If you ask one of the 800 UFT members we sent to Seattle why on earth they invited Bill Gates to the convention, they'll say, "We need to be proactive and engage him." That's what Randi Weingarten says, so that's what they say too. I've heard that from her, I've heard it from commenters on this site, and I've also heard it from Peter Goodman in the comments at Gotham Schools.
Engagement, though, entails conversation, give and take. Inviting a person to be the featured speaker at your national convention, with no Q and A, is something else altogether. That, frankly, appears more an endorsement. The fact that you applaud this person wildly and ridicule anyone who'd question your choice serves to emphasize this position. But nonetheless, you maintain it's engagement. So now you've engaged the guy who's placed his billions of dollars behind, among other things, linking student test scores to teacher employment. Perhaps you've told him that there is no research whatsoever to support this move. Or perhaps not, since this "engagement" is not made public.
But since you're so modern-minded, and so engaging, you'd think there'd be some positive result. Instead, hundreds of DC teachers are summarily fired. And in NYC, the next experimentation ground for this "engagement strategy, the Daily News and the New York Post both call for more teachers to be fired, just as they were in DC.
Wow. This "engagement" strategy is really paying off. We've had no raise for three years, and we're facing firing for no good reason. But as AFT leadership would certainly tell you, that's a small price to pay for making Randi Weingarten look like a new kind of union leader--the kind that doesn't trouble herself worrying over whether her members make more money or lose their jobs.
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