Chester Finn: Thoughts On The NEA

In the Gadfly, Chester Finn wonders if the NEA is softening its stance on No Child Left Behind. It’s an uncharacteristically meandering piece for the usually crisp Finn, his method seems to be closely reading one article in NEA Today, and he seems to conclude that nothing is doing anyway. Joanne Jacobs joins in the wondering.

This is more smoke than fire. For starters, NEA’s leadership can’t just change the organization’s positions, there is a process involving the membership. And, even if the leadership did desire a change (a debatable proposition), as the pay-for-performance debacle of a few years ago shows, the membership can and often will resist it.

It’s normal organizational behavior. Teachers are busy and the average one is not on local, state, or national NEA committees or active in NEA decision-making organs. Instead, the most vocal, active, and strident are. The result is that the NEA is often not a member of the reality-based community on key issues but rather indicative of the views of these members. Quasi-Straussian readings of specific articles in NEA Today won’t change that.

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