Friday, February 13, 2015

Dueling Forums

Last night I attended a Queens forum devoted to responding to the Luv Gov’s insane pronouncements about education. It was a community affair, well represented by teachers, politicians and public school parents. I signed up to speak and my talk was very well received. I didn’t stick to what I’d planned, because the very first speaker said a lot of what I was going to say.

A significant sign these forums are having an effect was the fact that there was someone outside handing out pro-Cuomo nonsense. I decided to make a few of my original points about who would teach ESL, special ed. or gifted students. I added a point by point response to the preposterous claims on the form.  (Maybe that will be my next blog.)

There were several great speakers there, and there was great spirit in the room. While this meeting was organized by UFT, it felt, as intended, like grassroots. Anyone who wanted to speak could speak. There was no one to call you out of order, no one to tell everyone else how to vote, and the crowd was responsive and enthusiastic. Money quote of the night was from Assemblyman Ron Kim, who said, “We’ve been asking teachers to make lemonade out of oranges for 20 years."

I can’t help but contrast that with the UFT Delegate Assembly the night before, where Mulgrew would look over to one side and say, “I thought you people over there knew everything.” Where Mike Schirtzer from MORE expresses opposition to Common Core and Mulgrew snorts, “Oh, one of those.”

I got very loud applause when I complained about standardized testing, when I asked who knew my kids better than I do, and who could write tests for them better than I could.  It’s ironic, because at the DA, that aforementioned Mike Schirtzer introduced a resolution to support opting out, a resolution that’s been approved by a lot of smaller NY State locals. This proposal was scuttled by UFT Unity. It was attacked first because it mentions NYSUT and the NY Board of Education, but these, if they were really the issue, were technical and the language could easily have been modified. The more important issue, to my amazement, was that parents supposedly value tests.

Apparently UFT leadership is unfamiliar with movement around the rest of the state to refuse testing. They are also unaware of the sheer volume of opposition to Common Core and the developmentally inappropriate nonsense that comes along with it. After Mulgrew told the world he would punch it in the face and push it in the dirt if it laid its filthy paws on his Common Core, there’s not much chance of a 180 degree turn anytime soon.

Of course, once a UFT officer stood up in opposition to the “I Refuse” resolution, that meant it was time for everyone who wanted the free trip to LA to oppose it. And once it was voted down, there was absolutely no room for discussion. Except for Mulgrew, who took a point of personal privilege. The next speaker, who had the audacity not to share his Word, was shut down mid-sentence.

At the DA, I’m acutely aware that my opinion is unwelcome. No one on the stage wants to hear from anyone with an independent opinion, and I don’t even waste my time raising my hand anymore. The one time I really wanted to say something was when Joel Klein restricted the hours schools could be open. My overcrowded school offered classes hours before and hours after his deadlines, and would have had to pay rent to offer classes. Mulgrew couldn’t see me, dressed in a suit, but called on a Unity member three feet to my left not once, not twice, but three times.

It’s a pretty sick culture in there. We could do a lot better, if anyone in leadership actually gave a golly gosh darn.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could spend our time focused  solely on fighting reforminess? Wouldn’t it be great if leadership would join us and we didn’t need to fight them as well?
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