Politicians are notorious for saying stupid, embarrassing and downright insulting and hurtful things in the quest to promote their political agendas. Michael Bloomberg’s recent comparison of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to the National Rifle Association (NRA) ranks right up there with some of the stupidest—but here are a few other ditties (just in case you missed them):
Teachers Unions are Terrorist Organizations
In 2004, Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), a "terrorist organization" during a White House meeting with state governors.
Schools and Universities Should Be Blown Up
Since the teachers are a bunch of terrorists, it is justifiable to blow up the places where they hang. In line with this sort of thinking, right-wing education privatization cheerleader and Fordham Foundation President Chester E. Finn Jr. said that the best way to reform public education is to “Blow it up and start over,” while his counterpart, Reid Lyon, former Chief of Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, suggested we blow up the teachers’ colleges.
Deadly Disasters are Great for Capitalism (Er, Children)
Current Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that Katrina was the best thing that could have happened to the New Orleans schools. What he meant was that disasters are fantastic ways to rally popular support for otherwise unpopular ideas, in this case, a massive scheme to convert the entire district to charter schools and destroy the unions.71% of New Orleans children are now attending charter schools, the highest rate in the nation. All employees, including teachers and custodians, were fired and forced to reapply, and all union contracts were canceled. Many of the unionized teachers were replaced by Teach For America interns.
Michael Bloomberg: Teachers Unions are Like the NRA
“It’s typical of Congress, it’s typical of unions, it’s typical of companies, I guess, where a small group is really carrying the ball and the others aren’t necessarily in agreement. . . The N.R.A. is another place where the membership, if you do the polling, doesn’t agree with the leadership.” (NY Times)
The comparison is grotesque and offensive because it likens teachers—who see themselves as defenders of childhood innocence and purity (e.g., Sandy Hook) to gun nuts and corporate shills—who are seen by many as the defenders of psychotic, murderous rampages (e.g., Sandy Hook). Yet if we ignore the offensiveness of Bloomberg’s statement, perhaps substitute AMA or Bar Association for NRA, one can see that there is some truth to Bloomberg’s comments. Most unions are like these organizations in that they invest heavily in lobbying, buying politicians and attempting to buy legislation. It is true that rank and file union members are often alienated from and disagree with their leadership. And it is true that the leadership of unions often put their own needs, interests and agenda above those of their members.