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Muskego-Norway Says Thanks But No Thanks to NEA Grant for Activism

Superintendent Joe Schroeder says the school district is refusing the grants, citing concerns over "activism" intentions.

Teachers Andrea Burmesch and Tara Krueger of were to be the recipients of a $5,000 grant from the National Education Association (NEA), however concerns over the intent of the monies halted the process.

A Learning and Leadership Grant from the NEA Foundation was awarded "to develop a course of study with a team of colleagues to help first and second grade students understand the role of power in their lives, including how they can use technology such as websites and podcasts to create activist messages around issues important to the students," according to a release from the NEA.

Talk show host Mark Belling took up the issue, questioning the use of grant funds to make seven and eight year olds activists for the NEA.

Muskego-Norway Superintendent Joe Schroeder responded to an inquiry from Belling, and immediately "upon inspection, I found a description of the grant that, while rooted in the development of critical thinkers and positive community members, was described with some very concerning language." 

Schroeder said he had specific concerns over "helping first and second grade students 'understand the role that power plays in their lives' in effort to 'create activist messages' is language that, especially under the umbrella of a national union's grant foundation, can understandably raise concern."

He explained that those involved in the grant application process were spoken to, and Schroeder believed them "to be people of integrity who have a sincere interest in developing critical thinkers and positive, contributing members of our school and the larger community who were simply seeking additional funds in their service to students." 

He also said their intent and meaning of "activism" differed from what others might interpret.

"I also told them that I believe the language of the grant description, especially within the context of a national union's grant foundation, understandably can cloud their original intent. Upon review, they now understand that," Schroeder added.

"To date, we have not collected one cent of this NEA grant -- and will not do so.  I have contacted the NEA office that we are declining the grant and, therefore, are requesting that they remove our approved grant from their website," he said.

Gregory Kluck October 27, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Kudos to Doctor Schroeder. First and Second Graders do not need to be activists. They need to learn to read and understand basic math. When children are of the age to form their opinions with intelligence, perhaps high school or college age, they can. Not when they are 6 to 8 years old.
Dustin Block October 27, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Media literacy is important for even young students to learn. This may have been a good opportunity to begin teaching students about the increasingly strong influence social media has on their lives.
Dustin Block October 27, 2011 at 11:17 PM
I'd love to know what the teachers were going to teach with this grant.
Dustin Block October 27, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Info about the grant was removed from the NEA Foundation website ... http://www.neafoundation.org/listings/grantee-archive/andrea-burmesch/
Simple Bacon October 27, 2011 at 11:47 PM
"Teachers Andrea Burmesch and Tara Krueger of Muskego Elementary were to be the recipients..."
Tracy Manz October 28, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Thank you Dr. Schroeder!! I am sick and tired of liberalism being shoved on our children! Whatever happened to math, science and history? Political opinions as well as religion should be taught at home by parents! I want my child to grow up with OUR values not someone else's! Muskego has the MOST AMAZING teachers, I am quite shocked about this. These two teachers should be ashamed thinking that this one would slide under the radar.
Heidi Lindhorst October 28, 2011 at 02:45 PM
I trust Muskego teachers to teach our kids about politics and activism responsibly. These are the same teachers who didn’t walk out on the job but kept local schools running during the protests in Madison. I’m not worried local teachers will incent political liberalism. And I’m not afraid of our children learning to think for themselves either - at any age.
Simple Bacon October 28, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Heidi, with due respect, these are 1st and 2nd graders we're talking about. They need to be working on the basics. If I have a problem with the curriculum these days being so focused on critical thinking at the expense of reading, writing and math. If these kids can't communicate effectively (twittering "OMG" does not qualify as communication) their "message" will never matter. I'll reiterate; the priority for 1st and 2nd graders should be the basics not social media and learning how to be an activist
sanchez October 28, 2011 at 03:47 PM
I would have preferred that these 2 teachers had walked out and gone to the Madison protests and not come back. They have no business teaching kids anything outside of the regular curriculum and I do not trust them to give accurate history lessons. This is unacceptable. These teachers should be fired..
Heidi Lindhorst October 28, 2011 at 04:56 PM
PS When I was in elementary school we were learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy's assassination, and civil rights activism. Nobody thought we were too little to learn about politics -- and we were taught by nuns!
Warren Mick October 28, 2011 at 06:59 PM
This Grant had nothing to do with politicizing 1st and 2nd Graders!! Some of you folks were never giving a lesson in critical thinking and that's why you can't even get past the statement of activism...sheez, I hope these kids do get the critical thinking and learn more than some of you adults who seem to think everything Mr. Belling says is the Gospel. Whens the last time he stepped in a classroom? he has no children and thinks education is still in the 1960's. Get with it people...this is 2011 things have changed...this is NOT political with the exception that Mr. Belling has chosen to make it that.
Margaret Box October 28, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Critical Literacy is currently a progam in the Muskego-Norway School District. In fact, a program that the Superintendent is well aware of and has observed in classrooms. One that he supports. This grant has NOTHING to do with POLITICAL activism. The word activism relates to many topics. Children need to learn how to think critically to move forward in this word and deal with the complex issuse that face them. They are learning how to think critically through literature, writing, etc. They are learning that they can handle issues that are pertitant to their age. Because, guess what, they do face problems, even in first and second grade! It is very ignorant to think that teachers should just teach "writing, reading, and math". Kids, of all ages, come to school with many different issues, problems, and worries. It is difficult for teachers to even begin teaching these subjects, when students have so many other things affecting their life. People need to have their facts straight before they are attacking these teachers. This is not political in any way.
mark mertes October 28, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Sanchez - I normally don't respond to the garbage that is posted on the internet, but in your case I'm going to make an exception. I am familiar with one of the teachers, and she is an EXEMPLARY teacher - she puts in at least 60 hours per week, working most Saturdays and almost every Sunday, to make sure her students get the best education possible. This grant was never intended to be a political statement - but of course, Mr. Belling can never pass up a chance to beat up on teachers and "liberals", and his listeners always believe everything he says. You should find out what the grant was actually supposed to be teaching - and then you should send these ladies an apology. I'll be waiting to hear if you do. PS:How about you post your email address, so that everyone who disagrees with you can tell you what they think????
Katie October 30, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Critical thinking is a vision of Muskego-Norway Schools and is part of the regular curriculum in the 21st century. Perhaps you could try some critical thinking of your own and get all the facts instead of using 1 source. (Mark Belling). An activist is someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change. Mr. Belling made a grand assumption in stating that these teachers would be pushing them to be "liberal activists". If you are choosing to leave their e-mail addresses, I hope you have contacted them yourself in order to find out how this is tied into the curriculum, instead of just believing what you hear on the radio.
dianne October 30, 2011 at 06:27 AM
Does anyone else think this was quite a coincidence that Mark Belling brought this topic up the week before the referendum? Where did he get his information and does he really know anything about these teachers? It didn't sound like it to me. He just went on ranting and raving and name calling. Muskego-Norway has great schools and great teachers. My kids have not had Ms. Burmesch or Ms. Krueger, but I have heard only GREAT things about them. Why are we as a community listening to an outsider who really knows nothing about these teachers? I also highly doubt that the principal and/or Dr. Schroeder didn't know about this grant. I am concerned that these teachers are going to bear the brunt of Mark Belling's false accusations. Know the facts before judgement is made.
JC November 01, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Thank God Mark Belling is on top of things, otherwise we won't know half of what is being pushed buy the government, unions etc. Wake up people and get involved with what is going on around you the world is changing and not for the better unless we stay informed!
Joe Dorn November 01, 2011 at 07:45 PM
What happened to the comments by "Mark Mentes" and "Katie" on this article?
Warren Mick November 02, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Really Jeanne? Mr. Belling on Top of things? that couldn't be farther from the truth. I assume you went to the school and found out what the Grant was for? Mr. Belling totally blew off the clarification of the word activism and just carried on with his terrible remarks about some fine teachers in our school district. If you would have been SO INFORMED you could have found out for yourself....The intention was to save us taxpayers money by receiving the grant instead of using taxpayer money to improve our district children in being educated so they can be active to improve themselves ....(and not grow up and be reliant upon listening to someone who chooses to manipulate a story to their own special self intentions of bashing teachers REGARDLESS of the facts.)

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