Thursday, October 15, 2009

The NEA’s Philosophy

"Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical...the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer."
- Saul Alinsky on the "Rules For Radicals" dedication

Rules For Radicals
According to former NEA Uniserv director John Lloyd: “To understand the NEA -- to understand the union -- read Saul Alinsky. If you read Rules for Radicals, you will understand the NEA more profoundly than reading anything else. Because the whole organization was modeled on that kind of behavior which was really begun when NEA used Saul Alinsky as a consultant to train their own staff.”

Rules For Radicals author and self-avowed Marxist Saul Alinsky led a series of training programs for NEA organizers in the early 1970s. Summarizing the lessons, an NEA consultant wrote a pamphlet entitled “Alinsky for Teacher Organizers,” which advocated that education union organizers not let teachers “fraternize with the enemy” because “distance helps you polarize the issue.”

Other advice from “Alinsky for Teacher Organizers”:

•The “singleness of purpose” a union organizer must have is “the ability to build a power base.”
•“What if teachers don’t want power? Organize the ones who do.”
•“Don’t treat all teachers as equals.”
•“Alinsky's strategic and tactical essence is built around conflict.”
•“[Y]ou must be lucky enough to have your people insulted or assaulted (verbally) by the other side.”
•“Generally, the Alinsky advice on tactics is guerrilla war advice. To win, know the enemy, divide the enemy. Know who all the players are, conduct the action on several levels and personalize the conflict.”
•“When you are starting with little issues, you can’t afford too many losses. This means you must ‘fix’ the outcome of these fights."
The philosophical heritage running through Alinsky and the NEA isn’t one most people would want influencing public policy -- especially public education. In Rules For Radicals, Alinsky gives an acknowledgement to “the first radical, Lucifer.” In his work for the NEA, he cites the work of Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro as positive examples of leadership.

By 1967, the NEA was formally citing power creation as one of its top principles:

"NEA will become a political power second to no other special interest … NEA will organize this profession from top to bottom into logical operational units that can move swiftly and effectively and with power unmatched by any other organized group in the nation." - Sam Lambert, 1967 executive secretary of the NEA

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