Monday, July 20, 2015

The Looney Tunes of Educational Deformity

So, what's your biggest surprise and saddest realization in this era of educational deformity?  Has it been that the likes of Michelle Rhee blame teachers for poverty in America?  Or, that a lady who taped students' mouths shut to the point of bleeding could become a corporate-backed spokeswoman for educational "reform"?  Has it been that schools--which need to be places of nurture and comfort for the well-being of society--have turned into engines of stress, demoralizing students and turning teachers from the profession.

Has it been that over-brained technocrats concoct supposedly scientific formulas to measure teachers based on student test scores--which common sense tells us is nonsense?  Has it been that test companies profit immensely by trying to sell the idea that test scores are minorities' tickets to freedom?  Or, that two-faced "reformers" in ivory towers refuse to send their kids to schools that preach their own gospel?  Is it that some people, short on humanity, think music, art and physical ed. should be slashed to make room for more test prep?

In my mind, although all of these things bother me immensely, the biggest surprise, and the saddest realization, is that, too many times, my Union has been a part of the problem.  Instead of working exclusively for the interests of my profession, at critical junctures, it has abandoned me and my peers.  It oversaw the creation of a two-tier system by which older teachers, working with underprivileged kids might become long-term ATRs, scapegoats writ large.  It set up its own charters with big help from the Broad Foundation and Steve Barr, even engaging, itself, in a hostile co-location.  It championed Bill Gates and his Common Core.  It originally gave us twenty-two domains from hell to supposedly "gum up" all of our works, complemented by test-based junk science.  And, it staunchly defends the annual testing that sucks so much joy out of teaching and learning. Our Union seems an entity separate from teachers with interests which differ markedly at times from our own.

But with a system set up so the ruling party in the U.F.T., Unity, doesn't need to please its rank and file, why would anyone expect anything different?  Unity has guaranteed its stranglehold on power by blatant and ongoing manipulation of the political process.  When high-school teachers elected a non-Unity rep, Unity changed the rules to make the position at large.  When fear set in that chapter leaders might elect non-Unity district reps., the position became an appointment.  In anticipation of the 2013 elections, Unity raised the weight of retiree votes--when most unions do not allow retirees to vote at all.  There is nothing subtle here.  If I am wrong or unfair in these statements, someone please put me right.  I would like nothing more.  It's depressing.

Instead of worrying about the fact that only eighteen percent of active members voted in 2013, Unity rejoiced in its victory.  Retirees made up 52% of the total vote.  In a winner-take-all system, Unity squelches some of the City's most intelligent, but independent-thinking pro-Union voices.  It squelches the voices of smaller locals on Long Island and upstate.  It squelches voices through its sway in NYSUT and the AFT.

When 750-800 Unity members all promise to vote the same way for their meal ticket, specifically as told, even if not told the specifics of what they're voting for, you can join Leo Casey in calling it "parliamentary democracy" (surely not a loyalty oath, for that term is offensive to leadership!) or you can see it symptomatic of a potentially fatal sickness.  I see it as the latter.

Image result for what's up doc

So, what will the Unity "yes" men and women say if the Supreme Court rules against Unions in the Friedrichs case?  What will they say when so many of the rank and file no longer think it worthwhile to pay their salaries--and, that independent opposition is among the few who truly understand the importance of a Union?

What will those who banked on advancing themselves, "professionally and politically," out of the classroom via their Union say?  What will all those people who fervently defend a patently non-representative system say when it's farewell to their double-pensioned jobs with pretty perks?  It will be full speed ahead with the propaganda engines, but they'll probably fail to realize that they--or the system they upheld--were part of the problem.  They'll probably fail to realize that they failed to adequately represent their constituency.  They'll probably fail to realize that a great many people fail to feel any connection with them or feel any particular fondness.  They'll probably fail to realize that "parliamentary democracy," Unity-style, hasn't worked.  Sadly, it may be too late for Unionism.

blog comments powered by Disqus