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Teaching Profession

Resolution on Confederate Flag Sparks Controversy at NEA Assembly

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 04, 2015 1 min read

Orlando, Fla.

National Education Association delegates adopted a new business item directing the union to “find appropriate and effective efforts to remove the confederate battle flag from schools and public spaces.”

This seems pretty straightforward, right? Believe me, it was not. Debate on the item went on for an hour and a half.

Originally, the item would have also extended to “other symbols of the Confederacy,” leading some delegates to question whether it would include war memorials for confederate soldiers, statues, exhibits, and state flags (like Mississippi’s) that incorporate Confederate flags. In the end, that language was deleted.

Not 24 hours previously, the delegates here had passed a statement committing the union to combat institutional racism. And there were more than a few delegates who underscored this apparent conflict between word and deed.

Ultimately, the item on the confederate battle flag passed overwhelmingly by a voice vote.

Still, 90 minutes of debate? You could argue that that partly reflected problems inherent in a badly drafted item. But, for my money, it also highlighted a big challenge to the NEA’s movement in this area. And that is that it’s a lot easier to agree to a broad stance against racism than to specific, concrete actions to undo its influence.

Some tweets on the debate follow.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.