John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


March Against the NEA, Not With It

Posted on September 17, 2010
So, the NAACP, La Raza, and the Teachers’ Unions are organizing a march on the Capitol Mall next month.

Does anybody else see the terrible irony here?

Ben Jealous, who is head of the NAACP, loves to point to the possible racists among the Tea Party. Jealous is zealous in his pursuit of Tea Party racists.

In the meantime, he organizes a march with the organization that single-handedly killed school reform in Washington D.C. You couldn’t miss a commercial produced and paid for by the NEA extolling the virtues of Vincent Gray, who has promised to fire Michelle Rhee should he be elected the Mayor of Washington D.C.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee speaks alongside D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and parents and students at Maury Elementary School following a walks to school event in Washington on August 24, 2010. Rhee, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and local D.C. school children walked from Lincoln Park to Maury Elementary School in an event to bring awareness to the importance of a safe and healthy lifestyles. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Washington D.C. under Rhee, as the New York Times editorial page noted this morning, “made quick and impressive progress, as measured by math and reading tests and by the rigorous federally backed test known as the National Assessment of Education Progress.”

To make that progress, Rhee had to ruffle some feathers. She had to fire incompetent teachers and incompetent administrators. The NEA, which prides itself on protecting incompetent teachers (that should be its catch-phrase), mobilized quickly against her, and somehow was able to convince the black community in D.C. that Rhee’s efforts to improve the largely black school system was against their interests.

It really boggles the mind.

And now, the same union that successfully snuffed out school reform in D.C. is organizing a march with the NAACP to try to stop John Boehner from being elected Speaker of the House.

I think they see Boehner as a threat because they know that he will continue the work of school reform at the national level, trying to push President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan to do the right thing.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama appointed Rhee to some high-level position within his Administration once she gets fired by Vincent Gray.

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about an interesting survey that showed that black Americans are much happier personally than they were in the 1970’s. One reason cited is the decline (although not elimination) of overt racism. As the story pointed out: “The most obvious is the decrease — though certainly not the elimination — in day-to-day racism. “The decline in prejudice has been astounding,” says Kerwin Charles, a University of Chicago economist who has studied discrimination. Well into the 1970s, blacks faced “a vast array of personal indignities that led to unhappiness,” he noted. Today, those indignities are unacceptable in many areas of American life.”

The interesting thing about the Tea Party is that while it may harbor some people who are either racist or completely insensitive to racial indignities, the movement leaders (and most of the followers) understand how devastating it is politically to be seen as racist. African-Americans are not only welcomed within the movement. They are highlighted and celebrated. This is a far cry from the 1960’s and 1970’s, where blacks who waded into these types of crowds would have been threatened or attacked.

This really is a sea-change, an important difference in how we look at ourselves and how we look at others.

Racism is still present and is still an obstacle. But the biggest obstacle to black advancement (and to Hispanic advancement; and to white advancement, for that matter) is education. If you have a college degree, the chance that you are unemployed is pretty minuscule, in the big scheme of things. If you don’t have a high school degree, unless you have some sort of special talent, the chance that you have a good-paying job is similarly minuscule.

But kids drop out of school, like the schools in D.C., because they have lousy teachers, lousy administrators and a lousy atmosphere to learn. Rhee was changing that because she knew that the best way to change the atmosphere was to change the Administration and get rid of the bad teachers.

Ben Jealous should know that. If he really cared about the advancement of his community, he should lead a march against the NEA, not a march with it.

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