A letter has surfaced from the National Education Association (NEA) that raises disturbing questions over the organization pushing social media companies to censor critics. The advocacy of the three-million-member organization for censorship is a chilling position for any group representing educators. It seems that nothing says “excellence in public education” like private censorship.
The letter was apparently sent one week after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent its controversial letter to the Biden Administration seeking federal action against its critics, including the suggestion that some parents might qualify as “domestic terrorists.”
While the NEA labels such allegations as “misinformation,” it has called for the teaching of CRT and actually deleted one such call from its website after it was cited in the ongoing debate. In the “business item” the NEA expressly included CRT as “reasonable and appropriate for curriculum.”
In the letter to social media companies, however, the NEA denounced its critics as spreading misinformation by claiming that such material is “being taught in K-12 public schools.” Many such groups are seeking to avoid addressing race-related curriculum by insisting that technically CRT is a subject taught in law schools. The fact is that CRT was referenced by groups like NEA and school boards before this spin. Yet, the point is not how it is labeled but rather the objections to the teaching of subjects on white privilege, white supremacy, and related material that overlaps with CRT scholarship.
The letter also objects that “there are [sic] another small yet vocal group of extremists who are putting the safety of our children, educators, and families at risk over the notion that wearing a mask is in [sic] infringement on personal liberty. The speed and reach of these lies that are manipulating so many of our citizens would not be possible without the use of social media platforms.”
Rather than answer critics and defend its prior support for CRT, the NEA worked to silence critics through corporate censorship, which is now the rage among liberal advocacy groups.
One can understand the expectation that Twitter and other companies would follow suit. After all, YouTube deleted critics of Vladimir Putin, why not the NEA?
Likewise, Democratic leaders are calling for censorship to defend democracy, why not censor to defend education?
There was a time when educators viewed free speech as the touchstone of both our democratic and educational systems. Now these educators advocate censorship as a way to silence those with opposing views. It is part of a growing movement. Faculty and editors are now actively supporting modern versions of book-burning with blacklists and bans for those with opposing political views. Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll has denounced the “weaponization” of free speech, which appears to be the use of free speech by those on the right. So the dean of one of the premier journalism schools now supports censorship. Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new society in their own intolerant images.
The NEA letter is antithetical to the very essence of education. Nothing captures the Orwellian message than Pringle’s concluding demand that “[y]our companies have both the power and responsibility to stamp out disinformation and violent trends – for the sake of Public Education [sic] and the future of democracy.”