Teachers-union boss fumbles on 1619 Project, school openings should scare America

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Letters to the Editor — May 4, 2021

Have you ever seen the head of the nation’s most powerful teachers’ union caught like a deer in the headlights? If not, you must have missed American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten’s disastrous interview on Fox News.

The union boss managed to badly botch not one but two of the most critical issues facing America’s schools, and it should deeply worry the nation’s parents. On both the questions of teaching kids the 1619 Project and critical race theory (which pegs whites as irredeemably racist) and opening the schools themselves, her answers were full of falsehoods.

For example, on The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which asserts that America was founded by, for and of slavery first and foremost, Weingarten flubbed, fibbed and deflected. She assured viewers that 1619 was the year African slaves first arrived in America — which might well be the case, but that isn’t the issue historians have ripped to shreds. Weingarten was ducking.

Pressed by Fox host Martha MacCallum on the fact that 1619 asserts much more than this, namely that American independence was motivated by slavery, Weingarten said she’d spoken to project leader Nikole Hannah-Jones and “had not arrived at the same conclusion.” Huh? You’d almost think the woman who leads the union tasked with teaching kids to read can’t read herself, since that’s the 1619 Project’s entire thesis.

With her back against the wall, Weingarten launched into what the kids call “whataboutism.” Out of seemingly nowhere, she completely changed the subject: “I would hope that Fox would be just as focused on — let’s get rid of the misinformation on this election.”

View that for what it is: an admission that concerns about the 1619 Project and critical race theory in our schools are ones she can’t address, aside from essentially saying, “Oh, yeah, well, other people allegedly lie about stuff, too.”

The leader of our nation’s biggest teachers’ union fared little better on the question of when schools will be fully open and why they’ve been at least partly closed for so long. Weingarten’s answer on that: She “hopes” kids will be back in full-time, in-person school in September. Well, yeah. Everybody hopes that; the question is whether they will be.

Pressed on why private schools have been fully open for months while many public schools have not, Weingarten prevaricated again. She claimed spikes in COVID in the fall had led to schools closing again, but in fact many private schools operated without interruption and without causing a massive surge in the virus.

Eventually, an obviously flustered Weingarten fell back on that old tried and true defense when caught in a lie: Blame Donald Trump. “If we had actually listened to Dr. [Robert] Redfield and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] last May and that the president — the former president — hadn’t kept on changing his mind and changing these things, we would have gotten more schools back in session.” Lord knows what “things” she was referring to, but regardless: This is revisionist history with a healthy dose of gaslighting.

Truth is, the Trump administration was pushing to open schools, in fact succeeding in many states, while Weingarten’s teachers’ union was actively working with the CDC to keep schools closed. All while ludicrously claiming it desperately wanted kids back in the classroom.

Some unions were even holding children’s education hostage with absurd demands, like defunding the police, before they’d agree to get teachers back to work.

It’s hard to know what’s worse: the thought that many children might not be back in school in the fall or that they will be and will be learning a version of American history that not only paints our nation as evil but doesn’t even tell the truth.

The nation’s teachers’ unions have a lot to answer for on both counts, but their most powerful spokesperson can do little more than hem, haw, deny and lie when faced with these questions. Our country’s students deserve better. They are the victims of the unions’ anti-truth and -science stances. And it needs to stop now.

Twitter: @BlueBoxDave

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