Monday, July 25, 2016

UFT Unity and the Vision Thing

Over at Ednotes Online, a bold Unity Caucus member is making anonymous comments to the effect that CTU has been assimilated and resistance is futile. CTU voted as a bloc, and therefore, with no evidence whatsoever, this commenter declares that we are stranded, alone, and that things are hopeless. That's a wholly ironic vision because a whole lot of teachers in NYC feel the same way.

They feel this way because they're caught in a vindictive and unreasonable system. UFT Unity would like you to forget that the new rating system was ushered in by a law their leader, Michael Mulgrew, proclaimed he had a hand in writing. This law made junk science 40% of teacher ratings. Andrew Cuomo loved this, until not enough teachers got fired. He then pushed another law that made junk science 50% of teacher rating. Mulgrew likes this because, he says, this gives less power to administrators.

When we in MORE openly oppose junk science, Mulgrew's people make up nonsense, saying that we want principals to have 100% discretion over evaluations. That's what's called a strawman fallacy. When you can't address your opponent's argument, you just change it, and try to make your opponent address the argument you just invented. It's ridiculous. What we say is that teachers ought not to be evaluated by invalid criteria. In fact, a vindictive administrator could make stuff up and sink a teacher based on observation alone. I have seen video evidence of administrators simply fabricating what happened in classrooms.

Mulgrew argues that more teachers have their ratings brought up by test scores than brought down. That's fine if you fall into that category. But I personally know someone whose rating was brought down to ineffective via test scores alone. If I know one person, there are plenty more. There's an old tenet of English law called Blackstone's Formulation, that says:

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.

In American parlance, that means you are innocent until proven guilty, and that is the bedrock of American justice.  Another portion of the Mulgrew-endorsed agreement is that teachers, twice judged ineffective and confirmed so by the UFT Rat Squad, are guilty until proven innocent. I have actually seen UFT Unity people defend this, saying teachers should own the process. What this tells me is that those people will say any damn thing to defend their actions, whether or not said actions are beneficial to UFT members. When your core value is justifying what your caucus has done rather than representing members to the best of your ability, there's something very very wrong.

UFT Unity has no problem smearing opt-out based on outright lies to justify their position. They'd
would like to portray us as a bunch of lunatics who run around screaming for no reason. Now anyone who knows me, including my students, will tell you that I don't do that. I scream for effect, to grab or focus attention. My tendency when angry in the classroom is to be very quiet and think about how to fix things. I let the children scream while I figure out the best way of dealing with it. My default is certainly not screaming mode. 

I was elected by the high school teachers of NYC to represent them, and that I will do. What I see is a lot of uncertainly and misery, and that is fostered by ridiculous policies that benefit no one but reformies who hate union and wish to see it eradicated. What I see is a leadership that supports mayoral control, charter schools, colocation, and an erosion of seniority benefits. I see a leadership content to offer 20,000 high school teachers no representation whatsoever in NYSUT, NEA or AFT. I see a leadership that offers ATRs no representation anywhere at all.

I see a leadership that lives in a virtual fishbowl, communication only with people who've signed oaths to support them. I see a leadership that fails to engage rank and file. I see a President who shuns social media but musters the audacity to urge the rest of us to use it as he instructs us. I see a top-down model that criticizes top-down models and perceives no irony whatsoever in doing so.

And now I see seven voices on an Executive Board of 102 who will speak truth to bureaucracy, to reforminess. I'm proud to be part of this long overdue breath of fresh air in Dracula's castle over at 52 Broadway. They can continue to raise petty objections and indulge in juvenile nonsense behind our backs, but they will find the truth in their faces at the Executive Board and elsewhere.

To maintain that we do this simply to be contrary is another strawman. It would be so much easier to simply join Unity, go on free trips, and get some cool union gig in some office somewhere. But someone has to represent the people in the trenches, the people subject to the APPR endorsed by Michael Mulgrew. If he says this is the best of all possible worlds, every single one of his loyalty oath signers is bound to say, "Yes Mike that's absolutely correct.

In fact it's absolutely wrong, and the misery of people doing the work is palpable. Someone needs to be the voice of these people. Right now we are that voice. I'm very proud to represent my long-neglected brothers and sisters, and I will try to work with UFT Unity to do that. If they wish to move forward rather than indulge in petty nonsensical squabbles, I'm happy to do that too.

Time will tell whether or not they are up to the task.
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