Saturday, June 18, 2016

UFT Unity and Corporate Values

Leonie Haimson is one of the smartest people I know, and I did myself a disservice by failing to pay close enough attention to her comment:

How dare MORE fight for professional autonomy and against a corporate driven agenda! Who do you think you are?

I'd been looking at the relative truthiness of the ridiculous Unity leaflet and didn't immediately recognize the precise words Leonie was referencing:

MORE urged students to opt out of the state tests as a means of protecting the professional autonomy of educators and fighting against a corporate driven education system. 

Now think about that. That is meant as a criticism. Sure, it leads to their nonsensical and misleading assertions about a reward program. But take it on its face, and think about what it implies--precisely what Leonie said it did. Why on earth would any reasonably informed teacher not wish to fight a corporate driven education system? Anyone who's read Diane Ravitch's books knows how destructive and counter-productive such a system is. 

So you have to ask yourself--has UFT Unity leadership bothered to read Ravitch? If so, why would they criticize us? Actually there's a whole lot of evidence that UFT Unity actively supports a corporate driven education system. Do you remember when Mulgrew told the DA that it was necessary for us to participate in the Gates MET system, the one that judged "good" teaching by test scores? 

Does anyone remember the Bill Gates sponsored MET program being a precursor to Race to the Top, which mandated junk science ratings for teachers? Do we remember Michael Mulgrew going to Albany, then coming back and boasting of having helped write the APPR law that made junk science part of our ratings? Do we remember his telling the DA last Wednesday that the "matrix" would take authority away from principals? Doesn't that just mean the junk science is a higher percentage of our rating? Why not just make teacher ratings 100% based on crapshoots? After all, recent research suggests that VAM is never accurate, reliable or valid. So, while it's fairly amazing to see the President of the United Federation of Teachers boasting that we're increasing its value, it certainly helps explain UFT Unity's disgust with those of us who fight against a corporate driven education system. 

Ravitch suggests in Death and Life of the Great American School System that mayoral control is a corporate tool to bypass and subvert democracy. Yet UFT leadership has endorsed it twice, and under uber-reformy Michael Bloomberg to boot. The second time, after it had proven virtually toxic to working teachers and community schools, UFT leadership demanded a few changes, failed to get them, and went ahead and supported it anyway. Now Mulgrew says he supports it, but not as is. Nonetheless mayoral control bypasses community. Those of us who oppose a corporate driven education system oppose it completely. 

The icing on the top of the cake, of course, was when AFT invited Bill Gates to be the keynote at its convention. I've given a lot of thought to what Gates represents, and it certainly isn't working public school teachers or the kids we serve. In fact, shortly after visiting AFT, Gates criticized teacher pensions, calling them a free lunch. I don't know about you, but I've been working for 32 years, and I've earned each and every penny of that pension. Now, with our legislature working on ways to take it away, I'm not seeing the wisdom of cozying up to those who hate us and everything we stand for. Every time we give them something, they want more. We support Gates and he comes for our pensions. We support charters and they come for our tenure. Appeasement didn't work for Chamberlain then and doesn't work for Mulgrew now. 

As for professional autonomy, that's tough to achieve when you're judged by a checklist. Naturally that checklist is endorsed by UFT Unity, because they love them some Danielson. And yet Danielson herself is backing away on it. UFT Unity, whose leaders have never been judged by Danielson, can happily pretend that a rubric makes everything fair, or that all administrators make low inference notes rather than obeying the voices in their heads. But those of us on the ground know better.

Interestingly, when my friend Julie Cavanagh opposed the 2014 contract, UFT Unity's Leo Casey accused her of being against teacher empowerment. This was because the contract contained the PROSE initiative, so Leo made a handy strawman which ignored Julie's real objections and substituted words she'd never uttered. You know, Julie couldn't possibly be talking about the fact that the contract enabled two-tier due process, got us paid a decade after everyone else, or dumped the worst pattern I've ever seen on our brother and sister unionists (considerably worse than those for which we'd criticized DC37 in the past). No, she must have been criticizing PROSE, which was absolutely perfect even though it had never been tested, let alone utilized.

UFT Unity needs to fight dirty because it has no argument. I guess when everyone around you has signed a loyalty oath, you don't expect to ever need one. The only thing UFT Unity knows is that everything it does is right. When Bloomberg wants to use eight components of Danielson, it's an outrage. Unity fights for 22, which is ideal. When Unity pares it down to seven, it's a great victory. No more 22, which is awful. When we get artifacts added, it's a great victory. When we get them removed, it's also a great victory. And what they complain about is pretty much the only thing that's drawn Cuomo, at least ostensibly, out of his relentless assault on teachers.

Unity's arguments stem not from reason or practice, but rather from the outlandish assumption that everything it does is right. Therefore everything its opponents do must be wrong. The relative value or lack thereof of Unity positions means nothing. Their arguments come from backing themselves up no matter what, rather than from any basic value or standard. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to swap out positions as often as you or I change our socks. 

Now they've taken a stand against basic values set out by visionary education expert Diane Ravitch. I don't know about you, but I'm proud to stand with Ravitch, with activist parents, and with communities. Unity can continue to alienate all of us and paint itself into corners by making outlandish assertions simply to insult the most vibrant and thoughtful activist group in the UFT. 

But MORE/ New Action is just getting started. We will continue to speak the truth and Unity can squirm and spout its convoluted logic all it likes.

Or they can simply join us to improve our working conditions, which are precisely student learning conditions. Because whatever they choose, we aren't backing down and we aren't going away.   
blog comments powered by Disqus