Via Making Light comes this link to the story of US Secretary of Education Rod Paige calling the NEA a “terrorist organization.” His basis for this is the fact that they don’t like the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind program. Wow. As if that wasn’t inappropriate enough, check out this “fuck you” of an apology:
“It was an inappropriate choice of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics the NEA’s Washington lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind’s historic education reforms.
“I also said, as I have repeatedly, that our nation’s teachers, who have dedicated their lives to service in the classroom, are the real soldiers of democracy, whereas the NEA’s high-priced Washington lobbyists have made no secret that they will fight against bringing real, rock-solid improvements in the way we educate all our children regardless of skin color, accent or where they live.
“But, as one who grew up on the receiving end of insensitive remarks, I should have chosen my words better.
I really don’t think “I used inappropriate words to describe obstructionist scare tactics” an apology at all. It’s like “I’m sorry you are such an asshole and that I had to call you one.” It’s not merely sufficient that Paige disagrees with the NEA and that people’s advocacy sometimes puts them on opposite sides of questions. That the man in charge of educating our children cannot do any better than use wrongheaded terrorist terminology to describe a legitimate difference of opinion is quite distressing.
Here’s what I would hope the fallout of this is. I’d like to see this the official end of the “terrorism card free pass.” As of today, we can see that the term is getting thrown around with such abandon as to be meaningless. It no longer means anything like the dictionary definition, and now is a synonuym for “someone that does or says something I don’t agree with.” As we see, when opposition to terrorism is a free ticket, everything gets called terrorism. I’m tired of the cynical use of this language to push our buttons and skate by with the automatic fear response that word provokes. The people who are using the word are attempting to achieve their own political agenda by creating fear in others. I wonder if there is a term for that?
In the comments of that post, someone suggests that maybe this is a smokescreen to draw attention away from things such as the fact that Utah has seceded from No Child Left Behind until the federal government supplies money for its mandates. It’s a good rule of thumb that for every public outrage of the Bush administration, there are likely many more quiet outrages lurking in the background.