This is the lead paragraph of the National Education Association Web site of 04 August 2007: Just because your students appear relatively homogenous does not mean your class is not diverse. The latest issue of "Thriving in Academe" [NEA Higher-Education newsletter] says that from gender and religion to social class and family background, all aspects of inclusion should be acknowledged and are integral to student learning. Note: The NEA is an official sponsor of the Yearly Kos clambake in Chicago, in session also on this date. The YK is a gathering of democrats – more the far-left fringe types, not the old-fashioned blue-dogs – at which frothing at the mouth is permissible each time one utters "George Bush." Chief frother is officially Senator Schumer, with Howard Dean as a backup screamer.
At the end of his COMMENT ON KENTUCKY program Friday evening at Fancy Farm, Kentucky (site of annual stump-speech bloviating and gastric distress from boundless barbecue), Moderator Al Smith asked the participants what they wished for. Al Cross, faculty member at the University of Kentucky and highly respected journalist, said something about keeping the momentum up with regard to education reform. The above statement from the NEA is indicative of what Cross should have wished, to wit, that a sensible start at reforming education-reform in Kentucky should be made. The touchy-feely, warm-fuzzy, politically correct (remember…no more spelling bees, since someone has to lose) approach the legislature approved in 1990 – outcomes-based education – that demanded self-esteem as the end-all and be-all of education has resulted in no momentum to be kept up. Indeed, under the KERA of 1990, it's okay for four plus five to equal seven as long as the student thinks adding is sometimes necessary and feels good about his addition skills.
Homogeneity is simply not acceptable to the NEA, though homosexuality is something to be adored, with its perfect normalcy taught in every course. The recognition of diversity as defining, with respect to excellence, is an NEA foundation block, notwithstanding the pleas of many for at least slight consideration of academics. Give the NEA credit, though, for having discovered that gender, religion, social class and family background are elements of inclusion, the obvious implication being that teachers should know every student's gender (not that hard, though a sticky proposition these days); religion (tsk, tsk…that church-state thing); social class (Nikes or tennis shoes…or [gasp] brogans); and family background (home visits, anyone, especially at the cocktail hour?).
What about other included aspects that "should be acknowledged and are integral to student learning?" Does the student walk to school, ride the bus or skateboard (with or without safety-helmet – important in determining judgment skills and life values?). Is the student allergic to various foods, the teacher, or other students? Is the student faking it when he asks to be excused ten times a day for toilet action? Is the student arrogant, malicious, and disrespectful of teachers in insisting that five plus four actually equals nine…or will he compromise (showing respect for diversity) by agreeing that four plus five may equal eight…or 800…who's counting, anyway?
How does the teacher or administrator "acknowledge" all aspects of inclusion? To the girls, she may recite or actually sing the lyrics of "I Am Woman," made famous by Helen Reddy in 1972. The boys might have their gender recognized by a swift ruler-hit on the wrist, giving them the opportunity not to cry. Acknowledging religion is a bit dicey, though the installing of Muslim footbaths in public buildings currently might provide enough latitude for the singing of "This Little Light of Mine." Reciting the pledge to the flag is a definite no-no, since there wouldn't be time to recite the pledges to all the flags of the world (that "inclusive" thing).
Acknowledging social class might consist of having the students bring in the stubs of their parents' paychecks, or, for the entrepreneurial parents, perhaps the IRS 1040 from the year before. Teachers would have to be careful at this point and explain why they wouldn't be held to the rule, since an inferior income might make some students think "dumb teacher" in this world of "goods as life." With respect to family background, students, instead of making vocal presentations, might simply submit essays describing their families, lest irate parents and significant others show up with their M-16s as the result of the inevitable gossip engendered by the spoken word. The essays would be destroyed without being read, of course (respect for diverse privacies), but the students would never know that. In the process, they would find their "identities," thus fulfilling the most important academic standard possible.
Prez-wannabe Senator Joe Biden recently referred to the utterances of fellow prez-wannabe John Edwards as "fluffernutter." There's no such word, but if there were – and perhaps Biden will get the word enacted into the dictionary after Labor Day – it would describe quite well "Thriving in Academe," another way of saying the NEA is about as flaky as it gets.