". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


New Report Details Woke Agendas of Teachers Unions

August 18, 2023

A new report is exposing major teachers unions for training teachers to promote woke ideology in the classroom. On Wednesday, the Defense of Freedom Institute (DFI) published a follow-up to a report last year tracking and detailing leftist policy items promoted by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Last year’s report, “The AFT’s and the NEA’s Summer of Woke,” looked at resolutions adopted by the teachers unions at their summer meetings pertaining to critical race theory (CRT), gender ideology, and even abortion activism. This year’s report, “Summer of Woke, The Sequel,” examines the NEA’s and AFT’s commitment to “enlist teachers in efforts to indoctrinate students…” The report claims that “[b]oth the NEA and AFT [summer] conferences featured content designed to instruct teachers on how to indoctrinate students with radical progressive ideology.”

The report begins by noting that, in response to backlash based on last year’s report, the NEA decided to “conduct its ‘New Business Items’ in secret at its annual assembly in July.” The report adds:

“This shameful commitment to secrecy reveals that the NEA is out of step with the public regarding its policy goals, as well as the organization’s hypersensitivity to criticism of its stances. … . Just as Americans have the right to demand transparency from Congress and presidents, we have every right to know what the NEA decides at its annual meetings and in other settings.”

According to DFI, one of the NEA’s and AFT’s top agenda goals is the promotion of gender ideology to children. The report explains that the teachers unions have lobbied against bills and legislation to protect minors from pornographic and sexually explicit books in classrooms and school libraries. For example, the NEA hosted a “Freedom to Learn” rally last month, protesting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R) education policies, which supporters say are centered around protecting children from woke, Marxist ideology and sexually explicit or sexually-charged content. In a communiqué, the NEA characterized DeSantis’s efforts as “banning books, silencing educators, and taking away the freedom to learn from students.”

The NEA also released a toolkit in June for teachers to use to understand and explain LGBT “neopronouns,” designed to help educators “dismantle systems of oppression” and “get out of the habit of assuming pronouns.” According to the toolkit, the most popular neopronouns are “ze/zim/zir.” The NEA directive notes that some state or school board policies may prevent teachers from sharing this information with students but that teachers are to adhere to the guideline when communicating with each other.

The AFT was also active in promoting gender ideology, endorsing policies that force girls to share bathrooms and locker rooms with biological boys who identify as transgender, partnering with LGBT activist organizations, and training teachers to “inject gender identity politics into classroom teaching.” An AFT summer conference hosted workshops on “Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in and out of the Classroom” and “The TGNCNB [transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary] Inclusive School and Classroom,” both of which, according to the DFI report, aim to “train teachers to affirm every gender identity that conflicts with a student’s sex, ignore basic biological facts, hide the training from parents, and shape school policies to force others to do the same.”

Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, spoke to The Washington Stand on the NEA’s and AFT’s ideological partisanship. “We simply cannot accept or tolerate the political activism of public sector unions and especially teachers unions,” she emphasized. “The activism goes entirely one way, to the Democratic Party or left-most interests. … The ideological capture of the teachers unions in America is a function of the capture of higher education generally. NEA and AFT echo the post-modern politics of the progressive movement. … However much they virtue signal about children, teachers unions represent teachers first, party politics second, and children and families don’t even make the list.”

The DFI report also emphasizes that such leftist policies and agenda items put the NEA and AFT at odds with the surging parental rights movement. The report notes:

“Both major teacher unions have falsely ascribed homophobia and transphobia to the parental rights movement, which they recognize as an existential threat to their power over public education, in an effort to keep sexually explicit books in school libraries and classrooms and block legislation to prohibit teachers from discussing gender identity issues and sexuality with elementary school students.”

Veteran teacher, former NEA union representative, and founder of For Kids and Country Rebecca Friedrichs told TWS such labels are propagandists’ tactics. “That is the perfect example of propaganda,” she argued. “One of the things these parents can do to protect their children is recognize propaganda. Obviously, these parents are doing what’s right, they’re doing what’s moral, they’re doing what’s common sense. And then they’re being attacked and called all these ridiculous names. Well, that’s what propagandists do when you’re winning the argument and you have the truth, and they’re selling a lie.”

The DFI’s report also examines the teachers unions promotion of ideologies centered on race. One of the ways the unions made that most evident this summer was in criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which undid affirmative action. The AFT called the decision “draconian” and the NEA slammed the court as “hyper-conservative,” even arguing at one of its summer meetings in favor of expanding the court to ensure spots for more left-wing justices. The NEA and AFT also support hiring practices based on race, with the NEA saying that “utilizing employment practices that treat people equally regardless of ethnicity or gender” is not a practice in conformity with its notions of social justice.

Friedrichs spoke to TWS about the history of such “racial equity discipline policies,” saying, “Those were pushed by the Obama administration, written by the teachers unions — I call them the education mafia, because they’re not really teachers and they’re not really a union — written by them. They put Obama in office, they pushed the policy through Obama, Obama gets the policy in.”

“Why did the school districts take it?” Friedrichs asked. “Because it came with all kinds of federal funding, that’s why. So if our parents are going to run for school board, they need to be educated in the fact that they shouldn’t be taking federal funding. Federal funding is destroying our schools and it’s destroying parental authority.”

The DFI report concludes, “For the sake of the children in our public schools, we cannot afford to let the NEA and AFT continue to play this game.” Friedrichs agreed, saying, “My number one warning to parents would be, if it is at all possible, get your children out of the government schools. Get them out.” She explained that whatever sacrifices are necessary to achieve this are worth it, adding, “You know, Americans, we live pretty nice lifestyles and we don’t need a lot of the things we have, so prioritize your child.”

Friedrichs also noted that, while the influence of the NEA and AFT is a destructive one, most teachers don’t want to support the agenda. Kilgannon added that teachers should be encouraged to collaborate with parents, not with ideologically-motivated unions.

“We need to rebuild a society where adults work together to protect and instruct children,” she stressed. “Not at the expense of parents and families but in support of them, for the good of children and society. … As we engage at the local level, in our schools and school governance especially, we need to look to build relationships that encourage family formation, respect for others, and renew a healthy sense of community.”

DFI has pledged to continue exposing the agendas pushed by the NEA and AFT and will continue reporting on the unions’ decisions.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.