When examining the hydra that is the collectivist “education” establishment that dominates public schools in the United States, among the most important tentacles have been the teachers’ unions—especially the National Education Association (NEA).
Along with other leading unions, the NEA and its affiliates at the state and local level played a leading role in transforming American education into the dangerous disaster that it has become. The extremism has been getting progressively more extreme for over a century now. But it’s not new by any means.
The destructive role played by the NEA is so serious, and so widely understood, that in 2004, even then-U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige described the union as a “terrorist organization.” But in reality, the NEA has done far more damage to the United States than a simple terrorist organization ever could.
Consider that terrorists merely kill individuals, even if sometimes in large numbers. But the NEA and its allied unions have helped to practically kill a nation—the greatest, freest nation that ever existed. While terrorists destroy human bodies, the NEA has worked to destroy human minds and human freedoms.
For at least a century, the NEA, founded in 1857 as a professional association, has barely bothered to conceal its leadership’s affinity for communism, collectivism, socialism, humanism, globalism, and other dangerous “isms” that threaten individual liberty. Nor has the union shied away from vitriolic attacks on the United States, the free-market system, Christianity, the family, or educational freedom.
Perhaps the most important exposé ever written on the NEA was the 1984 book “NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education” by Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld. Packed with examples and references, Blumenfeld’s book proved that, contrary to popular mythology, which holds that the NEA’s extremism is a more recent phenomenon, the union’s leaders have been radicalizing teachers against America for a century or more.
But even before that, it was bad. “From 1857 to the present, the NEA has worshiped two gods: Horace Mann, a statist, and John Dewey, a socialist,” Blumenfeld continued, referring to the two most important figures in the hostile takeover of “education” by government. This series on education has dealt with both of these subversives extensively.
By 1900, the NEA, which was lobbying for federal involvement in education, was largely insignificant. Even though there were an estimated half a million public school teachers in the United States at that time, the NEA had well under 2,500 members. Once the “progressives” took firm control, though, it became a sort of “ministry of education” seeking to dictate and control education policy nationwide.
Replacing Liberty With Collectivism
Once progressives were totally in control of the NEA leadership, a story detailed in Blumenfeld’s book, there was no longer any inhibitions in openly promoting the triumph of collectivism over liberty using the school system.
At the annual NEA meeting in 1934, Willard Givens, who would soon be appointed executive secretary over the union, laid out the agenda.
“Many drastic changes must be made,” Givens declared. “A dying ‘laissez-faire’ must be completely destroyed and all of us, including the ‘owners’, must be subjected to a large degree of social control. … The major function of the school is the social orientation of the individual. It must seek to give him understanding of the transition to a new social order.”
He also called for nationalization of all sorts of industries, to be operated for the benefit of “the people.”
Of course, socialist and humanist “education reformer” John Dewey had been advocating the emergence of a “new social order,” socialist in orientation, since at least the early years of the 20th century. And in 1932, Dewey, almost universally regarded as the founding father of America’s public education system, became the “honorary life president” of the NEA.
The very next year, Dewey and some of his cohorts would draft and sign the first Humanist Manifesto, a bizarre religious document brazenly rejecting God while shamelessly embracing collectivism and socialism. This totalitarian religion would eventually be advanced throughout America in de-Christianized public schools.
Dewey, who visited the Soviet Union and wrote articles extolling the brutal tyranny’s supposed virtues, was interested in education primarily to promote his totalitarian “ideology” and his pseudo-theology. And even though he was adamant that Christianity must not be taught in schools, he was totally fine with religion—his religion—in the classroom. In fact, he believed it was essential to creating the “new social order.”
“Our schools … are performing an infinitely significant religious work,” he wrote in his 1907 essay “Religion and Our Schools.” “They are promoting the social unity out of which in the end genuine religious unity must grow. … [D]ogmatic beliefs … we see … disappearing. … It is the part of men to … work for the transformation of all practical instrumentalities of education till they are in harmony with these ideas.”
From the 1920s onward, this sort of quack religious, political, and educational nonsense and propaganda from Dewey filled the pages of the “NEA Journal.” Among other ideas, Dewey’s writing in the NEA’s flagship publication, which reached more teachers than any other, constantly extolled the virtues of collectivism and the mass-murdering Soviet system while demonizing the United States and traditional American education.
Dewey was especially warm to the Soviet indoctrination program masquerading as an “education” system, his essays in the NEA Journal and other publications such as the New Republic revealed. And yet, because of clever word games, many Americans remained oblivious to the danger. One of the ways Dewey’s propaganda on behalf of tyranny was so effective was that he deceived readers by using the words “democracy” and “socialism” interchangeably.
Dewey was so wrapped up in Soviet intrigue that, before becoming honorary president of the NEA, he served as vice president and one of the original directors of the American Society for Cultural Relations with Russia. This Soviet dictatorship-created organization in the United States founded in 1927 was primarily involved in sending students, professors, and teachers to the Soviet Union for communist indoctrination, and bringing Soviet “experts” to the United States to train American educators.
Unsurprisingly, the NEA was always willing and eager to work with “unions” in slave states of Eastern Europe and Latin America, including the phony unions created by the Soviet regime. That was despite harsh criticism from Soviet dissidents and even the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), another major teachers’ union that differed in important ways from the NEA.
The most frequent writer in the NEA Journal throughout the 1930s and 1940s was socialist Stuart Chase. “It is no longer a question of collectivism versus individualism, but of what kind of collectivism,” Chase wrote in the NEA’s official propaganda organ after calling for the U.S. government to takeover agriculture, banking, credit, and more.
In a 1956 interview with the Los Angeles Tidings, former teacher and Communist Party defector Bella Dodd dropped a bombshell. “The Communist party whenever possible wanted to use the Teacher’s Union for political purposes,” she said, adding that the communists in the union were all in favor of Dewey-inspired “progressive” education. “Most of the programs we advocated, the NEA followed the next year or so.”
Taking Collectivism Global
In addition to spreading its collectivist poison in the minds of children across the United States through public schools, the NEA also waged an effective campaign to spread the indoctrination system worldwide. Indeed, the union was among the first organizations to openly promote the idea of a global “board of education” to control every school on the planet.
As far back as 1920, the NEA created its so-called “International Relations Committee.” The ostensible purpose was to help build “world understanding.” But the real agenda soon become crystal clear to anyone who was paying attention.
Responding to the formation of a formal U.S. government alliance with the ruthless Communist Party dictatorship enslaving the Soviet Union, NEA Journal chief J. Elmer Morgan wrote an editorial for the publication called “The United Peoples of the World.”
Among other demands, supposedly to “keep the peace and insure justice and opportunity,” Morgan said “we need certain world agencies of administration.” Those planetary governing agencies should include a global “police force” and a world “board of education,” Morgan opined.
To bring about that global “board of education,” the NEA set up the “War and Peace Fund” to collect donations in 1943. Similar schemes took place in Europe among the education establishment. Eventually, these efforts culminated in the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1946, an organization that will be addressed in an upcoming article in this series.
In a 1946 editorial in the NEA Journal headlined “The Teacher and World Government,” Morgan was again shilling for global government, and again advocating that these subversive ideologies be forced on captive school children through indoctrination.
“In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher has many parts to play,” Morgan wrote, calling on teachers to “prepare the hearts and minds of children” for the looming global collectivist regime. “At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher, and the organized profession.”
Later that same year, Morgan boasted of the “achievements” toward world government that the “organized teaching profession” had already made. And to this day, the NEA continues to play a key role in the ongoing globalization and internationalization of progressive indoctrination posing as an educational system
More Federal Power, War on Competition
Even before it was peddling the idea of a global education system to bring about global government, the NEA led the battle to get the federal government involved in education—and then to constantly expand that power under whatever pretext might be effective. Indeed, from the very beginning, the NEA worked to empower Washington, D.C., over the nation’s schools, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and its 10th Amendment.
Over a century ago, the NEA also began lobbying Congress for federal funding of education. NEA bosses knew that with federal aid comes federal control. They finally succeeded in 1965 with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. From there, the next stop was the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Education, an NEA wish that President Jimmy Carter granted the union in exchange for its critical support.
NEA bosses often get their way in government, even if it takes a while. That is because the NEA has been a well-oiled lobbying machine for decades. For one, by collecting dues from millions of members, the NEA and its state affiliates are able to pour endless resources into the campaign coffers of politicians. And by prodding its members to vote a certain way, write letters, and even protest, it can keep the politicians it gets elected in line indefinitely.
With almost 3 million members today, the NEA is the largest labor union in the United States. It has pumped well over $100 million into federal political campaigns since the early 1990s alone. And data from the Center for Responsive Politics show that over 97 percent of that money went to Democrats. The tiny donations to Republicans virtually all went to the most liberal among them. Similar trends exist at the state and local level among NEA affiliates.
Today, the NEA is still trying to quash competition, seeking onerous restrictions on private schools and even waging a war on homeschooling families. In 1988 and the years following (amended in 2006 to the current version), the NEA adopted a resolution that formalized its hatred of families operating outside the government system.
“The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience,” the union declared.
Of course, not all of the millions of NEA members agree with the totalitarian ideologies and ideas peddled by the union’s leadership. But until recently, at least, in many states, they were required to be members, forced to fund political campaigns and extremist views that they may have vehemently disagreed with. Thankfully, California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs sued and won, ending compulsory union dues. But many teachers still do not realize they do not have to fund the extremism of the NEA and its affiliates.
There may be more bad news yet to come for the NEA, which is becoming increasingly radical with every year that passes. This writer has it on good authority that some significant scandals involving NEA leadership may be revealed in the months ahead.
Either way, an objective look at the history of these tentacles on the education-establishment hydra reveals a monster that is interested in gaining power and smashing freedom—not educating children. It’s time for teachers, parents, and the taxpayers who fund it to speak out loudly.
Alex Newman is an award-winning international journalist, educator, author, and consultant who co-wrote the book “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.” He also serves as the CEO of Liberty Sentinel Media and writes for diverse publications in the United States and abroad.