Saturday, December 03, 2016

Chalkbeat Goes to Highest Bidder

Back before Chalkbeat went national, I used to write for it. That ended when I made outrageous assertions that Cathie Black, who was appointed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, represented billionaires. I also asserted that TFA courted people from Ivy colleges. Though these assertions were not even debatable, Chalkbeat had enough of my nonsense. This was kind of a relief because their editing process was like water torture.

Of course, even as I endured the third degree and found my voice edited beyond recognition, its resident E4E columnist voiced total nonsense with no restraint whatsoever. Reformy is as reformy does, I guess. I hear that person, who never managed to even get tenure as a teacher, got a nice gig somewhere as a school leader. Beats working, I guess.

Nonetheless they've moved past that, and no longer bother with pretense. Every time someone from E4E sneezes, they dutifully report it. If Eva Moskowitz stubs her toe, it's prominently featured. If UFT holds a rally, meh. Why bother reporting such trivialities? After all, UFT is only the largest teacher union in the country. It's not like they're Evan Stone and What's-Her-Name, the renowned former newbie teachers who run Gates-funded E4E.

Doubtless you're curious as to why this might be. Well, here's a small clue. Half a million bucks from the Gates Foundation. That's gotta keep a lot of lights on. Now Chalkbeat always insists that it's objective, but oh my gosh that's a lot of lettuce.

It's really disappointing Chalkbeat chose to go this route, but hey, it's the American Way. Chalkbeat NY is simply doing its part to Make America Great Again by practicing journalism and pretending that a huge donation from the reformiest man in the world is not a blatant conflict of interest.

That said, I can't vouch absolutely that Chalkbeat has gone to the highest bidder. I honestly don't know just how high Bill Gates is. But given his outrageous and outlandish ideas about education,  I can only conjecture that billionaires get the best drugs money can buy. I remember hearing somewhere that Jerry Lee Lewis said the only reason he survived while Elvis died was that he couldn't afford the drugs Elvis got.

I wonder how high I'd have to be to donate to Reformy Chalkbeat.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Fun Fact--UFT Team High School Has No Input from UFT High School Teachers

The other day I got an email from Team High School telling me about all the wonderful work they were doing. Evidently 200 members attended workshops, which is surely good, as everyone needs to work on one thing or another.

Also, there will be Team High School Awards, for those who've done outstanding work on whatever it is the Team does, or perhaps for something else. I can't be sure, as I have no notion what Team High School deems award-worthy.

Here's the thing--UFT High Schools elected exactly seven people in the last election. I know because I'm one of them. Thus far, Team High School hasn't bothered to ask any of us anything whatsoever about anything.

Team High School means jobs for someone or other. I'm not sure who, though I have a strong inkling it starts with the Unity Caucus members who got paid to run the workshops 200 people attended. I was actually in a working group with one of them, I think, and I noticed him asking Michael Mulgrew a question in an informational video about Friedrichs. This was one of those spontaneous videos where people just sit around and ask the President off-the-cuff questions, and every one of them just happens to be a UFT patronage employee for whom actual high school teachers did not vote. It's curious Mulgrew appears to favor such spontaneous chat. It makes me wonder why, when real live elected High School Executive Board members ask questions, he doesn't even hang around to listen, let alone respond.

What does Team High School do besides send out newsletters and provide work for Unity loyalists? Well, it's hard to say, and I can only assume we lowly high school teachers aren't supposed to ask. If they wanted our input, or that of anyone who hasn't already signed a loyalty oath, they'd ask for it. Of course, that hasn't happened, and Team High School rolls along on its merry way, with no input whatsoever from the people it purports to represent.

The good thing is, whether or not you voted for Team High School (and most of you did not), you have the privilege of paying for it. Isn't that a cool logo? Your dues at work. But when you speak, when you say we want a new voice in the UFT, they say forget about it. You get no voice in the AFT, you get no voice in the NEA, you get no voice in NYSUT, and you don't even get a voice in the organization that presumes to speak for you, Team High School.

And that's the way the UFT rolls. Gee, I can't begin to imagine why more than half of working teachers will decline to pay dues when they get a Friedrichs do-over. After all, leadership surely knows better than those of us who actually vote. Otherwise, they'd seek input from us. And you have to admit, Team High School with No Elected Representation Whatsoever hasn't got much of a ring to it.

Still, it's not the kind of thing that makes me "Loud and Proud." How about you?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Class Size Shmass Size, Says Arbitrator

I went last month to see an arbitrator about the oversized classes at my school. Silly me, I thought when you violate contractual class size rules, the remedy was to fix the class sizes. But I was just naive somehow. I mean, why should the DOE abide by the rules when they could just make up an "action plan?"

The genius arbitrator, who gets paid $1600 per day for this incredible wisdom, decided it would be a great idea to have the teachers of oversized classes in my school do one fewer C6 assignment a week. The teachers in Forest Hills High School, for reasons that escape me utterly, get one fewer C6 for each oversized class. So if I have two oversized classes, I lose one C6 period a week. If a FH teacher has two oversized classes, she loses two C6 periods a week.

Why the discrepancy? Maybe it's tougher to have oversized classes when you're that far west. Or something. Funny how the DOE can be so preposterously arbitrary. Haven't they got a rubric?

Hey, maybe I can go rob a bank, and instead of giving the money back, I can make an action plan. I'll work as a teller one hour a week for ten weeks, and then I'll take all the cash and buy that chateau in the south of France. Works for me.

On this astral plane, unlike the arbitrator, who evidently knows everything, I'm just a lowly teacher. This notwithstanding, unlike the arbitrator and DOE lawyers, I have actually taught oversized classes. I know what it's like to have 50 kids in a room. I know what it's like when no one helps and you have to sit and wait. And you know what? The only way that got better was when they took the extra kids out.

In fact, this year opened with my co-teacher and I having several oversized classes. It's great to have a co-teacher. It's great to be able to discuss ideas, what works, and what doesn't with someone who's actually got a stake in what's going on. It's great to be able to add to what you do with a different point of view. It's great to try different approaches to things you've done before.

What is not great, though, is teaching over 34 kids at once. If what you value is participation, you can't really make it happen effectively in such a hugely populated room. The point of team teaching, I think, is to make things better, to model adult cooperation for kids, and to give them a little more than they'd bargained for. To use it simply to get around a class size rule ought to be criminal.

And for the edification of The Great and Mysterious Arbitrator, offering one fewer tutoring period a week does not alleviate non-contractual class sizes. It just means fewer resources for the poor kids you've condemned to class sizes higher than the UFT contractual maximum, which is already higher than class sizes anywhere else in the state.

What's the point of having a contract if the employer can cavalierly break it, toss you a marshmallow, give the kids nothing whatsoever, and then pay some arbitrator an obscene amount of money for this alleged service? Sorry, but I don't want oversized classes. I've taught in trailers and closets. I've seen sheets of ice on the floor. I've had no heat, no AC, and sometimes no floor. I've seen railing fall off the trailer like a medieval lance to be used for jousting. I've seen floods making it very tough to make it out, and ice making it very tough to make it out alive.

But I've never been told screw you, teach the extra kids, and we'll give you a period off from tutoring. What you need when you have oversized classes is NOT extra time. Extra time does NOT help you to manage an oversized class. You do NOT need more planning time. You do NOT need to do a little less tutoring. And let's not even try to pretend that less tutoring helps kids in oversized classes in any way whatsoever.

What you need, and let's not forget what the children in your class need as well, is a reasonable class size. 34 is already too high. Higher than that is not reasonable, especially when you're supposed to be jumping through hoops and doing all sorts of extra assessments.

Anyone who doesn't know that is not a teacher, and has no idea what teaching entails. And anyone who doesn't know that has no business doing class size arbitration. Honestly, I don't think you need to be a teacher to recognize how nonsensical this "action plan" is. I'd label it a "no action whatsoever" plan.

I hope the arbitrator sleeps well tonight. It must be nice to have a job in a nice clean office where you can do any damn thing, pat yourself on the back, cash your check and go to the next gala luncheon, or whatever it is these folks do when they, along with the DOE, aren't throwing our children to the dogs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UFT Leadership--Wake Up or Give Up

I was a little upset at the AFT's early endorsement of Hillary. I had one or two issues with candidate Clinton. But they did a "scientific survey" that asked who knows whom who knows what, and that was it.

Of course no one asked me or anyone I know, but I don't travel in the circles Randi or Mike do. I'm just a lowly teacher who talks to other lowly teachers, you know, the kind who get rated by Danielson and live with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Michael Mulgrew, like every UFT officer, has never experienced that, so why should he worry?

Anyway, we all know how the Hillary Project came out. We now face a GOP President, Congress, Senate, and any moment now, Supreme Court. This last detail has not escaped the attention of UFT leadership. It appears that, while Friedrichs did not prevail, some copycat will. This will make the United States of America effectively a "right to work" state.

Now "right to work" is a misnomer. Everyone has the right to work. It's just that, in a union shop, you may be required to actually pay into the group that negotiates for you. What "right to work"  really means is "right to not pay dues." It's a right to weaken union, and a right to weaken collective bargaining. In Wisconsin, it's crippled union, as was its intention.

NY State is a bastion of liberalism, more or less, and it is possible that legislation could circumvent it. Of course it's questionable whether our esteemed governor, who ran on a platform of going after unions, would support it. But it's possible with the urging of UFT and NYSUT (among others), NY State could pass legislation that says everyone must pay union dues.

The thing is, there's a bit of a timing issue here. Next year a Constitutional Convention will appear on the NY ballot, and it's imperative we defeat that. Otherwise, folks like our buddy Andrew Cuomo could open up our pensions and make us all explore cat food diets into our golden years. It would be really unfortunate if the two things were to overlap and our enemies could twist our support for union into a campaign against our pensions. Of course that may not be a problem if the Friedrichs copycat doesn't rear its head in the next 12 months.

But there's another problem, and it's more fundamental. That problem is the insidious nature of the loyalty oath powered United Federation of Teachers. We are not an activist-driven union, and in fact we are the polar opposite. A full three fourths of our membership deem it a waste of time to even vote in union elections. Most think about union only when it's time to get a pair of glasses every other year. UFT hasn't done a boots on the ground activity in over a year, and even those are mostly populated by loyalty oath signers shoring up patronage points toward keeping their trips or jobs.

So now leadership has concrete concerns about what to do if they lose the dues checkoff. Predictably, their instincts are completely off-base, trying not to alienate Donald Trump supporters in the ranks. The thinking appears to be, if we're nice to them, maybe they'll volunteer to pay dues when the time comes. That is, of course, ridiculous. It's yet another step in the direction of not taking chances, the same direction that brought us the spectacular and devastating loss of the Presidential election.

Hillary did not stand for universal health care. She did not stand for a living wage for all Americans. She did not stand for free college tuition, and even advanced the preposterous argument that such a move would subsidize the children of Donald Trump (as though they'd even consider state schools). The AFT supported these positions, and no less than President Randi Weingarten ridiculed Sanders supporters as "Bernie Bros" in tweets that stereotyped us as thugs. How primitive of us to want better lives for Americans, to want our brothers and sisters to enjoy the same rights as citizens of most non third-world countries.

UFT is but one local, but it's 28% of NYSUT and controls 33% of NYSUT votes. NYSUT is but one state, but it's the largest delegation in AFT. So make no mistake, we are the tail that wags the AFT dog. Our unwillingness to take stands, to take risks, to mobilize our ranks is deliberate. It concentrates power in the hands of the very few, and they are not gonna relinquish it any time soon. NYPD and FDNY may find the overwhelming majority of their members voluntarily pay dues, but that won't happen with us. The people who sit on the 14th floor at 52 Broadway aren't judged by Danielson and have little empathy for those of us who are.

The fact that they are too cowardly to even utter the name of Donald Trump in a resolution condemning the bigotry he's engendered just underlines how utterly out of touch they are. This bodes ill for our survival as a union. We have a President who urges us to get on social media, but can't be bothered with it himself. We have a President who doesn't bother to answer email from chapter leaders. We have a President who can't even be bothered to sit through his own Executive Board meetings. He walks in whenever he feels like it if he shows up at all. Then gives a little talk, and leaves without even listening to anyone else. How much more out of touch can you get?

If there is any chance of our surviving in a Right to Work United States of America, it's time for a sea change in our sleepy and complacent leadership. Otherwise, it's clear the only thing they value are those cushy offices on the 14th floor. I wonder if they'll be able to pay for them with a 70% drop in dues revenue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

UFT Executive Board November 28th--We Can't Risk Offending People by Mentioning Trump

Secretary Schoor welcomes us.

Open Mike

Sara Shapiro From Adult ed chapter.  Presents incident about AE consultation meeting. Mentions Ms. Mills, superintendent, who runs meeting. Says she was verbally attacked by Mills. Asks for help. Says when CL addressed issue of interruptions of classes demanding data, Ms. Mills said it was needed, and that it should be resolved amongst UFT members. Said it was also admin.

Says Mills lost control and began screaming. Says she shouted at principals it was their job. Says Mills was hostile and frightening, yelling. Says she shouted to her, “Some people should never be teachers.” Asks for help. What recourse does UFT have for this type of abusive behavior? How can we ensure there is no retaliation? What steps does UFT recommend for me? What can UFT do to ensure this not occur again? Will they officially censure Mills and report this to chancellor?

Schoor—Thank you for coming forward. We’d like to bring this up in meeting with deputy chancellors. Shapiro approves and Schoor says it’s a good first step.


Jonathan Halabi
New Action—There’s a motion, but no indication of who made it. This is highly unusual. Who made motion?

Schoor—Leadership of union.

Halabi—Why didn’t this address what was taken away? Chief effect was to remove language. Thinks there should be open discussion on this. Name of Donald Trump was removed without indication. Pretty big step. Merits discussion here.

Schoor—approval is on minutes. If you want to bring up issue in front of body, you may.

Halabi—May I amend resolution via email? Is this province of regular executive board member?

Schoor—We’re gonna vote on minutes. If you wish to debate, you may.

Minutes passed. MORE-New Action votes no

President’s Report

Mulgrew is not here.

Staff director’s report

Leroy Barr
—CL training this weekend

DA January moved to January 18th. This month 14th. Exec. Board next week.

David Garcia RosenMORE—Sad seeing how people vote and we just take Trump’s name off. Would like update on issue of mass incarceration in USA. Last time we were told what AFT did. What will UFT do? NYC students are impacted by these laws. Concerned that leadership more concerned with political correctness than being leaders. We have Pres. elect who has sworn to vigorously enforce drug laws. What is update? Why is leadership afraid to use Trump’s name?

Janella Hinds—Regarding mass incarceration, we are doing research. Many of us have viewed 13 and are doing research. We have taken specific action on Riker’s Island. We want to raise age so fewer teenagers are there and make sure students receive education. Today there was meeting with Council member Danny Drone. We are actively engaged in work around making sure our students don’t end up there and that they are treated well if they are.

Rosen—Why was Trump’s name removed?

Schoor—Union represents different people, parties, ethnicities. We have membership that voted for Trump. We didn’t change resolved, only Whereas/.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—When are we gonna debate this?

Schoor—A little later

Schirtzer—Many members voted for Trump. We know who the ed. secretary will be. Friedrichs will come back under new name. We have to be honest, this will happen. We have to do things now. The only reason we won was because Scalia died. What are we going to do differently to better engage our members? We want union to grow.

Schoor—Loud and proud campaign.

Hinds—We had day of action to kick off our Loud and Proud campaign. Activists demonstrated support and showed solidarity. There were safety pins, posters. This work will continue. Not just about 52 giving info, but about us working to have all our voices heard.

Schoor—Mike we share your concern and will be responsive.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Asking about resolution calling for immigrant liaison at every school. Were reports of teachers saying insulting and threatening things to undocumented students. Should be ally at every school for those students and their families.

Schoor—On our agenda with deputy chancellors, who are very concerned.

Marcus McArthurMORE—I read Mayor de Blasio has received endorsements from other unions. What is our position and what mechanisms are there for members to weigh in?

Schoor—Personally, he’s been a good mayor for us. No union had contract when he took over, now most do.  We believe he will continue to be fair with labor if re-elected. Sanitation endorsed.  We look favorably. UFT controls endorsements. Asks Paul Egan to discuss this. Will first come to AdCom.

Reports from districts:

Rich Mandel—reports about 3rd annual Thanksgiving drive. Was big success. 150 children from temporary housing played games and got new winter coat, hat, scarf. Thanks for donations. Collected over 500 jackets. Delivering to schools. Also delivered ten turkeys.

Alan ?—Tenure workshop for new teachers. Superintendent was there. Plugged TDA.

Elis Ranu?—December 12th tenure workshop with superintendent.

Karen Allford—Coalition for homeless holiday party. Asks for unwrapped toys. Collecting in borough offices or will pick up in schools.

Schoor—More homeless students than ever before?

Allford—83,000 but probably more, as some families live “doubled up.”

George Altomore—While politicking goes on, our teacher’s best contribution is what it’s all about. Were two big conferences—FL committee—paid $55 each and gave own presentations. Saturday—NYC Art teachers—growing in numbers. We are union of professionals. Let’s always remember what we do best is for children we teach.

Camille Evey—DR District 16—tenure workshop, over 65 teachers with new supe. Almost zero teachers got tenure before, but now 27, with support from UFT. Praises superintendent for support.

Schoor—UFT has teacher center people at tenure workshops.

Ellie Engler—Camille and superintendent came up with model for a district. We’re trying to get it funded by DOE. People with BA in area would be invited into fellows program to get Master’s in teaching and would intern at schools with benefits, credits. salary.

Schoor—This is cooperation from new admin we didn’t get from Bloomberg. We have input, and this is indicative.

Legislative reportPaul Egan

Much discussion of football game. There will be several recounts. These numbers, though, are likely to hold up. Great every vote is counted, unlikely to change results. While we may be disgusted be Sec. of Ed., it requires Cabinet appointees to be reviewed. She never had job, married into money, made mess in Detroit. Even is she is approved, she is walking into job wounded. Many turned down by Senate.

State Senate—Simka Felder—caucus with GOP. Means GOP is in power, two races under recount. Marcelino, will probably win. Venditto going back and forth. Today, lead is now 9 for Venditto. More people stayed home than voted for candidates in national election. We have to tell people the importance of voting.

Talk about march in DC week of inauguration. Unclear whether it will happen.

Resolutions—Opposition to Constitutional convention

Mel Aaronson—urge we make this most important thing for ourselves and state for next year. Constitution says every 20 years convention is on ballot.  Last time this was voted on was 1997 and we defeated it. Can open every single law in this state at same time to group of people who will discuss every issue. In 1977 there was one with recommendations. Every one was turned down by people of state.

If we lose, next year, 2018, there will be election. Will be 200 delegates with salary and expenses. Could cost with just that, tens of millions. We have to tell people. Biggest problem for us is, in 1938, amendment added that once pension credit granted, it can never be diminished or impaired. That’s why we have tiers. We have many allies, unions, conservationists. Support for separation of church and state. Public funds, now, not used for parochial schools.

Our constitution must stand. We have best plan to supplement pensions anywhere in country. Can be changed. Urges we support this resolution.

Amemdment—we work with other orgs. and individuals to defeat.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—propose UFT launch immediate educational campaign in our chapters and workplaces about the threat that this Constitutional Convention presents. 

Paul Egan—Asks we delete word immediate. We are in contact with other groups. This is in our plans.


Vince Gatley
—Add word after UFT, “chapter leaders and delegates.”

Schirtzer—Says leadership has resources CLs and delegates don’t.

Amendments pass.

Vince Gatley—Work has to be done in schools, not on 14th floor.

Schoor—Resolved, that UFT urge CLs and delegates lead campaign to defeat Convention.


Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Moves to reconsider Respect for all people to restore language we unanimously voted on.

Schoor—You have to vote in favor to consider.

Leroy Barr—Starts discussion.

Halabi—Original language specified Trump’s abusive behavior toward women. Now says presidential election did. It is a resolution that was motivated by hostility Trump displayed toward communities, schools, immigrants. That’s why it was unanimous. Wasn’t presidential election. Can’t understand not using name.

Dolores ?
—thinks of Thanksgiving meal. This body has been body that includes everyone. Though I don’t support Trump I don’t want to alienate people.

?—Agrees, sorry, opposes Trump being there. Heated discussions in my school. Have to respect person who voted for Trump. We need all members to stand up together. We are family.

Ellen Driesen—District straddled communities—mine voted heavily toward Trump. Can’t alienate even one CL. Will lose quarter of schools.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—also knows Trump voters. Are friends. Don’t want to alienate them. But I don’t see how presidential election can do these things. Also, if we’re getting ready for fight membership must recognize what Trump said will disempower us. They need to know we see them Trump’s potential victims as friends. Hasn’t yet happened.

Vince Gagley
—proposes after words presidential election, campaign rhetoric. Can we neutralize language to get agreement?

David Garcia-Rosen- MORE--there are times in history that call for something different. When someone votes to deport my friends, incarcerate my friends, convert my friends- they can not be in my circle of love. We represent all ethnicities, Trump attacks women, muslims, immigrants, LGBT, Blacks and Latinos not the presidential election.

Maria Kallo- I get what my brothers and sisters are saying, but were need to build a family together. we need to represent all members, build family? We can’t take off the gloves and say Trump’s name to build family. we have to be united, we cant antagonize our members. We stand on the leadership’s shoulders. They are more experienced than all of us. Mike Schirtzer is my daughter and son’s teacher. we agree to disagree, but we stand united in the union. We have to pull our own ego back and do what is good for everyone.

Arthur Goldstein
--MORE--We cant risk antagonizing people - using your logic we should not have supported Hillary, you antagonized me because I’m a Bernie supporter. the Trump supporters were antagonized the entire election. By this logic we should never take sides or endorse anybody.

Struck by absurdity of not wanting to take sides after having Hillary office at 52.

We, the high school representatives,  enthusiastically supported the resolution brought to us last week. In the weeks following the election, there have been hundreds of racists, bigots and homophobes feeling emboldened and acting against our brothers and sisters all across this country. In Queens there are three incidents I know of.

I’d wager, or at least hope, that every single person in this room was part of the presidential election. We didn’t vote for swastikas in playgrounds. We didn’t vote for hijabs being torn from people’s heads. We didn’t vote for abuse of anyone based on race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. It’s not us standing around using Nazi salutes and shouting Hail Trump.

But people who indulge in that nonsense invoke the name of the man who calls Mexicans rapists, the man who wants a blanket ban on Muslim immigration, the man who has railed against Hamilton and counting votes, but has yet to utter one word against racism, bigotry, homophobia and all the things we collectively deplore.

By refusing to mention the name of Donald Trump, we are pandering to racists, bigots, and homophobes.

I ask  name of Donald Trump be restored.

Sandy ?- Doesn’t need Trump’s name. We should place Hitler’s name. Trump is not important enough. He is a nothing.

Speaker—believes we should use Trump’s name. If we do not want to be decisive, why did we support Hillary? We endorsed her. Stein, Johnson and Clinton did not push racism.

Jackie Bennett
—supports amendment Vince brought up. Wants to clarify saying election increased hostilities.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—glad debate is happening. Jonathan’s point was everyone supported. 24 hours later was changed. We all know Trump supporters. We’re arguing not to be divisive, to antagonize. I try to have civil discourse. I have family who voted Trump, family undocumented, LGBT family. I understand we don’t want to antagonize.

Wasn’t Hillary who attacked my students, called them rapists and drug dealers. My students can’t sleep at night. We are the only thing between attacks on our kids. They want to make our kids data and money. We’re here because we love our kids. We have to tell people who voted for Trump they did something wrong. They are family. But I have to say to my students looking at deportation that Trump is problem.

Leroy Barr—You can’t make amendment of something not on the floor. Asks for motion to reconsider. We failed to engage members enough to understand dangers before them, damages to their way of life. We couldn’t get people to understand no vote was vote for Trump.
How do we get our members to table, to front lines in battle that is looming? If we don’t do that we will fail again. The education never stops. Can’t educate someone when you shut them down. In our passion we have to get members back to table, to understand dangers that lie ahead. They are not engaged. We need everyone. We have to vote up motion to reconsider.

Schoor—Motion to reconsider needs majority vote.

Halabi—discussion on motion? Thanks Leroy for opening debate, and thanks for vigorous debate. In spirit of compromise, we should support Vince’s amendment.

Schoor—We should add words campaign rhetoric.

Mike SchirtzerMORE--Moves to put Trump’s name back.

Schoor—motion fails, we are adjourned.

Special thanks to Mike Schirtzer for helping with the notes while I waited on line to speak. 

Trump---I'M Not Wrong. YOU'RE Wrong!

Have you ever met a person who is always right? A person who clings to whatever he or she says no matter what? I have. These people are really difficult to get along with. They're utterly inflexible, and cannot be persuaded by evidence.

Now perhaps we all have elements of this in ourselves. We are fiercely protective of our children, for example. We believe what we believe. Maybe we are religious. Maybe we believe in teaching or writing a certain way. Perhaps we have life-long beliefs and they're hard to shake. Maybe we belong to a fraternity or club and believe strongly in what it does.

But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about someone who makes factual errors and denies them utterly. We all do stupid things sometimes. If I do something stupid and get caught on it, my instinct is to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry I threw that cheeseburger at you. I was momentarily angry and it won't happen again. But another person might react differently. I'm glad I threw the cheeseburger at you and I'm gonna throw another one tomorrow.

People like that are dangerous. You can't really depend on them for anything because they can't see clearly. Everything they say is clouded. Everything is filtered through a thought process that tells them they can never be wrong. So their judgment is always at question. Thus, when the President-elect of the United States tweets something like this, it's cause for concern:

There is, in fact, no evidence whatsoever to support this contention. It's been reported by various right-wing websites and commentators, but it's based on nothing. President-elect Donald Trump, however, cannot bear the thought that more people voted for his opponent than him. It would make him a "loser," as he likes to label people, and that simply does not conform with his worldview.

So here is the President-elect of the United States, contending that the election he won is rigged, as he so frequently suggested as a candidate. Does that mean we should have a recount? A do-over? Apparently not:

Trump is upset that anyone would dare question his victory. He needs to not only condemn the effort, but also to attack his opponents. Any criticism of him is unacceptable. A person with this sort of temperament who becomes President of a country that values free speech is bound for perpetual disappointment. I can't recall a President in my lifetime who wasn't subject to withering criticism on a regular basis.

More upsetting is the possibility that such a juvenile personality will be in charge of diplomacy for the United States of America. A person like this could easily start wars to settle personal vendettas. Why not? It's not as though he or his children would be on any battlefield.

Personally I do not believe Donald Trump can or will get through a single term as President. The GOP surely doesn't like him either. After all, who could personally like anyone like that? Maybe a mom. I don't know. My friend Fred Klonsky suggested to me that this was yet another ploy to divert attention from some thing or other that Trump had done. But the fact is this tweet falls right in line with the sort of nonsense Trump's been saying and doing for years. A guy who places his name in huge gold letters all over the world has a big ego. And honestly, it's unseemly for the President of the United States to portray himself as a narcissistic, self-serving, juvenile. Even if it's a ploy it isn't a smart one.

I think we will soon see President Pence, with the same abysmal policies, but fewer insane and delusional tweets. It's not really good news, but at least Pence will think twice over starting nuclear was over some preposterous imaginary slight.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Selective Outrage of Union Leadership

I don't know exactly what to say when I see Unity up in arms over Betty DeVos. They have a point about how bad she is, but I'm not sure they're the ideal people to deliver this message. Of course there are some pretty strong arguments against her.

I mean sure she's a billionaire. Sure she's never attended a public school, and sure she hasn't sent her kids to any either. Sure she's married into the Amway family, and sure her brother runs Blackwater. In fact, she's never even held a job before. Is this a good place to start out? President-elect Donald Trump says she's good enough for him.

But is she radical? Well, UFT Unity certainly seems to think so:

That doesn't sound very good at all. But I know the guy who wrote the blog they feature, and he does indeed oppose "school choice." He's not an apologist for charters, and he was pretty disappointed that Hillary (who told the AFT convention that we could "learn from public charter schools") was. I guess UFT Unity didn't read his withering commentary on Hillary Clinton. He didn't vote for her. In fact, I offered to swap my NY Hillary Clinton vote for his PA Jill Stein vote, but it was a no go.

In any case, UFT Unity wasn't finished with Betty De Vos. I have to admit I was a little surprised when they got not only personal, but outright sexist:

You see how that works? Because she's a woman, she must know about lipstick. And nothing else. Isn't that just a laugh riot? Over at 52 Broadway someone deemed this an absolutely devastating put-down, and it must be, because surely only the very best minds in the UFT write their social media for them. Remind you of anyone? Don't all raise your hands at once.(It looks like they've deleted that tweet. Thanks for reading the blog, UFT Unity.)

On the other hand, how can we effectively deplore half truths, ad hominem and sexist statements when we freely indulge in them ourselves?

Of course, UFT Unity isn't alone in tweeting sexism. Now I'm used to their superficial and juvenile approach to argument. My friends and I have been on the receiving end of it since 2005, when we shocked them by objecting to the contract that brought us the Absent Teacher Reserve, among other things.

Since I've been chapter leader, several Unity Caucus UFT employees have seen fit to instruct me what to believe. They're shocked when I tell them I'll do as I like, and argue right up to the point when I ask, "What are you gonna do, expel me from Unity?" They're accustomed to absolute fealty from loyalty oath signers, and they're unaccustomed to hearing about when their patronage employees behave in counter-productive and idiotic fashion.

Remarkably, though, that's not their worst offense here. What they fail to notice is that we ourselves have enabled a whole lot of this "school choice" nonsense. In fact, Betsy DeVos herself has supported vouchers for years. When she was unable to get voters to approve, she turned her attention to charters. That's pretty much par for the reformy course. And we, the AFT, NYSUT, and the UFT jumped right on board the charter bandwagon. In fact, UFT not only opened and colocated our own charters, but also brought the execrable Green Dot and its founder Steve Barr to New York.

We are not nearly as credible as we should be when we speak against school choice. Vouchers are simply the next step. We think if we give the reformies Czechoslavakia they won't turn around and invade Poland. But of course we are blind to the lessons of history. We are intent on learning nothing and keeping up the status quo no matter what. We need a "seat at the table" so you can have the ATR. We give up the right to grieve letters to file. We give up on seniority placement. OK you can rate and fire us based on test scores. We'll defend Common Core even if it means punching our own members' faces out. And oh, sure, we support mayoral control and charter schools.

Even when we select a presidential candidate we don't want to be too demanding. Let's not go for that old guy who wants healthcare and college education for all. Who needs a living wage? Let's get behind good old reliable More of the Same. How can we go wrong?

In fact our path of appeasement has gone spectacularly wrong, and we have crocodiles in our living room. Should we just pretend they aren't there and hope they don't make their way up to the 14th floor? Can crocodiles learn to use elevators?

After all these years, we're still asking the wrong questions altogether.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

This year I'm thankful for my family as always, and also for our little dog Julio. I've successfully lobbied for him to come to our Thanksgiving with us, and to get his share of turkey. I'm absolutely sure he will like it more than I do.

I'm thankful for a job I love, for waking up each and every morning excited for a new day. I'm thankful for the opportunity to help and support children. I'm thankful to be part of a profession that really puts children first, as opposed to paying lip service.  I'm thankful to live in a country where I can freely answer the demagogues who pretend to do otherwise.

I'm thankful for public schools that serve all children and thankful to work in one that is supportive of all kids no matter where they come from. I'm thankful for the dedication of my colleagues, and also for administrators that aren't crazy. They help make our work possible. I'm thankful to the amazing kids I teach who come from every corner of this earth, the kids who surprise me and make me laugh every day with their unexpected thoughts and quirkiness.

I'm thankful for the activists in MORE and New Action who stand for public education, who stand for what's right and reject blind faith in a machine that's failed us spectacularly of late. I'm thankful for people who do what's right even if it means personal sacrifice. I'm thankful for the reasonable members of Unity Caucus who take the time to see the whole picture.

I'm thankful to my brothers and sisters at Francis Lewis High School who do me the honor of allowing me to represent them. I'm thankful to Patrick Sullivan for talking me into standing for chapter leader though it seemed like an insane amount of work for little reward. I'm thankful for learning, rather late in life, that I thrive on such an insane job. (I should have known that from years of teaching, I suppose.) I'm thankful to everyone who's supported me in that job, both in and out of UFT.

I'm very grateful to city high school teachers, who elected us to represent them at the UFT Executive Board, cracking the window a little in the monolithic loyalty-oath bound leadership. I think I speak for all seven of us when I say what a great honor it is you have chosen us to speak for you. I am continually impressed by my fellow high school Executive Board members, some of whom I've known for a very short time. We have only just begun.

I'm thankful for NYSUT members like Beth Dimino and Brian St. Pierre, who showed me a very different vision of union than any I'd ever seen in UFT. I'm thankful to them and my friends in MORE who gave me the opportunity to run in a statewide election and see that there were a whole lot of teachers whose activism was celebrated rather than penalized by union presidents. I'm thankful to Norm Scott for dragging me to an AFT convention where I watched each and every UFT rep being told how to vote by some guy at a lectern rather than rank and file. 

I'm thankful for each and every person who takes a little time daily to read this little blog. I'm thankful for the amazing internet that makes not only this, but other social media possible. I'm thankful to parents like Jeanette Deutermann and Leonie Haimson who look at education, see what's best for kids, and work to attain it. I'm grateful to thinkers like Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch who cut straight through all the noise and nonsense and speak logic to it.

This is a tough time, but we are tough people. We chose this work, we chose these children, and we will stand up for them each and every day. We will not lie down and allow demagogues to walk over us. We will speak truth to power and education to privatizers. We will advocate for the best education for our children and students no matter what nonsense comes from Washington and Albany.

I'm ready to fight for American children no matter what foul winds blow from DC and Albany. We don't just teach history. We make it and I'm absolutely thankful to play some small part in it.

Finally, I'm thankful for each and every one of you who will join me in that struggle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Danielson's Guide to a Highly Effective Thanksgiving

Full disclosure--found on the internet, unattributed. 

Ineffective: You don't know how to cook a turkey. You serve a chicken instead. Half your family doesn't show because they are unmotivated by your invitation, which was issued at the last minute via facebook. The other half turn on the football game and fall asleep. Your aunt tells your uncle where to stick the drumstick and a brawl erupts. Food is served on paper plates in front of the TV. You watch the game, and root for the Redskins.

Developing: You set the alarm, but don't get up and the turkey is undercooked. 3 children are laughing while you say grace. 4 of your nephews refuse to watch the game with the rest of the family because you have failed to offer differentiated game choices. Conversation during dinner is marked by family members mumbling under their breath at your Aunt Rose, who confuses the Mayflower with the Titanic after her third Martini. Only the drunk guests thank you on the way out. Your team loses the game.

Effective: The turkey is heated to the right temperature. All the guests, whom you have invited by formal written correspondence, arrive on time with their assigned dish to pass. Your nephew sneaks near the desert dish, but quickly walks away when you mention that it is being saved until after dinner. You share a meal in which all family members speak respectfully in turn as they share their thoughts on the meaning of Thanksgiving. All foods served at the table can be traced historically to the time of the Pilgrims. You watch the game as a family, cheer in unison for your team. They win.

Highly Effective
: The turkey, which has been growing free range in your back yard, comes in your house and jumps in the oven. The guests, who wrote to ask you please be invited to your house, show early with foods to fit all dietary and cultural needs. You watch the game on tape, but only as an video prompt for your family discussion of man's inhumanity to man. Your family plays six degrees of Sir Francis Bacon and is thus able to resolve, once and for all, the issue of whether Oswald acted alone.

Originally posted November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1972 Is Not the Time to Criticize Leadership, and It's Always 1972

At this time, we can't criticize leadership. For goodness sake, Donald Trump is President-elect, and is planning all kinds of bad stuff.

No, at this time, we can't be indulging in what Randi Weingarten and Leo Casey call a "circular firing squad." This is no time to be assigning blame. Now is the time for all good unionists to come together and do whatever the hell we are told. Because in a democratic union, everyone must learn the vital skill of sitting down, shutting up, and swallowing the Unity party line. In fact, UFT's "Team High School,"which includes absolutely no elected representation from high schools, is offering important courses taught by patronage employees who certainly know all the ins and outs of these important rules. I know this because I go to the DA and other patronage employees hand me flyers to distribute.

Because when we're facing an enemy like Donald Trump,  Who Shall Not Be Named, it's time for us to all stand together. We need to give up all those petty partisan battles and simply do whatever it is that leadership says. In these times, we cannot afford to show disunity. We need to get together and contribute to COPE, because if we don't, patronage employees like this one would have to scrap by on a miserable teacher salary. How can we expect her to do such a thing?

It's kind of like another time, when we were heavily involved in the Presidential election. Then it was time we all stood together, because we needed to elect Hillary Clinton President. Those of us who supported Bernie Sanders needed to come to our senses, because everyone remembered what happened when we ran McGovern in 1972. That was a Big Mistake, getting behind someone who opposed the Vietnam War. We learned from that mistakes and made sure to not get behind someone who wanted universal health care, a living wage, a college for all. Too bad no one noticed it wasn't 1972 anymore, but this is no time to criticize leadership.

In any case, when Hillary won the primary, it was time to give up all that divisive nonsense, jump on the bandwagon, and make phone calls. This was a time for us to stand together. After all, the AFT had done a scientific survey that said we liked Hillary better than Bernie anyway. Sure we never saw the survey, we never had a vote in it, we never had a vote in AFT, and we never knew who was surveyed, but it was best we stood together.

Before that, we faced Governor Cuomo, who was our sworn enemy. Of course we hadn't opposed him in the Working Families Primary, and we hadn't opposed him in the Democratic Primary. In fact, we didn't even oppose him in the general election. Nonetheless, when we face an enemy like that we need to stand together as one. We can't be bickering amongst ourselves. After all, he was going to pass an APPR law based on junk science. Of course UFT President Michael Mulgrew took part in writing it, so we stood together and supported it.

And then when Cuomo said the law wasn't strong enough, we needed to stand together in opposition. Except it turned out that, when it got passed anyway, Michael Mulgrew, for reasons that have always eluded me, thanked the Assembly for doing so. Of course, at that time, we had to come together and not criticize leadership.We can't afford disunity at times like these.

And before Cuomo, there was Bloomberg, who was very bad. We had to stand together against him, because with an adversary like that, we had to stand together with leadership. After we endorsed a number of Democratic primary candidates, Bloomberg won. We failed to oppose him when he ran again, and we failed to oppose him when he defied the twice-voiced will of the people for term limits. But we were under assault and this was no time to speak against union leadership.

And then there was Giuliani, who said teachers "stink" and didn't want to give teachers raises. I wasn't really active in union matters back then, but I assume that was also a bad time to criticize union leadership.

The only problem is, really, that union leadership locks itself up at 52 Broadway, hears nothing but the voices of loyalty oath signers, and sends them out to represent us no matter how outlandishly unqualified they may be.

Is it any wonder we find ourselves on the losing end of so many crucial elections?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dubious Advantages of Advantage Care

On Friday night my daughter complained of pain in her leg. She had done some sort of spectacular jump to get somewhere, and it somehow caught up with her. She thought she may have hurt herself somehow, and wanted to go to an urgent care. I decided to try out the Advantage Care facility even though it was about 15 minutes away from our home. Why not save fifty bucks?

So we drove over there, and it turned out to be in the second floor of an office building. There was no sign outside. I was glad we'd looked up the address. We had to get out of the car and look into the windows to even find it, but we did.

We walked into a room full of people waiting. It was pretty dark, but it reminded me very much of an ER. I got the same sense of impending dread I get in ERs, to wit, how many hours am I gonna be stuck here? The receptionist informed us that we would have to wait until all those people were seen before we'd be seen. She also told us they didn't have an x-ray machine, which is pretty much standard in every other urgent care facility I'd ever entered.

My daughter started asking questions, and the woman became exasperated and referred her to the nurse. The nurse was pretty friendly, and took my daughter to a room in the back, after which she came out and informed me that they couldn't help her very much and if we wanted their lack of help we'd have to wait a pretty long time for it.  The nurse again mentioned we'd have to wait for all those people.

I said let's go, and my daughter looked up nearby urgent care facilities on her phone. We found a CityMD facility, they had an X-ray machine, and we followed the GPS over there. It took about five minutes. We walked into a bright and clean facility, with several friendly receptionists. True, we had to fill out some paperwork. We also had to wait about five more minutes before she was seen.

But the doctor spent a lot of time with her. On the negative side, we had to actually pay the fifty bucks. But I got the distinct sense that you get what you pay for. The Advantage Care facility is not convenient to where we live. Were it more urgent, we couldn't have taken the time to go there. Is it worth waiting hours to save fifty bucks? Well, if they haven't got the tools for the job, it certainly isn't.

I'm not independently wealthy or anything, but I don't want to sit around for hours waiting for a doctor I don't even know. It's better than sitting around at an emergency room waiting for the same thing, I suppose. But if I can avoid that by paying, I will. Would you want to sit in a room full of people and wait to save fifty bucks?

NYPD is still paying fifteen bucks for a co-pay at urgent care. I saw a note to that effect behind the desk at CityMD. Of course, they haven't got crack negotiators like Michael Mulgrew and all the smart people he's always talking about working for them. I've been to events where UFT employees get up and tell us how lucky we are to have higher co-pays. You see, no money is deducted from our paychecks. Somehow, it's a great advantage to have the money deducted directly from our pockets.

But thanks to UFT leadership, we now have the right to seek insufficient care with long waits at lower prices.  Unless, of course, we live in the Bronx. People in the Bronx have to drive to other boroughs if they want to wait on long lines for poorly-equipped urgent care.

But there's always a silver lining. You can rest assured the UFT employees who preach to us about what a great deal the increased co-pays are make a whole lot more in salary than we do. So there's that. But there are also a few more years before Mulgrew keeps his promise to save all that money on health care, so co-pays can go up more, choices can become fewer, and the big claim that nothing more is deducted from our paycheck can go up in smoke pretty much any time.

This is what we gave up in exchange for getting what NYPD got in 2009, except we get it eleven years later. Oh, and for adding on the lowest pattern bargain I've seen in my life. You can be sure our brother and sister unionists will be thanking us for many years to come.