fact of all.

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JWR contributor Michael Graham is a talk show host and author of the highly acclaimed "Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War." To comment, please click here.


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© 2003, Michael Graham