Tag Archives: News

A GENERAL STRATEGY?

Perhaps this might help with surviving the school apocalypse.

Perhaps this might help with surviving the school apocalypse.

Two of the keys to victory in this amorphous war over public education are being religiously practiced by the progressive Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

The first key to victory lies in their website. Every paragraph is festooned with reformy language. Their aims seem to be indistinguishable from those of Students First or any other privatizer-friendly “research council”. By speaking in glittering generalities in order to hide their agendas, the reformy crowd has thrown out the rope by which they will eventually hang.

Everyone is for “improved outcomes” and “bridging the achievement gap”. The incessant need for reformers to assure us of their genuine desire to accomplish these things have made these terms tropes with no real meaning. Any group, organization or movement can slip snugly under the covers of this rhetoric to hide their own respective agendas.

The public has become so accustomed to these terms that no organization who hopes to truly affect education policy can afford to not use them. “Closing the achievement gap”, for example, is an idea that a deft rhetorician can use to mean equalizing resources among all schools around the country, just like the reformers usually use it to mean boosting test scores.

In the end, all it really takes is for us to repeat and aver the purity of our intentions  using these terms as frequently as the reformy crowd.

Of course, this rhetorical approach should be coupled by truly progressive action. Annenberg recently kicked off an initiative called A+ NYC aimed at lobbying the mayoral candidates in the name of what parents want for public schools. They recently sent a battered school bus around the city to reach parents who wanted to share their voices.

Not surprisingly, the biggest concerns turned out to be the disappearance of extracurricular activities and over-reliance on testing. This is a far cry from the manufactured clamoring of parents for more charter schools. It goes a long way towards explaining why Eva Moskowitz and her ilk have to get signatures of out-of-district parents to petition for charter schools.

What really needs to be done, and what Annenberg seems on the verge of suggesting, is the creation of the idea of parents as voting blocs. Parents are used to having their names invoked whenever one group or another wants to push some sort of privatization or censorship. Yet, they have never truly been framed as a voting bloc.

A voting bloc needs to be united behind at least one common idea. For parents, “great schools” are not enough, since that is a trope and not an idea. This is where the reformers fail and from whence the next great school movement has to start. Parents as a voting bloc must be connected to the idea of a “better school day”. An idea like this, on which the Chicago teachers put their fingers during their strike, is general enough to unite a wide swath of parents while having enough specific connotations to mean something.

And these specific connotations would be decidedly at odds with the reformy agenda. Instead of equalizing “outcomes”, the focus needs to shift towards equalizing resources. What will be important is what we as a society put into the schools, not what we can get out of the schools in terms of trained labor, higher test scores and no-bid contracts.

Who would be able to argue against an idea that wants great schools for all children?

Discarding the vapid terminology utilized by the reformies is a mistake. Instead, true public school advocates have to flay the reformer beast and walk around wearing its skin.

WHAT DO MOTHER THERESA AND MICHELLE RHEE HAVE IN COMMON?

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A recent study out of Canada casts doubt on the saintly reputation of Mother Theresa. Their essential thesis is that, despite the fact she took in millions of dollars in donations, the dying people for whom she cared in Calcutta were subjected to horrible conditions. Part of this, they contend, is because Mother Theresa saw beauty in suffering.

The study is really not saying anything Christopher Hitchens did not say many years ago in his documentary Hell’s Angel:

Out of the many convincing arguments Hitchens makes the one that sticks out is that, while primitive and unsanitary conditions were good enough for the people in Calcutta, Mother Theresa herself took advantage of the best medical care the western world had to offer when she got sick. That right there is enough for me to be skeptical of her motives.

To be clear, I do not mean this to be an attack on the Catholic Church. The media hyped her up way before the church did, even though the church did nothing to dispel the hype. If anything, the church saw Mother Theresa as a useful public relations tool to help prop up dreadful church attendance around the world. The blame for Mother Theresa’s undeserved reputation for purity and virtue rest with the media and the woman herself.

Mother Theresa was comfortable hobnobbing with the world’s political and financial elite. She sung Ronald Reagan’s praises, even as he was funding illegal wars in Central America that killed many members of the Catholic Church, including clergy. Her organization pulled in millions of dollars from banksters with questionable ethics, including those associated with the infamous Keating Five. All of her photo-ops provided moral cover to people who killed, swindled and oppressed millions.

What I say here is unpopular and will most likely offend many true believers. It really is no different from the way the education debate goes in this country. The media seizes upon people associated with the elite, like Michelle Rhee for example. They attribute to her selfless motives in trying to “help” some of the most downtrodden people in society. Meanwhile, what she provides to those downtrodden people is of questionable value. The question arises: what happened with all of those millions if it is obviously not going to help people?

Yet, even suggesting such a question will elicit a fair share of vitriol. How dare we question people who have made it their life’s mission to help people? We must have our own selfish motivations. Either we are anti-religious bigots of union hacks who fear accountability.

The fact that so many believe the hype about something is the biggest reason why we should be skeptical. Instead of falling into line because it is the popular thing to do, we need to be the voice in the wilderness that brings people back down to earth. Otherwise, we run the risk of group-think, tyranny of the majority and out-and-out mob rule.

Both Mother Theresa and the education reformers want for other, usually poor, people things of which they do not avail themselves. If that does not raise a red flag then nothing will.

KUDOS TO THE PARENTS OF P.S. 59: WHAT THEY CAN TEACH US ABOUT OUR SCHOOLS

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Yesterday I criticized how the whole slavery math problem situation at P.S. 59 was handled. Although the teachers involved did not make the best decisions, the worst decisions of all were made by student teacher Aziza Harding and NYU Professor Charlton McIlvain.

Harding did not bother to speak to her cooperating teacher about the matter. McIlvain rang the alarm bells by calling the media. Indeed, there might have been more sinister motives behind what either McIlvain or Harding did. Hopefully time will reveal if these people were motivated by publicity or just mere stupidity.

Yet, I must give credit to P.S. 59’s principal Adele Schroeter. She called in the parents in an attempt to provide an open forum on the matter. The parents, for their part, defended their children’s 4th-grade teacher, Jane Youn.

The parents exercised loads more common sense than Harding or McIlvain. While the parents did not believe that the homework sheet was appropriate, they also recognized that the sheet did not represent everything their children had learned about slavery in Ms. Youn’s class. They fiercely defended their children’s teacher, recognizing her skill and hard work on behalf of their children. The parents saw this for what it was: a mistake from which they could learn.

Notice how the parents are not calling for the DOE to take “disciplinary action”. Notice how they are not calling for anyone’s head on a plate. Notice how they were able to communicate with their children about what they learned in class instead of jumping to rash conclusions.

My hats off to the parents of P.S. 59.

This story highlights an interesting point about Bloomberg’s Department of Education. One of Bloomberg’s first changes, through his puppet Panel for Educational Policy, was to hire so-called “Parent Coordinators” for each school. Ostensibly, these Parent Coordinators were supposed to be liaisons between parents and their schools. Instead, they turned out to be people whose jobs it is to tell parents only the things the administration wants parents to know. Parents are not encouraged to bring their concerns to the Parent Coordinators. Even if they do, it is unlikely that those concerns go any further.

The Parent Coordinator position, along with the replacement of local school boards with a centralized PEP answerable only to Bloomberg, effectively shut parents out of any say over how their children get educated. This has allowed Bloomberg a free hand to close schools, fire teachers and hollow out enrichment programs. He made sure to keep the parents at arms’ length before embarking on his destruction of the city’s schools.

We see what happened at P.S. 59 when parents got involved. Hopefully, their defense of their children’s teacher will make the DOE think twice about taking any disciplinary measures against her.

Parental involvement is the single greatest antidote to Bloomberg’s destructive educational policies.

This lesson should be heeded by our union. For the past 10 years, they have kissed up to the Bloomberg machine in hopes of getting some scraps. The UFT has been the puppy dogs at Bloomberg’s dinner table, anxiously awaiting a morsel to fall from his plate and grateful for every bit they get. Where has it gotten us?

The union must shift alliances away from centralized mayoral control and towards decentralized community control. The union must advocate for parents to be partners, not onlookers, in the education of their children.

We know why the union has refused to take this type of stance. They fear helping parents gain too much of a voice will usurp their own seats at the table. How much smaller can the seat at the table get as it is? 10 years of mayoral control have reduced our seat to a mere stool, one with wobbly legs at that.

Only the community and only the parents can help teachers restore their seat at the table and ensure educational integrity for our children.

The actions of the parents of P.S. 59 is a microcosm of this fact. Their advocacy has strengthened the position of an embattled teacher. It has also ensured a measure of integrity in their children’s education by double-checking what they learned about slavery and defending a strong teacher.

Unity take heed: this is where your future lies.

WIKIPEDIA IS NO PLACE FOR OPEN DISCUSSION

Prove your arrogance and stupidity by wearing a shirt that shows which economic religion you follow.

Prove your arrogance and stupidity by wearing a shirt that shows which economic religion you follow.

Those of you mired in the teaching world may or may not be familiar with the so-called “Austrian School” of economics. Turgidly, the “Austrian School” holds that markets are perfect and the government should stay out of them so that they can work their magic. There is tremendous, if not total, overlap between Austrian economics and libertarianism. Ron Paul is an adherent of the Austrian School, as he and his followers constantly like to remind us.

You can get a quick introduction to the Austrian School by visiting its Wikipedia page which, apparently, has been locked in an internecine editing conflict. The conflict involves a criticism of the Austrian School by Paul Krugman which used to show up on the page. Certain libertarian acolytes have been taking down the Krugman part because they say it misrepresents Austrian economics. Others say that Krugman is a well-respected economist whose criticism should be included. Wikipedia has prevented the article from being edited for the rest of the month.

For my part, I do not see why Krugman’s criticism cannot be left up there. If the Austrian folks think his argument is a straw man, then they can always include a rejoinder from another economist demonstrating how. This would assume rational dialogue and open debate is also part of the Austrian School. Unfortunately, Austrian economics has become a fundamentalism to many of its followers and they live in a constant state of jihad.

There are Wikipedia pages about heroes of mine, like Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault (my avatar), that contain criticisms that I think are unfair. Never did I think of editing them out of existence. This is probably because Wikipedia is one very limited source of information. Those of us familiar with the ideas of these thinkers encountered them through the books they wrote. We have probably also read many books written by others that attempt to elaborate on these ideas and the criticisms they have faced. Therefore, when I read the Wikipedia pages of my intellectual heroes, I am already largely familiar with everything on the page. It is not a shock or an affront to read something negative about them.

This seems to be the crux of the entire Austrian School Wikipedia fiasco. It is a philosophy nay, an ideology, that has gained many converts in this age of the internet. People like Ron Paul have become heroes in cyberspace. His stances on issues like imperialist war, the War on Drugs and government surveillance appeal to a young crowd naturally and rightfully mistrustful of the system. On top of that, a generation of half-digested internet documentaries and websites convey many libertarian ideas in easily consumable sound bites and slogans. Someone who is honestly looking for news from a non-mainstream source cannot help but encounter these things, especially since many of them are the first, second, third and fourth entries that come up on Google searches.

Unfortunately, the whole anti-government tenor of the Austrian School is intellectually untenable. It posits that rules of the free market are immutably written on the face of nature, that a free market is the “natural” state of human society and that the existence of any imperfections in the market is the result of government interference. It is a system of beliefs that are not falsifiable. How does one “prove” that a “free market” is “natural”? This is such a loaded statement that it does not pass the giggle test. The Austrian folks take this as an article of faith, thereby betraying the spirit of economics as a social science. What sets science apart from most other fields is the fact that its conclusions are falsifiable through observation and analysis.

The great economist Joe Stiglitz called such people “free market fundamentalists”. He was referring to economists but the label can be easily applied to the laymen who consider themselves adherents of the Austrian School. Its tone of anti-authoritarianism appeals to people who mistrust the system. It just so happens that the internet attracts these types of people.

For my part, I have had many discussions with libertarians both at Occupy and in my salad days as an internet troll. When I ask what they would do with things like education, police, transportation, energy and other big government programs, their answer is always a simplistic “hands off” ideology for the government. For them, the role of government should be to merely hang back and enforce private contracts. When I would then ask them what happens if a monopoly starts to develop which is anathema to the free market, the answer either is “it won’t happen” or “there should be laws in place to prevent such things”. The first response is hokum with no basis in reality or history, another belief that is not falsifiable. The second response starts a slippery slope where every free market eventuality can be corrected with laws. In that case, free markets need the very same government that Austrian types blame as the cause for all of the free market’s ills.

What I have found is that people who believe this type of stuff fall into one of two categories. They can be wealthy people who have embraced an extreme “small government” idea that amounts to a bunch of self-serving nonsense. Or, more frequently, they are people with a simplistic, individualistic view of society who believe that everyone has full control of their destiny at all times. It is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd. They are the people who watch a video of starving children in Africa and ask “why don’t they just move to where the food is?” or “serves them right for being lazy”. They are the people who think that the fact they can go camping in the woods for a weekend means they are “self-sufficient”, the meaning of that term apparently being totally lost on them. They are the people who believe that over 100 million unemployed Americans are just being lazy. They are the Ayn Rand fans and other assorted lickspittles of the wealthy.

It is no surprise that the page on Austrian economics is being purged of every criticism by its acolytes. To them, the internet is everything. Anything that is worth knowing about the world comes from cheesy documentaries and simplistic slogans delivered in pixels. The one idea that they have latched onto must be the correct idea, despite the fact they have not bothered to expose themselves to any other ideas. They are allergic to books, especially works of history since they tend to have a “liberal bias” or are a product of the filthy system. It is like the child who learns something at school and cannot wait to share it with everyone they know, assuming that they are the only ones privy to this awesome knowledge.

Despite what the Austrian folks think, they are not the guardians of knowledge and truth. Another person’s rejection of their beliefs does not automatically make that person an idiot. The world contains a vast array of ideas and perspectives. Knowing one theory about one discipline does not make you an expert on anything.

A Wikipedia page is not an indoctrination tool where every word has to follow the party line. It is supposed to contain a range of ideas associated with a subject, including criticism of that subject. This might not comport with the dogmatic, fundamentalist world in which they live but, after all, we do still live in the United States.

Although if the free market fundamentalists, Neoliberals and austerity hawks keep having their way, then I might not be living here for much longer.

 

NEWS FLASH: TEACHERS ARE DISSATISFIED

Stop the presses! Studies show that teachers are more dissatisfied than ever. YOU really don't know the half.

Stop the presses! Studies show that teachers are more dissatisfied than ever. You REALLY don’t know the half. Read below and get an idea.,

The big story currently making its rounds in the edu-blogosphere is the MetLife survey which finds the percentage of teachers who consider themselves “very satisfied” with their jobs at an all-time low. This is the biggest “no duh” story I have seen in quite some time, although it is useful to have empirical evidence for things that you have always known to be true.

As I see it, the edu-blogosphere is divided into two camps: practitioners and non-practitioners. The practitioners are people like yours truly, Perdido Street, Francesco Portelos, DOENuts, B-Lo and other friends we know and respect very well. We tend to oppose many of the programs of the so-called “education reform” movement because we have seen first-hand the destruction they have wrought on our schools for the past 10 years.

The non-practitioners consist of blogs like Andy Rotherham’s Eduwonk and Joanne Jacobs. These are people who do not teach but, somehow, have been anointed authorities on matters of education policy. They cite studies and articles, generally of other non-practitioners, and affect an objective stance towards them. On the whole they tend to be more supportive  of, and open to, reformy ideas cooked up by these non-practitioners.

It has been the non-practitioners who have been carrying the day for many long years. Whether it is in the blog world or the blood and guts world of education policy, non-practitioners have the ears of the people in power. They also seem to have the ears of the people. Non-practitioner blogs tend to be echo chambers for the ideas of other non-practitioners. It is a rare occasion when these people cite an article done by someone actually teaching in a classroom.

More than being echo-chambers, the non-practitioner blogs represent to me a strata of arrogant, self-important people re-excreting the dung of other arrogant, self-important people. They smell each other’s leavings and tell the rest of us it is air freshener. Their stance of objectivity is really a ruse to sterilize the debate on education. They wish to make education a matter of macro studies involving numbers, trends and equations. In fact, these people need to discuss education in this way. Not only is it the only way these people can remotely approach the experience of being inside of a classroom, it is the method of discourse that gives them legitimacy. The moment teaching is recognized as the art it is, and teachers themselves are recognized as professionals, is the moment these people cease to be relevant.

And yet, it is the practitioners who are struggling against the current to be considered relevant. We have been over here raising our hands saying “hey, look at us, we have some insights of our own.” At best, we are considered strange curiosities by the people who “count”.  At worst, we are not considered at all. At the very worst, we are automatically written off as self-interested curmudgeons whose ideas always have ulterior motives.

This is the type of topsy-turvy debate we have over education in this country. The ones who are raking in money, popularity, influence and power on the back of the education system are seen as the righteous crusaders. The ones who toil in obscurity,  the ones who write these blogs in the non-existent spare time we have as a labor not of love but of necessity, are seen as the enemy or at least as anterior to the “real” debate over education.

So if our job satisfaction is at an all-time low, you can forgive us. We do not even receive the satisfaction of getting a fair hearing in the public discussion. Teachers are to be evaluated, held accountable, fired, judged but never heard.

No, we are not dissatisfied. What I feel, what many of our colleagues feel, goes way beyond the pale of normal disgruntlement.

For the past decade and more we have seen our schools closed. We have been told that we are the problem . We make too much money, do too little work, have too little accountability and drain too much from the hard-working American taxpayer. All of our efforts, what we have gleaned from years of experience, is being judged by how much “value” we “add” to test scores. Poverty, drug abuse, television, broken homes, violence, gangs, lack of sleep are all excuses we are using to shirk our duties as educators. None of these things matter. If we were better, then all of these problems would be solved. If we actually “cared”, we would give our children the wings to fly above these problems. Through giving children the keys to a better future, we can eradicate these problems in a single generation. We would also make America “competitive” again and end this Great Recession that just refuses to disappear. Instead of being the pious role models called for in our job description, we care more about our long vacations and our 3 p.m. clock out time.

We, the practitioners, are assailed by these tropes on a daily basis. These tropes have absolutely no relation to the reality we live. We have found it harder and harder to make the rent, keep up with the ever-changing demands of the fickle education “reformers” and contort ourselves into the proper shape to be held accountable by our betters. We know that education is not a matter of “standardization”, “quantitative data” or even “objectivity”. We know that our jobs do not end after we leave the building and that our so-called “vacations” are merely one giant prep period to write units and catch up on grading, although we never truly “catch up”. We know that poverty, gangs, drugs, the media and family life affect how children learn. They shape what children become. Our children merely do school but they actually live in a world where reality is generally not very kind to them. Children are in our classrooms for a certain amount of time during the day and many are not there even when they are present. The vast majority of the time, they are being raised by those other things that we told are mere excuses. We try to bust them out of this life, to give them the tools to see a better way or to show them that they can have at least a measure of control over their own destinies. We do this not through “quantitative data” but through the planting of seeds that will germinate only years down the line. The most important things we do cannot be measured on a test or fully appreciated by looking at our “on-the-clock hours”. Yet, this is how we are being judged.

No, we are not merely dissatisfied. If you really want to see how we feel inside, take at look at Rigoberto Ruelas and Mary Thorson. Ask yourself what would drive these teachers to jump off bridges and stand in front of oncoming semis. We are not just unhappy or disgruntled or burned out. We are traumatized. We are eviscerated. We have internalized the absolute hatred and disgust that YOU have shown for us.

Everybody has a breaking point. Teachers by and large have reached theirs many years ago. YOU want to know where Superman is. YOU want to bring in the “effective” teachers. YOU want to get rid of us in favor of dynamos who will roll up their sleeves, buckle down and do what needs to be done. YOU believe that a computer program can do the job of teaching. YOU say that “those who can’t do, teach.”

But WE are the Superman. WE are the dynamos. WE are the ones who are doing what needs to be done. YOU are the ones who have shirked YOUR responsibilities.

YOU have shirked your responsibilities as leaders. YOU have allowed this country to have the highest childhood poverty rate and the highest incarceration rate in the western world. YOU have failed us and YOU dare blame us as the culprits.

YOU have shirked your responsibilities as citizens. YOU have failed to vote, to keep up with what is happening in the world and how our country actually works. YOU would rather watch 20 hours of television, get your news from internet or news channel demagogues and read five-and-dime novels about vampire lovers and the zombie apocalypse.

YOU have shirked your responsibilities as the media. YOU have provided us with scripted reality television that celebrates the basest emotions and desires. YOU have turned the “news” into infotainment. YOU would rather regale us with tales of Lindsay Lohan than inform us of the things that are changing our world forever.

YOU have shirked your responsibilities as role models. YOU lack the capacity for empathy, love and community that should bind a so-called civilization together. YOU have modeled for our children that it does not matter if the world goes to hell just as long as YOU get your sliver of the pie.

YOU have checked out, really have never checked in, of your responsibilities to our children. Children are with us for 6 hours a day. They are with YOU for the other 18.

And yet, YOU want to point to the finger at us and tell us that we have to straighten out in 6 hours the children you have been deforming for the past 18. YOU want to drop off your children to us at the age of five after YOU have spent the previous half decade implicitly teaching them the worst lessons that humanity has to offer.

By YOU, I do not mean parents. I mean ALL OF YOU.

YOU want to be able to wallow in greed, shallowness and avarice while holding WE the teachers to the standards of Superman.

Teachers are not dissatisfied.

WE are tired of being the receptacle of blame for all of the YOUR shortcomings, YOUR insecurities and YOUR failures.

WE are tired of being the terry cloth hand towel on which YOU wipe your filth after a lifetime of wallowing in the mud.

WE are disgusted. WE are traumatized. WE are in pain. WE are “dissatisfied” because of YOU, every last one of YOU.

You should try being blamed for everything wrong with society someday. Instead of holding us “accountable”, hold yourselves accountable for once in your life. Come back to us in 10-15 years and tell us how you are feeling inside.

I wish I was merely “dissatisfied”. That would be a world of improvement on what we are truly feeling.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS FOR THE UFT LOOK LIKE?

So far, this is the only seat at the table that our union leadership has.

So far, this is the only seat at the table that our union leadership has.

We saw that the New York City teacher strike of 1968 revolved around the conflict between union protections for teachers and community control of public schools. The United Federation of Teachers, in its quest to break the community control experiment, allied itself with the establishment. Since that time, the establishment has proven less and less willing to have us as house guests. It is now at the point where the establishment is throwing our clothes out of the bedroom window while we look up helplessly, begging to be let back in.

In order for our union to be viable in the future, we must repair that link to the communities we serve which was severed in 1968. It is clear that this is not the tactic of our current Unity leadership. If left up to them, we will be standing out in the cold in our underwear watching the establishment burn all of our clothes. We will continue to beg impotently to be allowed back into the house right up until the end.

Instead, repairing those ties to the community falls on the shoulders of the MORE caucus. If they can successfully do this, they have a chance of both winning some measure of leadership in the union and saving public education. How to do this is the million-dollar question.

The equation is simple. Education “reform” has gotten so much traction over the past 10 years because it is funded by the wealthiest people in the country. These wealthy people donate to political campaigns. Usually, the politician who is the best funded wins the election. Therefore, politicians bend over backwards to satisfy the reformy crowd so they can be ensured of continued campaign contributions, which ensures them of continued power.

Our union can never hope to match the campaign contributions of the reformy crowd in this age of Citizens United. What the union lacks in money it must make up for in votes. It must be able to punish reformy politicians by taking them out of power. It must be able to reward its supporters by keeping them in power. The only way the union and public education will survive is through the power of votes.

As far as NYC is concerned, this requires a grassroots strategy to engage the communities we serve. Unfortunately, those communities are being divided between those who get the “good schools” (charters) and those “left behind” in the public schools. It is certainly not the reality that charters are good schools, but it is the perception. Instead of advocating for teacher evaluation schemes and bar exams, the union should push for legislation that gives parents a measure of control over their schools. This should be a hallmark of social justice unionism.

One of the reasons why the community control experiment in Ocean Hill Brownsville failed was because the parents in the neighborhood did not vote. The politicians in Albany disregarded them without any fear of reprisal. By extension, the UFT disregarded them for the same reason.

Of course, this strategy is much easier said than done. Many of the communities in which we serve are disengaged from the political process totally. Making them engaged again would require a massive effort.

At the same time, there are communities in NYC who are somewhat more engaged. These are the communities that should be targeted first. Imagine the union pushing for legislation that would give parents oversight of the charter schools in their communities. Imagine the union pushing for legislation that would end mayoral control and empower parents to have a major say over education policy for public schools. Imagine the union being associated with measures that would give parents a true voice in the education of their students. Even if these laws fail to pass, which they are sure to do, they will at least call the bluffs of all the reformers who claim to put “Children First”.

As of now, our union has been going in the completely opposite direction. Through support of mayoral control, Common Core and Race to the Top, the union has been complicit in the progressive centralization of education policy. It has done this in the naive (and mistaken) impression that they will be allowed to have a seat at the table. And yet, despite the fact that the union has supported every measure of centralization over the past 10 years, they find themselves standing on the lawn in their jammies begging to be let in. There is no seat for us at the table after all.

Therefore, it is time for the union to hitch their wagon to the star of decentralization. Legislation is just the start. We have to knock on doors, be at community board meetings, have a presence at the Panel for Educational Policy hearings, sponsor community events, register people to vote and inform parents of their rights through both social media and printed literature. There has to be a sense that the union is on their side.

Of course, this takes a core of dedicated teachers. It requires first that the teaching force be activated. This is the stage in which MORE finds itself now. Much like our communities have been disengaged, the rank and file of our union has been disengaged as well. Unity has never had an interest in activating the rank and file. I myself never even knew that we could vote for our leadership until I became a chapter leader. An activated rank and file is anathema to Unity.

In short, MORE is going to have to compensate for decades of Unity inaction. After this, they are going to have to activate communities that have been disenfranchised while getting the enfranchised ones on their side. This requires patience. Above all, it requires pragmatism. Ideology will be MORE’s worst enemy. An irrational marriage to outdated or quaint beliefs will strangle a very promising movement in its cradle. Community means exactly that: community. The communities we serve are diverse and our thinking needs to be diverse if we wish to reach them.

In my mind, MORE has the potential to be greater than Chicago. They have the potential to bloody the nose of the reformer movement far beyond what the Chicago teachers are capable of. This is not due to any particular flaw in what the CTU is doing. This is due to the sheer fact that the NYC public school system is the largest in the country. Our thinking needs to be large as well.

Anything less will end up with us stomping out the embers of our profession while those who truly have seats at the table laugh at us.

THE SHILL GAME: E4E

Our favorite shills are still here ready to feast on your brains.

Our favorite shills are still here ready to feast on your brains.

The misleadingly named Educators 4 Excellence is running a spot tonight on television that will encourage Governor Cuomo to impose an evaluation scheme on the city.

It’s strange that a small (very small) group of NYC teachers has the money to get air time on television. Either they have superior accounting practices or they are being funded by outside interests that wish to destroy public education. Which do you think it is?

As a NYC teacher, I don’t know what gives Evan Stone and his ilk the right to speak for me. They haven’t done anything to earn a position of leadership within my union. They haven’t done anything to even earn the name “Educators 4 Excellence.”

Of course they haven’t earned a thing. They are a front group for the reformy forces in NYC. What they lack with a popular mandate among teachers they more than make up for with dollars.

Here is a question: if they care so much about educating NYC children, why don’t they take the millions they have garnered from reformy groups and put it into the schools? Evan Stone and Sydney Morris hardly need another million dollars being the trust fund brats they are.

And speaking of the union, I’m sure Mulgrew and company find it very comforting that they support the same exact position on these teacher evaluations as groups like E4E. Mulgrew has already signaled his willingness to accept a state-imposed scheme. The Unity folks are out in force telling all of us that a state-imposed scheme will be nothing more than binding arbitration.

It doesn’t matter what they call it. Our union should be very uncomfortable with being on the same side of any issue as E4E.

E4E represents everything wrong with education in NYC. Their fresh, young and white faces represent exactly the type of teaching force the reformers want. You think E4E would get any reformy money if they had older black faces?

Thank you E4E for reminding us the lengths to which the 1% will go to destroy public education. They are like the plants sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate and divide the organizations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. They are like the provocateurs who infiltrated the Occupy Wall Street protests. The only difference is, everyone knows who E4E is and everyone sees through them.

Does the fact that they’ve been around for years without gaining any traction among the rank-and-file teachers count for anything? I suppose it doesn’t when you have millions of dollars propping you up.

E4E: a zombie organization with zombie ideas. Tune in tonight to see them in action. Just don’t let them eat your brains.