I’m back, temporarily. Power’s still out, may not get it back until the evening of the fourth. So, five days! that’s a record for me at least.
In any case, I’ve missed most of the back and forth between United Opt Out and ardent NEA supporters in the last few days over a very strong challenge to leadership issued by the fledgling UOO group. You can see the original challenge here, but then scroll down to see the revised statement. Perhaps the language in the original was too strong, especially the concluding paragraph where dissolution of the union might be met with a “bittersweet jubilation.” Anyone who knows that group should realize that they are not anti-union in any way, let’s be clear on that. This statement was clearly something meant to light a fire under somebody’s behind.
In any case, a post came out (today was it?) about how the obituary for public education would be written, largely in response to the capitulation from the large national unions, which necessitated UOO’s initial challenge. Here’s my favorite part:
Every day that teachers are afraid to take actions, or are resigned to “their fate” because of potential backlash from “higher ups,” the reformers put a nail in our coffin. In higher education where I work I hear my own colleagues tell each other “Shhh, shhhh….don’t say that, you’ll get in trouble!” as if we were little kids using the word poop at the dinner table. “You can’t say this! Don’t do that! Be careful not to…” Everywhere educators are now told what they can and cannot speak to, what they can and cannot teach, and pretty much where and when they are allowed to take a shit. Enough. I’d rather step in shit than be afraid to move. Our discords may be ugly sometimes, but I’ll take them (as we fight against our collective homicide) over suicide any day.
Let’s look at the last ten years and the overall trends in education right now. We’ve had NCLB, an increase in testing mandates, punitive high stakes testing, increased standardization and teacher proofing of curriculum, a decline in untested subjects like science, social studies, and the arts, extreme budget cuts, school closures, public funds diverted from public to charter, Race to the Top Federal, State, and now District grants, online learning to replace classroom teaching, new Federal testing, a Common Core, testing teacher preparation based on former students’ students, merit pay, removal of collective bargaining protections, pink slips, expulsion of students from charter schools, increased segregation based on race and class, and, lest I forget, GALVANIC SKIN RESPONSE bracelets. I’m sure the list could go on.
Hell, if the NEA and AFT have been working tirelessly over the last several years to defend public education, teachers, students, parents, and communities, what is there to show for it? With friends like these, who needs enemies?
That’s why the challenge was issued and perhaps a change in leadership is necessary. Both of these unions, despite their progressive affiliations, are part of the same political machine and corporate structure that is going after public education for profit. We have a tendency in this country to put a lot of hope into our executives, whether it’s a CEO or President. Faith in an executive excuses us from taking responsibility for our own lives. Perhaps membership of the NEA and AFT have put too much faith in their own executive structure and need to reexamine their own unique abilities to enact change, from the ground up, rather than from the pinnacle of leadership on down.