After hearing NEA Director Bob Walsh’s comments about stay-at-home moms on a recent episode of PBS’s “A Lively Experiment,” one has to wonder if it is the official position of his union that stay-at-home moms can’t also be education advocates.
Here are his exact words:
“You can’t say you’re a stay-at-home when every night you’re in a different community at a different school committee meeting screaming at the top of your lungs about things that aren’t happening.”
There is a lot to unpack here.
First of all, he is just plain wrong on the facts. There is not a single mother in the state of Rhode Island who has been out every night of the week at a different school committee meeting. The mom he alludes to but never mentions by name, even though NEARI is suing her, has never screamed at a meeting. She doesn’t even raise her voice. And when she does speak during public comment at a meeting, her concerns are not invented or imagined. On the contrary, she brings documentation and corroboration of her claims.
The most charitable interpretation is that Walsh was using hyperbole to make a point, but the simple truth is that he lied. He wasn’t asked to provide an example or cite specific instances, which is too bad since he would not have been unable to come up with one. Turns out he is the one talking about “things that aren’t happening.”
Putting aside Walsh’s made-up facts, his larger point is insulting and absurd. I stayed home full time with my children for seven years. During that time, I regularly attended and spoke at school committee meetings. I testified at hearings in support of charter school proposals and won an at-large seat on the Cumberland School Committee. Would Bob Walsh say that I wasn’t a stay-at-home or shouldn’t have called myself one?
It is very common for stay-at-home moms to be vocal education advocates. Why wouldn’t it be? If school committee meetings were in the morning, it’s likely that these mothers would not be able to attend, but evening meetings work best with their schedules. And what exactly is a stay-at-home mom in the eyes of a union boss such as Bob Walsh? Is it a woman with children who keeps her opinions about her children’s education to herself and doesn’t dare ask questions about the schools her children are getting ready to attend? Does he prefer that she spend her time reading cookbooks and mommy blogs instead of reading through school policies and asking questions about what she finds? Is she not allowed to attend public meetings outside her zip code?
It is high time that a union official such as Bob Walsh be called on the carpet for the lies he tells about parents. This is not the first time that he has spouted off on a local TV program to misrepresent and diminish a parent advocate.
If his goal in speaking about parents with such disrespect was to energize them to fight even harder on behalf of their children, it was a job very well done. Bravo, Bob.
On a totally separate note, as we head into Thanksgiving, I’d like to express my gratitude to all of my readers and to The Valley Breeze team for bringing us the gift of a local paper every Thursday that includes an opinion page of voices that often disagree.
Sanzi is the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education and a former educator and school committee member. She writes at Sanzi.substack.com.