Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teachers Need Collective Bargaining to Override Courts and Local Boards So School Children May Access Material Otherwise Unfit For School Curricula, Says NYU Professor Jonathan Zimmerman

NYU Professor Jonathan Zimmerman
Collective bargaining by public teacher unions is now being recommended by New York University Professor Jonathan Zimmerman as the means to override courts and local school boards so school children may access material unfit for school curricula.

Let that sink in.  In the midst of the current public union power grab, that the American Library Association [ALA] supports, by the way, some professor is actually suggesting teachers unions should have the power to use collective bargaining as the means to remove the power of school boards and school superintendents or even the courts to set course curricula.  Local control?  Wiped out.  Safe libraries?  Gone.  You will do as the public unions say and you will submit your children to their control.  David Horowitz is right.

The court case the professor specifies as needing to be overcome with collective bargaining is discussed in my previous post entitled, "Court Backs Local School Control in Evans-Marshall v Board of Education; ALA Loses Another Means to Propagandize Local Communities."

Zimmerman, a former public school teacher, derides the judicial system as a means to promote collective bargaining:
  • "'The right to free speech ... does not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools,' the court declared.  That's why teachers still need collective bargaining, which lies at the heart of this winter's bitter battles over public-employee unions."  
  • "Alas, our courts have lost sight of the difference."  
  • "Now that the courts have gutted teachers' academic freedom, however, the only way they can retain it will be via collective bargaining."

With teachers like Dee Venuto, imagine what would happen if public teachers unions began dictating what will be taught in public schools:  "School Media Specialist Passes Sexual Content Review to Students; Dee Venuto Says It Is Discrimination to Keep Children From Material Including Lengthy, Vivid Descriptions of a Ménage a Trois."

See that graphic saying "boy to man" showing people having anal sex and two Boy Scouts looking on?  Dee Venuto cried to her students when the book containing that graphic was removed from the Rancocas Valley Regional High School despite her calls to the ALA for support.

What, Professor Zimmerman, does that graphic have to do with "teaching democracy"?  How will that help children to "reason, criticize, and debate"?  Why is Dee Venuto still making over $85K per year, not including benefits, when she stated in a New Jersey Education Association magazine that she cannot perform the job for which she was hired, instead leaving book selection to students, thereby exposing them to inappropriate material?  Better yet, why will public teacher unions be better at deciding what's best for children than school boards, school superintendents, and the courts that back them up? 

Professor Zimmerman is essentially arguing that school children should access material that a court or a school board or superintendent would preclude or remove for being unfit for any class curriculum, and that the means to force this on local communities is with public union collective bargaining agreements.

That aligns with the ALA policy of unlimited access for children despite numerous court cases saying otherwise.  No wonder the anything-goes ALA sent a link to Zimmerman's article to hundreds of its members.  By the way, the ALA is using George Soros funding to produce and distribute a "privacy" curriculum for school grades K-12.

Read this for yourself to see why I have reached the opinion I have.  It's unbelievable:

The ProFessors, by
David Horowitz
In 2001, high school English teacher Shirley Evans-Marshall gave her class a copy of the American Library Association's "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books."  She asked her students to choose a book on the list and explain why it was controversial.

But the assignment itself was too controversial for Evans-Marshall's Ohio school district, which declined to renew her contract.

Evans-Marshall sued, claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights.  And last year, a federal appeals court ruled that she didn't have any - at least not in her own classroom.

"The right to free speech ... does not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools," the court declared.

That's why teachers still need collective bargaining, which lies at the heart of this winter's bitter battles over public-employee unions.

But the plight of Evans-Marshall also speaks to the unique role of school teachers in a democracy.

Unlike the other workers that you see protesting outside of state capitols, teachers are charged with instructing young Americans about their responsibilities and rights as citizens.  That won't happen if we hamstring teachers' own rights, by lumping them together with everybody else.

Yet that's precisely what our courts have done.  The ruling in Shirley Evans-Marshall's case relied on the 2006 Supreme Court decision Garcetti v. Ceballos, which said that public workers have no First Amendment rights when they are speaking as part of their "official duties."  The state hires the worker to deliver a message, the court said, so the state can also discipline employees who deviate from it.

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

That might be an appropriate rule for, say, a clerk at the motor vehicles administration.  Not so for a teacher, who is enjoined to help young people learn how to reason, criticize, and debate.  Teachers do not simply work for a democracy; they're supposed to teach it.  And that requires a much greater degree of freedom than other public employees receive.

Alas, our courts have lost sight of the difference.  So when Indiana teacher Jane Mayer told her class that she had honked her car horn in support of a rally against going to war in Iraq, her school district refused to rehire her.  Invoking Garcetti, a federal appeals court ruled in 2007 that Mayer had no right to deviate from the school-approved curriculum.

"A teacher hired to lead a social-studies class can't use it as a platform for a revisionist perspective that Benedict Arnold wasn't really a traitor, when the approved program calls him one," the court declared.

But we should want our teachers to question whether Arnold was a traitor, and whether the war in Iraq is a good idea.  And if the courts won't defend this freedom, then teachers will have to do it themselves.

That's where collective bargaining agreements come in.  Historically, these agreements have protected teachers' salaries, benefits, and pensions.  Now that the courts have gutted teachers' academic freedom, however, the only way they can retain it will be via collective bargaining.

But here, too, we're moving in the opposite direction.  In Jane Mayer's native Indiana, the state Senate passed a measure last Tuesday that would limit teachers' negotiating rights to wages and benefits.  In Shirley Evans-Marshall's Ohio, meanwhile, Republicans put forth a bill to end teachers' collective-bargaining rights altogether.  Last Wednesday, they agreed to a revised proposal that would restrict teachers' bargaining to wages.

The fiercest battleground is still Wisconsin, where all the tumult began.  Early Friday morning, its Assembly passed a bill that would bar collective bargaining by public workers on everything except - you guessed it - their wages.  Now the focus shifts to the Senate, where Democrats have staged a walkout in order to avoid a vote on the measure.

One objective of these bills is to get workers to contribute more to their health and pension plans, by taking these plans off the negotiating table.  The broader goal is to rein in the breadth and power of public-employee unions, which Republicans charge with putting too great a strain on state coffers.

They might be right.  And like other public workers, teachers could reasonably decide to make some bread-and-butter concessions in these difficult economic times.  But I hope they will never sign away their freedom in the classroom, or their right to bargain for it.  A teacher cannot live by bread - or butter - alone.  And neither can a democracy.

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth.  He is the author most recently of "Small Wonder:  The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press).  He can be reached at jlzimm@aol.com. [© Copyright 2011 Philadelphia Media Network Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinting under Copyright Fair Use.]


If teachers unions take control of public schools as Jonathan Zimmerman is suggesting, then, in addition to the specific Dee Venuto example above, here is a broader story that is directly relevant:
Let me add that this is the very same National Education Association that recommends members read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.  For more on that, see, "NEA Recommends Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals," by A Conservative Teacher, A Conservative Teacher, 12 November 2009.

And this is funny but true:

Hat tip:  "Teachers Unions Explained," by West Bend Citizen Advocate, WISSUP = Wisconsin Speaks Up, 5 March 2011.


"Milwaukee Teachers Drop Viagra Suit," by AP, Madison.com, 7 March 2011.  "The Milwaukee teachers union has dropped a lawsuit seeking to get its taxpayer-funded Viagra back.  ....  Attorneys for the union and school board didn't immediately return messages."



  1. Prof Zimmerman needs to understand along with most ultra liberal teachers that the community in which they work sets the standards of student curricula through the BOEs and these same communities are the ones paying the educators salaries. Now if the teacher does not agree 1) with the curricular standards of that community or 2)with the fact that she gets supervised and is somewhat controlled in the breadth of her freedoms when working with the community's CHILDREN, perhaps the teacher should opt to leave her position and find something more suitable to HER ideas. The entire argument of ultra liberal Prof Zimmerman is without any merit except for pointing out just how out of control teachers are becoming in dealing with our CHILDREN. The courts decisions were sound.
    And I thank SafeLibraries for using the example of highly paid Librarian Dee Venuto. Ms Venuto appears to continue her quest to overstep her role in the school system and assume powers over the minds of her students that she just is NOT granted by the community. Thank goodness her BOE stepped up to the challenge last year. But her opinion of her "anything goes library approach" has not been diminished based on her constant clamoring for more personal attention on-line and in ALA circles. Ms Venuto drools for the ultimate freedom to exploit the minds of innocent children expressed here by Prof Zimmerman. However as long as she is confining her talking along the lines of constant self-idolatry as she is doing, she is relatively harmless. But as we have so often seen played out in our schools the ultra liberal teachers cannot seem to resist the urge to move from idle banter to defiance of the community's standards. With that in mind, Ms Venuto requires continued close monitoring by her BOE.

  2. Teachers like Dee Venuto are a danger to our society---she is just another case of how the Liberal Academics in our society/schools are having a great deal of impact to society. They indoctrinate our children. Parents have lost control—it is difficult for parents to counteract the liberal organized groups. Communities/BOES/parents should have a say ! Venuto thinks since she went to school, she is BEST qualified to determine what her children read, even if it is Ménage A troi—ask her !

  3. Thank you for commenting, Anonymouses. You may enjoy the following:

    "Teachers Unions 101: 'A' is for 'Agitation'," by Michelle Malkin, Townhall.com, 2 March 2011.

    This quote reminded me most of Dee Venuto:

    "The UFT soldiers 'collect top pay and fringe benefits, but work just one class period a day.' Nice non-work if you can get it."

    And notice the union connections to George Soros, the very guy funding the ALA's "privacy" curriculum for K-12 students.

    Also, quoting:

    "The goals of the teachers union machine are not academic excellence, professional development and fairness. As former NEA official John Lloyd explained it: 'You cannot possibly understand NEA without understanding Saul Alinsky. If you want to understand NEA, go to the library and get "Rules for Radicals."

    "The goals are student indoctrination, social upheaval and perpetual agitation in pursuit of bigger government and spending without restraint. No wonder the signature 'solidarity' color of the teachers union protests this month is red."

  4. Thanks for the shout-out- please think about featuring my blog my often on your fine site, as I have a lot of posts that your readers will probably enjoy.

  5. No problem, A Conservative Teacher. I was and remain happy to link to "NEA Recommends Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals," by A Conservative Teacher, A Conservative Teacher, 12 November 2009.

    Also, I have signed up for an email subscription to your blog. You may wish to sign up for mine. Consider, for example, the following, and all the articles linked therein that relate to a school setting:

    "School Removes Squirting Sperm Book After 8-Year-Old Complains To Her Mother"

    Also, feel free to continue to contribute, including providing links to your own blog posts.

    Thank you.

    Hey, let me ask you a question. The ALA puts out a yearly list of the top 10 most challenged books. It always gets in the news and schools react based on the list. Do you have any experience with this list? Please be specific. Contact me directly if you wish.


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