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National Education Association (NEA): Overview, Membership Requirements & Activism

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  • 0:03 National Education Association
  • 1:25 Mission & Values
  • 4:55 Membership
  • 5:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The National Education Association (NEA) is a major force in the world of American education. Watch this lesson to find out what the NEA is, what it does, what its core values are, who can become a member, and how to join.

National Education Association

Imagine that you're going to your very first job as a teacher. You're very excited until you see the school. It's one room with a dirt floor. The ceiling and walls have cracks in them, and every time it rains, water pours in. When it's cold, wind blows through. You don't get a salary, just room and board. And shortly after arriving, you find out that you aren't supposed to teach all the children in the area, only some of the more privileged ones. The others will remain uneducated.

That was the situation for many teachers in the middle of the 19th century in America. Some states had education associations that fought for better conditions for students, teachers, and schools but many did not. And the quality of education, as well as how many students received it, varied widely from place to place.

In 1857, though, all that changed. 43 educators met in Philadelphia to form the National Teachers Association, which would later be renamed the National Education Association, also called the NEA, the largest professional organization in the United States representing educators from all over America. Let's look closer at the NEA, including its mission and core values, and membership requirements.

Mission & Values

So, what, exactly, is the point of the NEA? Is it just to get teachers and other educational professionals together to drink tea and talk about how great education is? No! Remember when you went to teach and you realized how terrible the conditions were? The school was falling apart, you weren't paid any money, and you were limited in which children you could teach. Not good!

The mission of the NEA is 'to advocate for educational professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed.' What does this mean?

There are two parts to that mission. First, the NEA advocates for educational professionals; that is, part of its mission is to make sure that educators get a fair deal. For example, working for room and board, but no salary is not a good deal. The NEA would make sure that you had good working conditions, including a salary, a safe place to work, and so on. But there's another part of the NEA mission: the NEA also seeks 'to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed.' This is about wanting to make sure that education is really good and reaches everyone in the country.

Remember that we said when you arrived at your school, you were only supposed to teach certain students. In the 1800s, it was very common only for middle and upper class white students to attend school. One part of the NEA's mission is about making sure that every student not only gets to go to school but gets a quality education.

The NEA works with educators to try to make education better. They do this through many different avenues, including contacting members of congress to try to change education laws to create a stronger educational system in the United States. Besides their mission, their activism is shaped by six core values, or things that the organization stands for. If the NEA sets out to spread the word about something, it has to do with at least one of these six core values. They are:

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