Wednesday, October 06, 2021

On Cozying Up to Reformies and Endorsing Our Enemies

I was pretty shocked the other day when leadership moved to endorse Eric Adams for mayor. I shouldn't have been because it was reported elsewhere, but that's on me. 

Now there's a saying to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I see Randi in the photo there with Bloomberg and I don't blame her for trying to work things out with him. However, I vividly recall that he he ended up being our worst adversary in my career, at least, and making nice with him paid off not at all. (Don't get me started on trying to be buddies with Bill Gates, who walked out of being keynote at an AFT convention and immediately started attacking teacher pensions.) 

One person at our meeting suggested we ought not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that we ought to be more optimistic. I'd suggest that reforminess is not only not perfect, not good, but that it is the single most important factor in diminishing our union and profession over the last two decades. Every teacher in America is still feeling Race to the Top, initiated by the administration of a President we endorsed. As for being more optimistic, I'd suggest it's far more important to learn from experience. Doubtless you've heard the expression that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

On Monday night, Michael Mulgrew announced that Eric Adams was meeting with Bloomberg, which didn't surprise me in the least. After all, Adams took six million dollars from a pro-charter group. Mulgrew himself told us that anti-union groups like so-called Students First were trying to take City Hall back. And yet now we are poised to endorse Adams. Are we indirectly endorsing Students First?

Make no mistake, this group is anti-union. Most charter employees are not unionized and work on temporary contracts. Charter school employees I know jump from school to school every few years and take it in stride. Making teaching into a gig rather than a career helps neither students nor teachers, and we should oppose it absolutely. 

Reformies, on the other hand, can suggest nonsense like teachers don't improve after the first two years, and splash that in tabloids where people may buy it. The fact is working teachers learn constantly, and those who don't can't hack a demanding job like this. While Moskowitz can hand prefab lesson plans to her disposable teachers, or hire her unqualified son to teach whatever, those of us who plan our own lessons give a piece of ourselves to our students. We are all different, and teacher voice can and should be more influential and helpful to kids than endless test prep.

I heard various rationales for supporting Adams. One was that he only supported charters because he supported parental choice. That was unpersuasive. Charters, in fact, are the privatization of education for profit, and no, it does not matter whether or not charters call themselves non-profit. Eva Moskowitz, for example, doesn't do this for fun, and pays herself around 800K a year.

We know how privatization works. I have known people who've died for lack of health care, or for fear of going broke for an ER visit. For years, I've seen musicians I admire hold fundraising events to pay their medical bills, something unheard of in most countries. Privatized prisons have bought off judges who sent kids there. The city is now offering so-called Medicare Advantage to retirees. Even if it ends up offering coverage equivalent to government-run Medicare, there's something unethical about our supporting privatization. We should work to make health care a public good.

So personally, I don't care why Adams supports charters, although the six million dollar contribution is a large clue to me. I'm pro-union, and most charters are anti-union. Many charter teachers lack the options and freedom they need to develop teacher voice, and I don't believe children benefit from being marched around like toy soldiers and peeing themselves because they're too frightened to take bathroom breaks. Students First will want a return on their six million dollar investment, and I'm sure improving conditions in public schools will not be one of them. They'd just as soon close us all down and make more money off the backs of all city kids.

While charters may have been conceived as a way to offer more academic freedom, they've been hijacked by people who aim to profit off of education, cripple union, and reduce teachers to script-readers. Our children don't  need terrified wage slaves as role models, and deserve to grow up with opportunities better than becoming charter school teachers or Walmart "associates." (And it's no coincidence that the Walmart family gives heavily to charters. When they found people wouldn't support vouchers in open elections, that was the next go-to.)

You can rationalize Adams' support of charters by saying he only wants parental choice. I can rationalize Thanos clicking his fingers and destroying half of all life by saying it's good for the environment. But these are pathetically weak arguments. 

And yes, I know that Adams' opponent is a lowlife who means us no good. That said, Adams is no bargain either, and a veritable shoo-in. It seems we get everything wrong at every step in every mayoral race. We've looked foolish many, many times, and once Adams starts sticking it to us, we'll look foolish (at best) again. 

We should be neutral in this race. 

If you really want to vote for a candidate, I suggest you write in my dog Toby. He stayed with me every day when I taught remotely, and was a fabulous co-teacher, inspiring both me and my students. He is head, tail, and shoulders preferable to either of the major candidates.

Forget Adams. Forget Sliwa. The people's choice is Toby in 2021.

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