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Bernie's Doublespeak About Childhood Literacy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/John Locher

Last Monday, Bernie Sanders came under tepid fire from the mainstream media for a comment he made to Anderson Cooper in a 60-Minutes interview on February 24. He defended his 1985 statement supporting both Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega. The context was that while Castro had done some bad things to Cuban citizens, he should be admired for promoting reading literacy and improving health care for the country’s children. While he criticized Cuba’s authoritarian regime, he likened it to the U.S. under Trump. 

Sanders argued that when Castro first came to power, he established reading literacy among the children, gave them health care and totally transformed the society. Of course, the transformation was to a communist regime without freedom to dissent or the benefits of a growing economy, freedoms he has enjoyed his entire life in America. It also turns out that about 80 percent of the children were already literate and Castro’s literacy program was actually an indoctrination program to communist ideology.

The most recent statistics indicate that nearly 1-in-5 American children are below an acceptable literacy level. Some 52 percent of all Americans have basic or below basic reading skills compared with a global literacy rate of 49 percent. For all our wealth and resources, we are only three ticks ahead of the worldwide average. As a university professor for 37 years, I can attest to at least 20 percent of my senior-in-college students being only marginally able to write a literate 200-word executive brief.

There are two primary reasons for this literacy impediment that Bernie Sanders won’t reveal: 1) Teachers’ unions (American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association) do not make a good teacher and 2) the inattention many children get from their parents. The proliferation of single-parent homes (24 million families have a single parent) is a prime reason for parental inattention. While teachers are allegedly trained and supervised to instill literacy in their K-12 students, sadly, they don’t appear to be doing their job. 

As a story in Politico documents, Bernie Sanders thus far is the favored candidate of labor unions. Sanders has been particularly diligent in appealing to unions and workers. He’s proposed expanding union power and doubling union membership during his first term and has received the early backing of teachers unions in California and Nevada at this early stage.

Daniel Buck from the Foundation for Economic Education argues that teachers unions are primarily advocacy groups, both at the state and national levels. He lists some of the causes they are committed to: supporting Black Lives Matter; opposing arming teachers in schools; opposing charter schools and voucher programs; and responding to the heartless, racist, and discriminatory zero-tolerance immigration policies of the Trump administration. Most importantly, these unions promote a strict pay scale that rewards teachers for years taught (longevity) not performance.

While teacher unions argue that their influence is waning, data show 32 states still require local school boards to bargain collectively with their teachers, 14 states permit local boards to do this, and only Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia prohibit collective teacher bargaining completely. 

For teachers accused of sexual harassment, drug use, striking students or other performance abuses, unions protect offending teachers by having them sent to reassignment centers, “rubber rooms” off-campus while earning a full salary and accruing full benefits. In New York alone, the state paid $150 million for these bad teacher sites because of union pressure.

A few years ago, the NEA and the AFT alone donated $64 million in political contributions compared to only $28 million by George Soros and $11 million by the Koch brothers. Quite certainly their overarching role is leftist political influence not ensuring students get a good education. 

Given Bernie Sander’s love and support of labor unions, most teachers are Bernie Bros through and through and their members will cow-tow to their progressive agenda. Expect a further drop in children’s literacy if he is elected.

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