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During his presentation today at an NBC News Education forum in New York City, Mitt Romney repeatedly declared his belief that teachers' unions do not care about students or education, that those aren't "teachers' interests." In order to "prove" his case, he evoked (and mis-attributed) a right-wing canard about a speech by a senior teachers' union official, further demonstrating his contempt for educators.

In response to a question from a member of a New York City school board, who cited a recent Quinnipiac study showing NYC parents trust the teachers' union nearly twice as much as the mayor to protect their children's interests, Romney expressed disbelief in the poll. He then went on to "quote" the "head of the national teachers' union as having said, 'We don't care about the children. We care about the teachers.' in order to back his anti-union position. Unfortunately for Governor Romney, he got both the speaker and the full quotation wrong.

As Media Matters recently reported, this was actually a 2009 speech by Bob Chanin, former general counsel (not head) of the National Education Association, which was incompletely excerpted by both Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to try to make the same anti-union point as did Governor Romney today. Media Matters then produced a substantial excerpt from the speech, placing in bold the mid-sentence to mid-sentence portion focused upon by Limbaugh, Hannity and now Romney, but including the rest of the context to demonstrate that Chanin was actually making the opposite point:


CHANIN: At first glance, some of you may find these attacks troubling. But you would be wrong. They are, in fact, really a good thing. When I first came to NEA in the early '60s it had few enemies, and was almost never criticized, attacked, or even mentioned in the media. This was because no one really gave a damn about what NEA did, or what NEA said. It was the proverbial sleeping giant: a conservative, apolitical, do-nothing organization.

    But then, NEA began to change. It embraced collective bargaining. It supported teacher strikes. It established a political action committee. It spoke out for affirmative action, and it defended gay and lesbian rights. What NEA said and did began to matter. And the more we said and did, the more we pissed people off. And, in turn, the more enemies we made.

    So the bad news, or depending on your point of view, the good news, is that NEA and its affiliates will continue to be attacked by conservative and right-wing groups as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees, and for human and civil rights.

    And that brings me to my final, and most important point. Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.

    This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary, these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.

    When all is said and done, NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that. If we do that and if we do it well, the rest will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will in turn enable us to achieve our vision of a great public school for every child.

    Today, NEA has thanked me for some of the things that I have done. But this is in a sense, backwards. It is I who should thank NEA for giving me the opportunity to spend almost 50 years of my working life for causes that I truly believe in and to be part of an organization that has made a difference in the lives of children and education employees and has led the defense of public education. [NEA, 7/6/09]

Given that Romney launched his campaign with an out-of-context lying ad about President Obama, this latest defaming of educators comes as no surprise. {ProfJonathan}

Originally posted to JonathanEzor on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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