Thursday, May 29, 2014

How About a Working Teachers Political Party?

I read yesterday that Diane Ravitch will "have a role at Saturday's (WFP) convention."  The Daily News speculated that the Working Families Party might ask Ravitch to run as its candidate for Governor if they fail to endorse Cuomo.  If Ravitch did run, she would help deflect votes from Cuomo who has been unrelenting in his support for Moskowitz's charters (at the expense of the other 90%+ public-school children in NY).  Cuomo has been pounding De Blasio's liberal agenda to a pulp at the same time as he lowers corporate taxes and defends the use of VAM as a weapon against teachers.

What I think we really need today is a new third party, akin to the Populists of the 1800s.  The Populists represented the farmers.  They never won the really big election, but they made gains and more important than anything else they put their views "out there."  Populists' views resonated with a large portion of voters.  Although some ideas fell by the wayside as overly radical, the major parties could not ignore their demands.  It was some time in coming, but the major parties eventually picked up on their ideas for a progressive income tax, the direct election of U.S. senators, greater government regulation of the economy in the name of protecting the people, an eight-hour work day and a greater political voice for women.

Populist Mary Lease was purported to have said (or at least a newspaperman said it for her), farmers  have to "raise less corn and more hell!"  In the past few years under Bloomberg, amid a backdrop of newly created credit-recovery schemes to magically up graduation rates, some "bastardizing" education, I kept thinking "We need to raise fewer grades and more hell!"

If we could form such a party,  we would have to endorse Ravitch for president.  As a teacher, I know Ravitch would help bring light to the issues facing us today.  Although I disagreed with her take on the proposed UFT contract, as did most of those who left comments following her post, I think we all realize that there is probably no other person today who better understands the issues facing teachers and advocates for them in such a thoroughgoing manner.

I have been let down by my Union leadership and all the little people in it who carry out its marching orders.   They accepted mayoral control of education which led to the devastation of the Bloomberg years.  They accepted a demeaning and wasteful system of evaluations which are now enshrined in our proposed contract along with merit pay and a second-class system of due-process for the ATRs.

I think our schools are like ships in the Navy.  We follow the orders handed down to us, sometimes by landlubbers, and try to stay afloat.  We all share a common interest in keeping our ship afloat.  Yet, we must react to strong winds and high tides that bode well for no one.

I am sure many would agree that Chancellor Farina has a much deeper understanding of the issues than former Chancellor Wolcott.  And, I am thankful that she is our Admiral.  Yet, I realize still that much policy is dictated from D.C., and subject to the whims of corporate-backed reformers with much hubris, but little practical classroom experience and an absence of understanding of childhood psychology.

If Ravitch ran, she might be able to generate more conversation about the discourse of educational deformers who identify teachers as scapegoats, over-test children and seek to privatize public education.  In the 1960s, concerned U.S. citizens outright attacked segregation, widespread poverty and war.  Today, these issues are only addressed on the periphery.  Why address them at all when you might have to turn an unfriendly eye towards the rich supporters of so many politicians who would rather use teachers as scapegoats?

I'm not sure how Dr. Ravitch's health is progressing after her knee surgery and if she would truly be in the running on the WFP ticket or a WTP, Working Teachers Party, ticket which could be built from the ground up pretty quickly, I think.  I guess time will tell.  Whatever the case, I think it's pretty clear that a Working Teachers' Party, a.k.a., Working Scapegoats' Party, would have no better ally than Dr. Ravitch.  Let us remember that scapegoats are not "scapesheep."  Each of us has two horns!
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