An education in trash talk


Geraldine Sealey
February 24, 2004 9:56PM (UTC)

And now an update on our flame-throwing Education Secretary who called the nation's largest teachers union a "terrorist organization" for voicing too many contrarian opinions about Bush's widely criticized No Child Left Behind law. Reaction was swift to Rod Paige's remarks from Monday, and even his spokeswoman could barely eke out a defense.

Susan Aspey, Education Department spokeswoman: "The secretary certainly is not prone to this type of remark. He realizes the remark was wrong, and he moved quickly to issue an apology."

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The DNC's Terry McAuliffe: Paige used "the most vile and disgusting form of hate speech."

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter: "Teaching is one of the most important professions, and we should celebrate -- not chastise -- those who make such heroic contributions."

NEA President Reg Weaver: Paige "outraged" the union's members "and by extension many of their families as well as many of the children we work with day in and day out."

Paige's "apology" for the beyond-the-pale remark contained more vitriol for the teachers' union. "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," Paige said.

Paige claims he's criticizing the union and its lobbyists, not teachers, but the Progress Report points out that this "terrorist" remark is not the first time Paige has attacked the integrity and morals of public school teachers. "Last April, Paige said, 'The reason that Christian schools and Christian universities are growing is a result of a strong value system... That's not the case in a public school, where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values.' Paige, who oversees a public school system that serves 47 million students said, 'All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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