Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Call of the Blog

 I didn't write anything yesterday, and I feel as though I've violated some sacred oath. But this blog has been my constant companion for over fifteen years, and I can feel it calling me.

It called me in 2005, after years of watching teachers and our union vilified for the crime of serving New York City's 1.1 million students. It called me to stand up and tell people that the stories trashing us in the tabloids and yes, even the sacred cow/ NY Times were nonsense.

I'd just begun a marginal bond with UFT, being published in NYC Teacher a few times, when I saw the 2005 Contract and was absolutely horrified. It looked like a serious degradation of working conditions, especially egregious under virtual education dictator Michael Bloomberg. I was livid and spent hours on the now dead UFT blog Edwize arguing the lack of merit I saw there. This placed me out of NYC Teacher and failed to earn me Christmas gifts from UFT leadership. Surely some are still angry at me for that, but what can you do?

Three years or so into this blog, I ran for and won the job of chapter leader of Francis Lewis High School. It's one of the two most demanding jobs I've held in my life (the other, of course, being teaching). It's really rewarding to actually help people, and I've developed a pretty thorough network of support for those I represent. I have people contacting me from elsewhere as well, and I'm frequently able to hook them up with those who can help. In fact, I'm pretty sure I worked at this job from March right until now, with little in the way of breaks, but I'm good with that. 

I also spent over ten years involved, at various levels, with opposition caucuses. I never aspired to run for UFT President, though. I'm practical. That was a losing proposition. While I have respect for people who did that, I wasn't running around campaigning for a job I was sure to lose. I did run a few times for HS Executive Board. I thought we had a chance of winning. In fact, the second time I tried it, MORE entered into an alliance with New Action, and we actually won. 

Of course, that was before The Great Purge of 2018, when all alliances were burned, when all my friends were kicked out, ostensibly over using bad language or some other such nonsense, but really because a few jackasses needed to establish control. They then ran again, and got their asses kicked fairly well as some of my friends and I ran with Unity, I was pretty surprised they even asked us.

Because some in MORE are involved in some particular sort of socialism or other, and because we aren't, they wrote some ridiculous email labeling us as "right-wingers" and boasting of getting rid of us. Because I'm not a particularly fanatical ideologue subscribing to whatever philosophy they espouse, and I'm not really interested in pretending to, I wasn't going to ask forgiveness, or get in line, or whatever the hell it was they were demanding. Full disclosure--there are a few people in MORE I really like. There are a few others who I really do not.

MORE has a pretty good thing going right now with demands for closing the schools. That's a message that resonates on social media. I can see the attractiveness of that message. Of course MORE was supportive of the potential strike as well, which demanded no such thing. And of course it's still led by the same intolerant jackasses who ejected my friends. Short-term, their message looks good, but long-term, they are not leaders.

Leaders have to tolerate various points of view and bring people together. That's far from an easy task. For example, a good portion of our union are Trump voters. I've heard guesses of 20-30%. While I'm by no means sure of the percentage, you can't just call them right wingers and toss them out of the union. And that's a far cry from calling people who are by no means right wingers and tossing them out of caucuses. I'd argue that Unity is more tolerant of diverse points of view than MORE. I'd also argue that, for all the fervor MORE places in remote learning, that's not the agenda of those who lead the caucus.

Now you don't have to agree with me. That's fine. No one's perfect. But someone is going to improve the United Federation of Teachers. I'd like to be part of that change. Wherever I go, and whoever I follow, it's this blog that's led me there. I'm grateful for all the places it's taken me. 

I have to reflect on everything, simply because the blog forces me to. You can't write about anything you haven't thought about. Here's what I think now--I think a large group of our members pay attention to neither MORE, Unity, nor UFT at all. I think that's a problem for us. I think they have no idea what union even is, and that this is a defect we all need to work to correct. After we get through this crisis, that needs to be a priority.

If you're even reading this, I'm probably not talking about you. There might be a silent majority, or there might not, but being silent ought not to preclude being informed. After the current apocalypse, none of us from any or no faction or caucus can afford to ignore that.

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