Analogy, Schmanalogy

Friday, April 29, 2005

Analogy, Schmanalogy

In Thursday's Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd), Harvard education thinkologists Martin R. West and Paul E. Peterson use a sleazy analogy in their op-ed attacking the National Education Association. Blasting NEA for its lawsuit challenging the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, West and Peterson write:
[NEA], its affiliates in 10 states, and a ragbag of school districts have just filed a federal lawsuit alleging that [NCLB] is an unfunded mandate. If the NEA's complaints sound hauntingly familiar, it's because Americans have heard them before -- 40 years ago, when Southern segregationists did their best to evade the desegregationist requirements of Lyndon Johnson's original law offering federal aid for education.
There's one glaring difference that West and Peterson chose to leave out.

Segregationist leaders opposed the spirit and the intent of federal laws that advanced desegregation and equal opportunity in education. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When NCLB was first proposed, NEA never opposed the bill. Indeed, in May 2001, NEA sent a letter to House members stating that the educational union "supports the bill's increased emphasis on assisting low-performing schools but has some concerns on specific provisions." Those concerns included funding for: educational services for students with disabilities (in the 1970s, Congress had set full federal funding as a goal); smaller class sizes; and school building repairs.

In late 2001, NEA tried to get these concerns addressed by the conference committee, but without success. Even then, the union never took a "no" position on NCLB. Bush signed the measure into law in January 2002. In January 2003, NEA released this statement:
"While we have always supported the intent of [NCLB], on its one-year anniversary it only makes sense to step back and see how this legislation can be improved," said NEA President Reg Weaver.
The main way that NEA wanted to improve the law was to secure full federal funding. When segregationists raised the issue of full funding in the 1960s, it was nothing but a red herring -- and West and Peterson know it. For these two men to compare the NEA's position on NCLB in 2005 with segregationists' position on education bills in the '60s is insulting and ridiculous.

NEA's president doesn't look like a "closet segregationist" to me, but, then again, I'm not Peterson or West.

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