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September 12, 2008, Volume 16 Nr. 1, Issue 245
(Revised 9/17/08)
Do As I Teach But Not As I Do.  
Vermont Teachers Union Fails Democracy.

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008, the Vermont National Educational Association (Vermont-NEA) held its gubernatorial debate from 7:30 to 9:00 P.M.  The debate was billed as including "all three major gubernatorial candidates" which were "to spar in" the "first-ever Vermont-NEA education debate live on Vermont Public Television".   The debate was moderated by Sue Allen, the editor of the Times Argus newspaper.  Allen had the sole editorial control over the questions she asked.  In the second half of the debate questions were taken from the floor.  It is good to see the Vermont teachers' association engaging in and promoting democracy.  Or, did they?  

The Vermont-NEA represents 11,500 Vermont public school teachers and educators.  Many of these professionals are social studies teachers.  Many during this presidential election cycle teach classes in elections and the civic responsibility that comes with living in a democratic nation.  These social studies teachers presumably advance their students' knowledge of the democratic process covering topics such as voting requirements, political parties, government, inclusion.  They encourage the possibility and promise that a single vote is important, that it can and does make a difference.  They teach young people that their vote and participation is very important.  That is why I find it disturbing that the Vermont-NEA, in its first-ever sponsored gubernatorial debate, has chosen to include candidates from only two, out of four, of Vermont's Secretary of State-recognized major political parties, Jim Douglas (Republican Party), Gayle Symnington (Democratic Party) and independent Anthony Pollina, now of no political party.   The Vermont-NEA debate left out Peter Diamondstone of the Liberty Union Party.  There is no Progressive Party candidate.  Why did the Vermont-NEA leave out Peter Diamondstone?  
Vermont-NEA advocates to students throughout Vermont that they should do as their social studies teacher membership teaches but the association does otherwise,  i.e., the Vermont-NEA stifles democracy for the political expediency of the two top major political parties only.  Anthony Pollina may be running as an independent but his deal making to obtain endorsements from Vermont's established political figures benefits the status quo.  Candidate Anthony Pollina, being a member of no major party, should not have preference over, Peter Diamondstone, the candidate of a Vermont major party, the Liberty Union Party.  Pollina's  willingness to participate in a debate that excludes Peter Diamondstone is telling.  Just how progressive is that Anthony?  Pollina is no longer a part of the Progressive Party but runs on progressive issues.
The Vermont-NEA debate took place at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, Vermont and was broadcast live by Vermont Public Television.  This was the second gubernatorial debate.  And it was the second time that one candidate for governor was missing.  Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate, Gayle Symington, stated that she "will be very much attentive to the quality of schools the quality of education that's being delivered" as she participated in a debate focused on education.  Just how does the quality of education improve for Vermont students and voters by not inviting a major party candidate for governor?
The Vermont-NEA did not invite Peter Diamondstone to the debate.  Daren Allen, communications director of the Vermont-NEA, told me that they sent Peter Diamondstone a candidate questionnaire that was not returned.  I called and spoke with Peter Diamondstone about this the day after the debate.  Diamondstone stated that he did not fill out the questionnaire because the Vermont-NEA had not invited him to the debate.  Daren Allen also stated that in the best of all world's Peter Diamondstone would be included in the debates.  Just how is the best of all worlds created by excluding him? 
I'll be the first to admit that Peter Diamondstone can be trying and difficult.  Peter can be stubborn.  Perhaps this is why the two-party system political proponents dislike him.  They may disagree with Diamondstone.  But the dislike, disagreement, adverse reaction to personality, even Diamondstone's preference to not wearing suits, is no reason to exclude him from gubernatorial debates.  As a major party candidate, Peter Diamondstone is entitled to participate, and Vermonters, including young people, deserve to hear what he has to say.  The Vermont-NEA has denied Diamondstone the standing he has earned through his party's major status.  It has denied Vermont's young people access to non-establishment opinions which they most likely will not hear in the classroom.  Of course, this may be another reason for Peter Diamondstone's exclusion. Shame on the Vermont-NEA.
I have gone head-to-head with Peter Diamondstone on numerous issues.  We are both members of Veterans For Peace (VFP) and we have attended national VFP conventions together where our differences in opinion were both public and forceful.  I can say unequivocally that Peter Diamondstone cares as much for the well-being of the working class as, perhaps much more, than Jim Douglas or Gayle Symington.  Teachers are members of the working class.  Their union, the Vermont-NEA is supposed to look out for teachers' best interest and that of their students.  The Vermont-NEA has failed to do so by excluding one of Vermont's foremost and long-time fighters for the working class, Peter Diamondstone.  Mark Twain said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect".  It is time for the Vermont-NEA to pause and reflect.  
2008 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, P, PhD

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski is co-editor and co-publisher of Metaphoria along with his life partner and wife, JeanneE. He is 30-year veteran retired teacher and a member of Veterans For Peace. His writings have appeared in Metaphoria, After Downing Street, Buzzflash, Counterpunch, Thomas Paine's Corner,, Omni Center, Rutland Herald, Times Argus, and others. 

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