No sense waiting

by Russ Roberts on July 5, 2011

in Education

The National Education Association has endorsed President Obama for re-election before he even has an opponent. Tells you all you need to know about the NEA.

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Warren Smith July 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm

If ever anything was “shovel ready” it would be the NEA…dead on arrival.

Mcwop July 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

More like wrecking ball ready.

kirby July 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Then there are the doctors and lawyers and prison guards… but how can we fix it?

Speedmaster July 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Yup, that about sums it all up.

W.E. Heasley July 5, 2011 at 7:01 pm

‘CHICAGO, July 5 (UPI) — The National Education Association endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election, with leaders saying Obama shares the union’s vision for a strong America.

“President Barack Obama shares our vision for a stronger America,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, said. “He has never wavered from talking about the importance of education or his dedication to a vibrant middle class.” ‘

You just can’t beat “talking-point-education“!

Let us see, the “importance of education”. Translation: a late stage collectivist model delivered through monopoly suffering from rampant shirk, enrichment of the power purveyors, and abysmal output…..needs more taxpayer money!

“….dedication to a vibrant middle class”. Translation: a late stage collectivist model delivered through monopoly suffering from rampant shirk, enrichment of the power purveyors, and abysmal output….is surely the perfect success model for a vibrant middle class….as long as you send more money!

Chris July 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I am an economics teacher at a public high school and this is just one of many reasons why I refuse to join the union.

jjoxman July 5, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I applaud you for resisting evil.

Kirby July 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm

It’s a test of character

Krishnan July 5, 2011 at 9:39 pm

You can refuse to join the Union? A teacher? In a public school?

If so, it is good to know that not everyone is REQUIRED to JOIN (and so PAY money to support the Democrat Party)

T Rich July 5, 2011 at 10:39 pm

In my case, you could elect to join the union, but you still had to pay a fee (smaller than a member) since all teachers benefit (should benefit be in air quotes?) from the bargaining done by the union. I didn’t join, and rankled people by reminding them that the benefits were not possibly sustainable.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm

How did you survive uttering such heresy? In NYC you would have been ripped limb from limb by overpaid brain washers teaching our kids how not to think. My respect for you grows.

BTW, do the “benefits” you get for the fee extorted include being underpaid as a good teacher and vastly overpaid if you can’t conjugate verbs? I know a few ex-teachers who quit for that reason.

T Rich July 6, 2011 at 1:20 am

Survive? Not so much – after my first year as a career changer coming from industry, the department was downsized. Goodbye T Rich – least seniority and not yet credentialed, you know.

I did enjoy engaging the students regarding the innovation wrought by free markets and how free exchange was the key to progress. I had a few who had previously been told that “China was kicking our ass, and that it was because communism was a better form of organizing people.” I don’t think they came up with that on their own. My favorite experience was sharing with them about Kuznetsov curves that showed that the environment actually improved markedly when societies progressed beyond a certain threshold of income.

Your respect is flattering, m’lady.

Methinks1776 July 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

Marvelous. So, it seems the union cares so much about the kids, it got rid of one its best teachers in favour of some union schmuck. I’ve seen it time and again.

I don’t have kids, but I’m frustrated enough by what’s happening to my friends’ kids in public school. Books have been confiscated because the child was reading above grade level. Entrepreneurs are routinely painted as exploiters. Government meddlers are glorified and competition is demonized. Meanwhile, the kids can’t read, write or perform basic arithmetic.

BTW, when I briefly taught high school math, I was also not credentialed (and had no interest in becoming a teacher. I was only teaching as one of the countless jobs I took to pay for my education). When I mentioned that to the head, he said it didn’t matter. I’d had more math than any of the district’s math teachers. And, no, this was not a redneck town in Alabama.

T Rich July 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

Thanks again for sharing your experiences – you really should write a book. As a second generation refugee from the USSR (my dad’s father was fairly high ranking in Deniken’s (sp?) white Russian army) I am always intrigued to learn about your experiences as an immigrant from the USSR.

I don’t know that I would have characterized myself as “one of the best” or even “really good” after one year. I would like to think that I was OK and getting better.

The biggest challenge for me was the frustration of so many students who simply had no interest in learning. Apparently they had already learned ways to get by – mainly that somebody else would take care of them – and working hard was not the easiest way. The school where I taught was about 10% white, 10% Asian, 40%hispanic and 40% black. I will generalize and say that a strong majority of white and Asian students were serious while the girls in the hispanic and black groups were more serious students. I could count on one hand the number of serious black male students that I encountered. When I interviewed for the position, the principle (an awesome male role model and black) candidly said that “black boys are the biggest challenge that we are addressing.” The fascinating difference to me was that the first generation African immigrants were markedly more serious than the blacks that have many generations in America.

Oh well, my own kids are doing great in school because they know that the gravy train runs out after they finish school and that poor performance results in near-nuclear retribution by their benevolent parents. They also know that they won’t fully control their own lives until they are out from under our roof.

T Rich July 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

DANG: Rewind and change “principle” to “principal”

T Rich July 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

And another thing, Methinks:
The unions aren’t the only ones saying that they are all for the kids and don’t walk that walk. The leaders of the schools (superintendents, school boards, etc) are full of excrement, too. If they really, truly cared about education of students, they would make it abundantly clear to the students and parents that if you were consistently disruptive and failed to correct said behavior then you would be kicked out on your ass.

There would be no concern for age, race, disability, whatever. If you destroyed the learning environment, out the door you go. I got the feeling that my principal would have agreed to such an approach, but that he couldn’t say so out loud. Maybe that’s why he left to go to join a start up charter school. Compulsory schooling has outlived its usefulness or perhaps it was only effective in a time and place where adults actually gave a damn about what their kids did.

Methinks1776 July 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm

T Rich,

I’m glad someone finds my stories interesting.

I think you were probably a good teacher, based on reading your posts here. First of all, you were interested in teaching the kids something and you introduced them to new ideas like China isn’t “kicking our ass” and that there are things worth learning that are not included in the collected works of Karl Marx. In my hippy-dippy college town American high school, I was never taught that the air is cleaner and we are wealthier. No, I was taught the world was ending and we would all die of pollution. We had to save energy because we were running out. It was all America’s fault and mostly it was the entrepreneurial Americans’ fault.

They had a hard time selling it to me only because I remembered the overwhelming stench of urine in every entrance of every building, the polluted air and the 17th century medicine of not only Moscow but most of Western Europe (which was slightly better than Moscow).

Experience doesn’t always make one a good teacher. Many of my own teachers had been teachers (well, at least employed as such) since time began and still sucked, while new teachers were excellent. Guess who got the axe!

I agree with everything you said. I attended and then briefly taught at a high school (not the same school) where most of the parents were highly educated. So, although it was the opposite environment of the one you taught in, the apathy of the students and parents in the school where I taught was amazing.

T Rich July 7, 2011 at 11:21 am

Thanks, Methinks.

Interesting how the smell of urine can put the lie to all the propaganda spewed in our schools. It is also very interesting to me how powerful smell is and how it tends to tap into a very primal emotional region of our brain.

We are lucky in that most people in our area are serious about their kids education, so our kids aren’t overly infected with the apathy we have witnessed elsewhere. And fortunately, my older son is a bit introverted – meaning he is less susceptible to prompts from behaviors around him. My younger son is a natural leader and can get untracked, but will have the strength and charisma to resist stupidity.

david nh July 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

“Tells you all you need to know about the NEA.”

More importantly, it tells you all you need to know about Obama.

RC July 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Speaking of Obama, here’s what his position was in 2008:

I’m sure the NEA has forgiven him. After all, what’s wrong with a little lying to win over the herd?

ArgosyJones July 5, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Do you think there’s some chance that the republican nominee is going to be more favorable to the interests of teachers, Russ? Somehow, I doubt it.

I’m pretty sure I know who you’ll be voting for. Does that tell me everything I need to know about you?

Russ Roberts July 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm

By saying it tells you everything I simply meant that the NEA and the Democratic party have a symbiotic relationship. So symbiotic that the NEA doesn’t even pretend to be non-partisan. It’s a shame that one of the two major parties is more interested in teachers than in education.
BTW, you don’t know who I’ll be voting for. I actually like to see who’s running before I decide.

ArgosyJones July 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I might as well register my guess that you’ll be in favor of the Republican nominee, with an exception for revelations of Klan/ NeoNazi associations or such, with Ron Paul being a toss-up.

I don’t think political preferences need to be declared to be predictable.

I’m not sure why people want the NEA to pretend to be non-partisan. Their position is just a logical reflection of differences between the parties; Democrats are much more favorable towards unions than Republicans, and have been for a while. We might as well ask why Republicans are so anti-union as ask why unions are so anti-Republican.

I’m sure both sides of this can claim “principled” reasons for their postion, Just as you can give a principled justification of your vote, and I can make a plausible case that you’re voting in your own narrow self interest.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Yeah, but he won’t be feeding the public he’s robbing at gunpoint manure about how he’s doing it “for the kids”. And, I’m sorry, but there are different brands of self-interest. The NEA’s brand is theft.

Ken July 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm


“I’m sure both sides of this can claim “principled” reasons for their postion”

There’s nothing principled about enforcing and strengthening the failed monopoly of public education and transferring money from the tax payers to the politically favored union leaders.


W.E. Heasley July 5, 2011 at 10:18 pm


“I’m sure both sides of this can claim “principled” reasons for their postion”

There’s nothing principled about enforcing and strengthening the failed monopoly of public education and transferring money from the tax payers to the politically favored union leaders.



Ken, that is a most excellent point!

(1) is it that AJ is attempting to say whatever the “vision”, then the ends justify the means to reach the vision? That would smack of the unconstrained vision. Then one could only gather that AJ is merely superimposing his own general unconstrained vision upon a specific unconstrained vision and hence bestowing legitimacy.

(2) the monopoly is failed but the subject “monopoly” is under consideration. Is it that AJ favors monopoly just not of the private variety?

(3) apparently AJ believes it is perfect operating procedure for politicos, through the mechanism of government, to use other peoples’ money to build a dependent political constituency.

Scott July 6, 2011 at 6:34 am

It’s not so much the partisanship as it is the forced membership.

Unions’ use of forced membership conflicts with any notion of true liberalism.

T Rich July 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

It sounds like it may infringe on the idea of freedom of association. However, their argument is likely to be that their is a free rider problem in allowing people to not join – they get the benefit without paying the cost.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Well, let’s see….

Unlike you, Russ is not speculating about whom teachers endorse. So maybe that says more about you than Russ – especially since you don’t even know if he’s going to vote. But, at least Russ’ biases have always been clear and he’s always been consistent.

There’s no doubt in your mind or mine that the teachers’ union works in the interest of teachers and only teachers. Everyone else be damned – including students.

However, that’s not the way the NEA markets itself to the general public. Have a browse through the union’s website. They claim to be working to better education for your children. It’s all about the kids. The teachers are sacrificing themselves. Preventing drop-outs. “Union-led efforts are transforming education and boosting achievement at public schools nationwide” and assorted other lies. And how often have you hear the same line of crap from people who totally buy into the false advertising?

The teachers union is a cabal of extortionists pretending to be saints.

tdp July 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I’ve had individual teachers who happened to be part of the teachers’ union who actually cared about their students and weren’t only interested in getting more money. It would be more correct to say the higher ups and union bosses are extortionists pretending to be saints.

Methinks1776 July 5, 2011 at 10:48 pm

So all of those teachers walking in circles, the hoards striking instead of teaching kids how to spell “ask” “aks” are not teachers but higher ups and union bosses? I don’t think so.

I did a brief stint as high school math teacher a long time ago. know there are good teachers and some teachers have quit teaching because they hated the union so much. So, obviously, I’m not talking about these exceptions (who, incidentally, may very well be underpaid in the union system). But, the vast majority of teachers are as supportive of the evil cabal as the union bosses.

Acertainflorentine July 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Not only are they supportive, but many of them are MYSTIFIED that anyone would think the teacher’s union was not in the interests of students. I don’t mean that they disagree with you, but that they have NO IDEA anyone would dislike the union. Brainwashing of the top degree.

tdp July 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm

This guy was the from a family of union members from Youngstown, Ohio, worked a summer job in a steel mill, and was definitely a part of the union at my school. However, he worked way harder than he had to because he actually cared about teaching.

I never saw the teachers outside picketing, probably because if there was a work stoppage angry parents would have killed them, the principals and administration, and the school board. The parents there were way too involved to put up with crap like that.

jjoxman July 5, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Well, I would say the NEA’s resource deployment tells the story. No matter who the Dem is, they’ll support him/her/it.

W.E. Heasley July 5, 2011 at 8:22 pm

“The teachers union is a cabal of extortionists pretending to be saints”. – Methinks1776

Instant classic!

James Hanley July 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Not that I like the NEA much, but I think anyone can look at the crop of Republican candidates and actually make a pretty informed decision about whether anyone who comes out of that field will be more favorable to teachers’ unions than Obama. It’s not like there’s a real chance the Republicans will nominate a pro-union guy, so what purpose could possibly be served by the NEA’s waiting, except to create a mere pretense that they might support a non-Democrat?

If the NRA could legally endorse a candidate, does anyone doubt they’d already have chosen to support any Republican against Obama? As I see it, this is no more than a story of an organization’s leaders behaving rationally.

SheetWise July 6, 2011 at 2:13 am

“It’s not like there’s a real chance the Republicans will nominate a pro-union guy, so what purpose could possibly be served by the NEA’s waiting, except to create a mere pretense that they might support a non-Democrat?”

Aside from repeating the point made in the OP, you’ve highlighted the fact that there could be no other purpose. Not sure I got your point.

Scott July 6, 2011 at 7:06 am

Yet, there is much more to the NEA story than just simply being for more pay and benefits for teachers. The agenda does not stop at being pro-teacher, in fact, I think that is probably a secondary goal. They are first and foremost a socialist organization. A teachers’ union could easily be both pro-teacher and conservative or it could easily be pro-teacher and nothing more, but that obviously would not suit the purpose of the NEA.

It is NOT the organization’s leaders behaving rationally. It is not about acting in one’s self interest for better pay and benefits. It is the underlying philosophy of the NEA that is the whole story. It is why they would support a liberal democrat over a strongly supportive pro-teacher republican. It is this underlying philosophy that has reduced quality and increased costs in education. But that what their socialist philosophy always does.

James Hanley July 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

Sheetwise–my point was that any criticisms of them for their action and any handwringing over the fact that they consistently support Democrats are rather missing the point. No, I wasn’t trying to criticize the original post, other than to suggest that Roberts could just as easily have written “Tells you all you need to know about the Republican Party” (or, as another commenter noted, the Democratic Party as well). Given the NEA’s interests, what other outcome would be expected or rational?

Scott–You are quite wrong that being pro-teacher comes second to being socialist for the NEA. I’m a reluctant member of the NEA (for years I refused to join my faculty union because it is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association and the NEA, but finally joined because I wanted to exert some influence over the nutters that always want to take control of unions), and for almost nobody does the idea of socialism come to the fore. For the vast majority of NEA folks, the concern is always and everywhere about self-interest, not political structure. Your second paragraph is wholly wrong. The NEA supports Democrats because Democrats are more favorable toward spending on education than are Republicans, which works for the benefit of teachers (not necessarily the benefit of students; the NEA lies when it says it puts students interests first).

Mikenshmirtz July 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm

“The NEA supports Democrats because Democrats are more favorable toward spending on education than are Republicans, which works for the benefit of teachers”

This statement would hold water if you added a few words. Here are the words, and I’m sure you can figure out where they should be inserted (in order):

1. wasteful
2. unaccountable
3. bad

As for your finale, “(not necessarily the benefit of students; the NEA lies when it says it puts students interests first).”… GENIUS! I was wondering why it is the NEA.. I always thought it was because NSA sounded too spooky. Thanks for helping us figure that one out.

Greg Webb July 5, 2011 at 10:39 pm

The NEA is just another faction that is pursuing its own best interest. The problem is not the NEA as much as it is the federal government exceeding its constitutional authority through extensive involvement in education. The more government increases its power and spending, the more factions will try to influence elections to control others and obtain benefits from government. It won’t get any better until we put the genie (government) back in its constitutional bottle.

SheetWise July 6, 2011 at 2:27 am

At this point, it is inevitable that the feds will get involved in everything. If they don’t, we are left with competition between the states — and to the liberal mindset, that is totally unacceptable.

I’m only 55, and I’ve watched the process go through urban riots, civil rights, welfare rights, abortion rights, gay rights, etc. I don’t know where we are on the spectrum — or even where the endpoints are — but I do know that “competition between the states,” is only preserved as a begging right — because the feds have usurped all authority from the states (pending appeal).

vikingvista July 6, 2011 at 3:09 am

“constitutional bottle”

The constitution isn’t a bottle. The constitution isn’t even a leaky bottle. The constitution was the seed that spawned this leviathan. You’re as likely to “put the genie back” as you are to ungrow a tree.

SheetWise July 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

“The constitution was the seed that spawned this leviathan.”

I don’t buy that argument. The constitution was, by design, intended to check any interest groups ability to concentrate power. It’s imperfections can be attributed to it’s origin — a compromise between interest groups. I think the founding fathers failed on the judiciary.

vikingvista July 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm

The CotUS CREATED the federal government. Before the CotUS created the Monopoly and handed it monopoly powers, there wasn’t such a concentration of power. It didn’t prevent concentration of power, it CONCENTRATED power.

The Articles of Confederation, in spite of its similarities, was a much less effective tool for abusing power, with weaker monopoly powers.

Warren Smith July 6, 2011 at 7:42 am

“Do as I say, not as I do” seems to be the Obama family mantra.

The following outlines the somewhat less than populist educational choice made by the Obama family for their own children.
“Sidwell has between 1,000 and 1,100 students and says 39 percent of them self-identify as students of color. Tuition this year for elementary school is $28,442; for the middle school, $29,442.

It has long been the choice of politically powerful and moneyed families. As Sidwell parents, the Obamas will find not only supporters of his campaign but also of his rival in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton. Her pollster, Mark Penn, sends his children there, and Lissa Muscatine, a longtime speechwriter, is on the board of trustees.”

Heinzman July 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

Tells you all you need to know about The Obama.

jcpederson July 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

The NEA endorses Obama over anyone that the GOP could possibly nominate. They could have seemed more fair about it and waited until there was an actual nominee, but they did not. I doubt the GOP was hopeful.
But what about a Democratic challenger? Is it inconceivable that a (credible) Democrat might challenge Obama for the next term? If there were any stirrings like this, a big, early endorsement from the teachers’ union would help squelch that, I imagine..

Chucklehead July 6, 2011 at 11:18 am

It is only a mater of time before all unions, govt. workers. trial bars, wall street and other rent seekers endorse Obama. Why wait?

ArrowSmith July 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Communist organization is communist. Big effin deal.

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