NJEA: We don’t need no stinkin’ cooperation



When I wrote recently about an undercover video made at a New Jersey Education Association conference by James O’Keefe, the guy who embarrassed ACORN in the last presidential election, I figured I’d hear from readers who agreed with me, and take a little heat from others.

I always do when I write anything critical about the NJEA or teachers’ unions, and this time was no exception. I won’t bother you with the comments of folks who said I was right on the money — but because it’s important to air both sides of an issue, I’ll introduce Linda, who thought I was all wet. In part, she said:

“I can’t believe you made a recommendation in your editorial to watch James O’Keefe’s video of the NJEA Leadership Conference. His undercover ‘investigation’ of ACORN was proven to be fake. . . . He splices sound bites to make up truths. I am really surprised that you, of all people, a journalist, wouldn’t already know this. And if you did, then I am very disappointed that you chose to ignore O’Keefe’s background and promote his new video. That is absolutely irresponsible of you.”

When I responded to Linda, I explained that I didn’t endorse the veracity of O’Keefe’s video in the column. I only told readers about it, figuring you’re smart enough to consider the source and make your own decisions. I also said that if it were true, the video was “perhaps the most powerful argument I’ve heard yet for Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to overhaul the whole tenure system.”

I told Linda that the fact that the NJEA — which can’t seem to keep its mouth shut most of the time — hadn’t taken any action as a result of the video except to cast aspersions in vague terms, ought to give her and other doubters pause.

Then, word came last week that one of the teachers caught on camera — the one who used the “n-word” and said that it’s so hard to fire tenured teachers that you almost have to catch them having sex in the hallways (she didn’t use the phrase “having sex”) — had been suspended for her comments. She was also disciplined by not getting a pay raise in the next cycle.

In other words, someone must have decided there was enough truth in O’Keefe’s video to warrant disciplinary action.

But here’s the kicker: Even though she was disciplined, she wasn’t fired because (Let’s say it all together, class!) SHE HAS TENURE.

I believe that fact makes my point about the necessity of overhauling New Jersey’s tenure system more eloquently than I ever could.

But speaking of the NJEA (the BP of New Jersey labor unions), a vitriolic, Nov. 3 press release from the union blasted the administration of Gov. Chris Christie because acting Commissioner of Education Rochelle Hendricks refused to address the NJEA’s annual convention in Atlantic City later that week.

“The Acting Commissioner’s refusal to meet with professional educators at the NJEA Convention is a new low even for this administration, and further demonstrates that Gov. Christie does not respect or value the work that New Jersey’s teachers and school employees do to make New Jersey’s public schools the finest in the nation,” the release said.

What it didn’t say was that the NJEA is the same organization that disgraces itself by its actions on an almost daily basis, and even sent an internal memo to its members earlier this year in the form of a “humorous” poem that wished the governor dead.

Let me ask you this: Would you speak to an organization that wanted you dead? Would you have a member of your administration speak to them on your administration’s behalf?

Or would you do what the governor did and basically tell the NJEA where to put that invitation?

On Nov. 9 in another press release, the union’s president, Barbara Keshishian, scorned Christie for telling a group of Trenton students that the NJEA is the “greedy teachers union,” and asserting that he is an “irresponsible and out of control” liar who uses students to advance his own political agenda.

I guess the “cooperation and collaboration” Keshishian was calling for only a week before while bad-mouthing Christie for declining the NJEA’s invitation to speak at their convention is pretty much off the table.

Now they can get back to making fools of themselves and utterly destroying the remaining nano particles of their credibility. They’re really good at that.

• • •

On a lighter note, a recent story by NPR said that after a decade of being ignored by our nation’s fashion trendsetters, wristwatches are making a comeback and are, in fact, the “it” fashion accessory of the year.

This is exceptionally good news for fashion troglodytes like me who have always worn a wristwatch, but have been feeling like old-fashioned, bib-overall and Elmer Fudd hat-wearing goofballs for the last few years because we’re so out of step.

Of course, the story may have just been a sop to all those wristwatch-wearing conservatives who had a cow (see how facile I am with modern idiom?) when NPR fired Juan Williams, but I don’t believe that was the case.

I can’t wait for pocket watches to become the “it” fashion accessory of the year. I’ve got a whole box full of those.

• • •

In other fashion news, an article in the weekend New York Times said other traditional accoutrements — garments made from corduroy— are very hot this year.

I’ve got a lot of corduroy lurking at the back of my closet, and I like to wear it because it makes me whisper when I move. But I haven’t worn any of it for a while because I thought I probably needed a Ban-Lon shirt and a dickie (no, you whippersnappers, that isn’t what you think) to complete the ensemble. Now I can drag that corduroy out, brush off the dust, take the mothballs out of the pockets and fit right in on Fifth Avenue.

Does anyone know where I can buy a dickie? Mine seem to be missing.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.