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The NEA and Antiracism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

As parents across America take to school board meetings to challenge state-sanctioned racism being taught in schools, the National Education Association (NEA) wants them to know it’s just about had it with their interference.  But it’s hard to swat away thousands of parents who refuse to capitulate when their children are at stake. So NEA has vowed to go after organizations that it believes are instigating the uprising.


This strategy fundamentally misinterprets what’s going on in the nation’s school districts. It will fail.

The issue, of course, is Critical Race Theory (CRT), sometimes called (as by the NEA) antiracism. The central tenets of the theory are that American society is founded on and riddled with white supremacy and bias against black and brown people and that all white people, including white children, are guilty of oppression and must be made to pay. As Professor Ibram Kendi wrote in his seminal book How to Be an Antiracist, “The only remedy to resist racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Further, U.S. history must be taught from the point of view that racism saturated everything that ever happened in this country and continues to do so.

It’s easy to see why parents would object not only to this demonization of their innocent children but also to the cartoon version of history. But the NEA is primed to defend both.

At its 2021 Representative Assembly continuing  through July 3, the NEA adopted a business item pledging the union to “research the organizations attacking the educators doing anti-racist work and/or use the research already done and put together a list of resources and recommendations for state affiliates, locals, and individual educators to utilize when they are attacked.” The NEA claims that such “attacks” are “coordinated by well-funded organizations such as the Heritage Foundation,” so the union must fight fire with fire.


The NEA thus parrots the usual leftist argument that anyone who objects to its agenda is funded and controlled by some shadowy, deep-pocketed organizations. This was always the claim about opposition to the execrable Common Core standards – it couldn’t possibly be that parents disliked the standards and the scheme, so they must have been puppets of unknown rich people. The irony of this (lost on the NEA as on all leftists) is that practically all the big money on these issues is on their side, not parents’. Ask Bill Gates what he spent on Common Core before toddling off to ruin something else.

In reality, if every organization that has opposed CRT suddenly gave up the fight, parents would still be incensed. Their concern wasn’t sparked by something they heard on a Heritage webinar. Instead, especially as their kids were doing pretend school at home because groups like the NEA resisted their attendance in person, parents saw exactly what their children were being exposed to. On many occasions students themselves called their parents’ attention to increasing radicalism in the classroom. And sometimes, leftist school administrators were so proud of their wokeness – and who wouldn’t be? – that they trumpeted to parents that school policies would reflect Kendian philosophy. If this molds kids into self-loathing antiracist agitators, all the better. 


However parents found out, many of them from across the political spectrum are drawing the line against propaganda and indoctrination of their kids. All the NEA’s “research” into conservative organizations won’t mollify a parent whose eight-year-old is instructed to deconstruct his racial identity

The value of the NEA’s entering this fray is that it might acquaint more parents with the hard-left bent of the nation’s largest teachers’ union. A glance through the business items considered at the Assembly reveals almost no concern about teaching students to read and do math but laser-like focus on race and other progressive priorities. In addition to demands for all anti-racism all the time, the NEA has so far expressed its opposition to school resource officers (the guys who stop shooting sprees), enforcement of immigration laws, state election-integrity laws, and state laws protecting the rights of girls against demands of trans-identifying males. 

Still awaiting debate is an item expressing “support for the Palestinian struggle for justice” and calling for the “United States government to stop arming and supporting Israel.” How this will improve American kids’ math scores goes unexplored.

Not only parents but teachers should take a hard look at the agenda and operation of the NEA. As Heritage’s Lindsey Burke and Mike Gonzalez put it, responding to NEA’s accusation that they’re pulling the strings of the anti-CRT movement, “Do hard-working teachers really want their union dues empowering a political attack machine that wants to scare parents and others, including teachers themselves, who have real concerns about teaching that America is inherently racist or stereotyping students based on their skin color?”


The only way NEA will win over parents is to respond respectfully to their concerns. Maybe that could be added to the Assembly’s order of business.

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