Monday, August 17, 2009

Mr. Mulgrew's Mighty Missive

I read with interest the first union-wide communique from newly-selected UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Here's a statement I liked:

Our students shouldn't pay the price with larger class sizes, overcrowded schools, outdated textbooks and fewer after-school and enrichment programs.

That's a worthy goal. But it's also worth mentioning that the UFT declared victory on the class size issue over a year ago. Moreover, it's done nothing whatsoever to alter the class size regulations of the UFT contract--the only instrument that has effectively capped class size since well before I began teaching in 1984.

There are a few more disturbing lines:

While you deserve all the credit for the steady improvements in student achievement in recent years, I know that the school system's relentless focus on standardized schooling has taken a toll.

The "steady improvements" Mr. Mulgrew cites are entirely those of test scores, the same "improvements" that Arne Duncan talks about when he's shilling for Rupert Murdoch's ultra-right wing New York Post. Anyone following the work of Diane Ravitch over the past few years, or reading the New York Times, might question just how valid these statistics are.

It is sorely disappointing to find our union president taking them at face value.

Mr. Mulgrew manages to get in a few snide remarks about those who question the value of potty patrol, 90-day unpaid suspensions based on unsubstantiated charges, thousands of teachers stuck as ATRs, and failure to oppose the mayoral control that's instilled fear and loathing the likes of which I haven't seen in 25 years:

That commitment, dedication and pragmatism are what define us and set us apart from those who prefer rhetoric to results and "just say no" to progress.

That's an interesting snipe from someone who seems to, like Arne Duncan, take Mayor Bloomberg's word for what progress is. Then there's this:

...when we stand and work together, listen and act intelligently, and resist pettiness and partisanship, we accomplish great things.

I'm afraid the "great things" we've achieved have largely eluded me. I'm glad to get rid of the August punishment days Mr. Mulgrew's caucus brought us, but I question whether eating our young made it worth it, particularly after all the sanctimonious nonsense I read from Unity Caucus members about how we chose not to do so on the 05 contract, in which we gave away the sun, the moon and the stars.

And sadly, by "pettiness and partisanship," it appears Mr. Mulgrew is suggesting no dissent whatsoever from a myopic leadership that just partnered with a charter chain that publicly rejects both tenure and seniority rights Does Mr. Mulgrew find preserving those rights tantamount to saying "no to progress?" Tough to say. Membership in his elite Unity Caucus entails an oath not to publicly contradict Unity Caucus positions. Does Mr. Mulgrew feel that prohibition should apply to all working teachers?

That would be an ironic request to make of those of us whose job entails promoting and inspiring critical thought in young people.

Thanks to David Bellel, photoshop guy extraordinaire!
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