In the midst of widespread anti-union sentiment among conservatives, right-wing media figures are using a cropped portion of a July 2009 speech by Bob Chanin, former general counsel of the National Education Association, to suggest Chanin admitted that the union does not “care about the children.” In fact a fuller transcript of Chanin's remarks show that this is a blatant distortion.
Hannity, Limbaugh Use Cropped Quote To Suggest Former NEA Official Said He Does Not “Care About The Children”
Hannity Airs Cropped Video, Suggests Chanin Does Not “Care About The Children.” From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: Let me show both of you. This is the former National Education Association General Counsel on why the NEA is so effective. I'm playing this because it is my belief that rank and file are often abused. Rank and file money goes to the unions. Unions support Democratic candidates. Democratic candidates funnel exorbitant benefits to them that they kick the can down the road and can't afford. But do they care about the children? You decide. We will roll this tape.
CHANIN (video clip): It is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them.
HANNITY: Not because we care about children. Not because we have creative ideas. Not because of the merits of our position. Mike, do you find that as offensive as I do?
MIKE LANGYEL, MILWAUKEE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: Well, you know what, what we're saying is that --
HANNITY: I asked you a question. Is that offensive to you?
LANGYEL: It is not the question that we have to face today. Today, the question is what are we doing to improve education? --
HANNITY: Wait a minute, I find -- This is about unions. Do you find what the head of the NEA said about children, do you find that offensive?
LANGYEL: You took that out of context. You really did --
HANNITY: But I played it in its entirety.
LANGYEL: I know this person. But it is taken out of context. He did not say that we don't care about kids --
HANNITY: It is not about our creative, it is not the merit of our positions, it is not because we care about children.
LANGYEL: But we do care about children. We care about children and that is exactly the point he was making. If you just give me a second. He said this that we care about children but it is our collective bargaining rights that gives us the power to represent the children --
HANNITY: He said it's not because we care about children. [Fox News' Hannity, 2/24/11]
Rush Limbaugh Also Ran With Cropped Quote. From the February 23 edition of Limbaugh's radio show:
LIMBAUGH: All of this involving the public sector unions is an attack on the rich, or is an attack on the middle class. It's the middle class and their taxes that are paying for all of this. Let me give you a quote here.
This is Bob Chanin. Bob Chanin, the general counsel to the National Education Association, in his farewell address to the NEA convention last summer, here's what he said. This is the head of the teachers union. Well, the legal counsel, the lawyer to the union. He said, “Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.”
It's not that we're doing it for the kids, it's not that we have greater ideas, it's none of that stuff. “We have power.” That's why we are effective. And that's what Obama knows. So you've got an effort here to beat down the middle class. They want to talk about class warfare all they want, but, see, collective bargaining for state and public sector unions falls apart. Collective bargaining is against the people. The people, the vast majority of 'em, are middle class. The rich are not getting soaked here to pay for public sector union people. It's not the rich getting' soaked. It's that simple. [RushLimbaugh.com, 2/23/11]
In Fact Chanin Did Not Say NEA Doesn't “Care About Children”
Chanin: Caring For Children And Creative Ideas Are Not Enough To Make NEA An “Effective Advocate.” In his closing remarks in his farewell address former NEA General Counsel, Bob Chanin said NEA's creative ideas, vision, and care for children are not enough to ensure that NEA is an “effective advocate.” Rather, he said that ensuring the power of the NEA will “enable us to achieve our vision of a great public school for every child.” Chanin further stated that “closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality” are “the goals that guide the work we do.”
From Chanin's speech (the portions in bold show the misleadingly cropped quote used by Hannity and Limbaugh):
CHANIN: At first glance, some of you may find these attacks troubling. But you would be wrong. They are, in fact, really a good thing. When I first came to NEA in the early '60s it had few enemies, and was almost never criticized, attacked, or even mentioned in the media. This was because no one really gave a damn about what NEA did, or what NEA said. It was the proverbial sleeping giant: a conservative, apolitical, do-nothing organization.
But then, NEA began to change. It embraced collective bargaining. It supported teacher strikes. It established a political action committee. It spoke out for affirmative action, and it defended gay and lesbian rights. What NEA said and did began to matter. And the more we said and did, the more we pissed people off. And, in turn, the more enemies we made.
So the bad news, or depending on your point of view, the good news, is that NEA and its affiliates will continue to be attacked by conservative and right-wing groups as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees, and for human and civil rights.
And that brings me to my final, and most important point. Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.
This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary, these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.
When all is said and done, NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that. If we do that and if we do it well, the rest will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will in turn enable us to achieve our vision of a great public school for every child.
Today, NEA has thanked me for some of the things that I have done. But this is in a sense, backwards. It is I who should thank NEA for giving me the opportunity to spend almost 50 years of my working life for causes that I truly believe in and to be part of an organization that has made a difference in the lives of children and education employees and has led the defense of public education. [NEA, 7/6/09]