Opposition to the new administration’s policies has been fierce and swift at home and abroad with Education International and its affiliates supporting their American colleagues as they fight a slew of right wing initiatives.
The American government’s decision to temporarily ban Muslims from seven countries has been met with condemnation around the world, including a strong rebuke from Education International (EI).
“Education International is of the view that the measure is discriminatory,” read an EI statement. “Mr Trump’s Order also defies the important democratic values that have guided the United States’ role in the international community for many decades. Furthermore, the Executive Order is in violation with international standards protecting the rights of immigrants and refugees.”
The topic was front and centre during a webinar hosted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)’s President Randi Weingarten and EI’s General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. Education International affiliates from around the world tuned in for the webinar on 30 January.
Weingarten made it clear that the AFT not only opposes the immigration ban, but also “the racist and xenophobic logic that underlies [the Executive Order], the havoc [the administration has] created in the lives of those affected, and the damage [the Order has] done to America’s standing in the world and to [US] national security.”
Van Leeuwen, who offered the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA), EI’s American affiliates, the organisation’s full support, discussed how the education can and should be the difference maker.
“As educators, preparing the workforce for the future, but also the democratic citizenry for the future, we must be a leading voice in ensuring that the gains from economic growth are more widely shared, and that the darker sides of populism and nationalism not be allowed to take sway,” said van Leeuwen.
Saying ‘no’ to DeVos
Another major topic during the webinar was the potential appointment of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Together, the AFT and NEA have focused great efforts on exposing the dangers the advocate for private education poses to the public sector.
"In my years as a public education advocate, I have never witnessed this level of public outcry. Clearly Betsy DeVos’ nomination—as unqualified and as unprepared as she is—has touched a raw nerve not only with public education advocates like me but with the general public as well,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “TheTrump-DeVos agenda for public education is wrong for students and public schools. We need an experienced, qualified secretary of education who actually wants to strengthen and improve all public schools, not tear down, dismantle and privatise them.”
Weingarten vowed to do whatever it takes to have teachers’ message heard.
“Colleagues around the world are echo chambers,” she said, referring to EI’s 396 member organisations. “Many of us will get arrested, many will go to jail.”
Although the AFT and NEA have yet to receive an invitation to the White House to discuss the administration’s education policy, Weingarten said she would go if the opportunity presented itself.