Friday, February 22, 2019

That Scary Socialism

The pic to the left is a preview of the upcoming GOP presidential campaign, though it's already underway. If they have their way, we won't be discussing whether Americans need the health care most of the world enjoys. Instead, we'll be discussing whether or not it's socialism.

The word has been largely a loser of a label in American culture, and that's what GOP counts on. I was educated in public schools during the Cold War era, and I was taught to loathe those awful Russians, because they were communists. Never mind my grandfather was born there, and was one of the best people I ever met.

I don't call myself a socialist, though some of my friends on the right have labeled me that (and less complimentary things). I do have friends who are varying degrees of socialists. I've been to meetings where one socialist group was criticizing another, and they got right down into the weeds on what was wrong with one or the other. I generally had no idea what they were even talking about.

What I do know is I strongly support health care for all. I don't really care what you call it. Obama promised a public option that never saw the light of day. Medicare for All is the phrase I keep hearing from politicians I like. The GOP response, invariably, is that's socialism and you'll lose your private insurance. It's odd, because I have private insurance and I'll be glad to lose it. I'm tired of the copays and confusion. Once, when I had cancer, I got a hospital bill for thousands of dollars. I was feeling so weak that I just paid rather than question it.

I'm lucky. I've known people I don't know anymore because they're deceased for lack of medical coverage. Americans go bankrupt over catastrophic medical emergency, and last I looked it was the number one cause of bankruptcy here. But we can't have national health coverage because that would be socialism. Donald Trump says we'll never have socialism here and thousands of MAGA hat-wearers cheer.

My father fought in World War Two. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. Toward the end of his life he required care. He had what he thought was insurance in case he had to have at home or nursing home care. His wife soon learned that the insurance covered very few of her expenses. And so, when my father was 92 years old he had to divest himself of most of what he owned, what he'd worked for all his life, so he could receive Medicaid coverage and his wife wouldn't go broke. My brother-in-law's grandmother, in Canada, received better end-of-life care than my dad did, and didn't have to lay out a dime for it.

In case that doesn't sound like much, they also get paid parental leave, which my sister in law took for a year once. Oh, and she also got free child care, though I think that varies by province. Still, it's a lot better than here, where all you're guaranteed is diddly squat.

They say the Green New Deal is socialism, and make ridiculous claims about it. Is it controversial that we need to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren? Evidently it is, with leaders who don't even believe in science anymore. 

Is that socialism too? Does it really matter what on earth we call it? I guess it only matters if you want to continue with the status quo and frighten working Americans into submission. Are we going to allow the next election cycle to pivot over whether or not taking care of one another, as well as the world we inhabit, is socialism? Or are we going to work to give Americans what we overwhelmingly want and need?

Only time will tell, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, the same people who cry socialism put a billboard up in Times Square, vilifying Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for opposing the Amazon deal, you know, the one in which we were to give the richest man in the world 3 billion dollars so he can create jobs that pay 150K each. Actually, we'd be subsidizing them to the tune of 120K each, so it's a bargain for Bezos. Remember when Obama got elected and we bailed out the car companies, along with the banks that caused the crisis?

We've always had what they call socialism in the United States. Whatever you call it, it's obscene when it only benefits rich people, as opposed to those of us going to work every day and trying to get by. If we're gonna put our money somewhere, it ought to be in a vibrant middle class. The policies of the last few decades are making us an endangered species.

I want to hear Democrats tell us why we should vote for them. If their selling point is they aren't socialist, for my money they're playing right into the hands of Donald Trump. We need to do way better than that. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

It's Not Easy to Stand Up---BUT...

 I remembers a Shakespeare teacher I had in college. He told us, "Once someone says but, you may ignore everything that preceded it." When your boyfriend or girlfriend says, "I really love you, but..." it's time to look for a new relationship.

We're at a turning point in the United States, and we can build one in New York City too. With Forest Hills High School making a little splash, we see a model. (They're in Queens Chronicle today, and I happen to know you'll be reading more about FH very shortly.) They're not the first to move with a vote of no confidence in a troublesome principal. CPE1 did the same last year. It's not easy to stand against principals. Principals have too much power, and can be vindictive on multiple levels.

At CPE1 this played out in different ways. The principal seemed totally paranoid of losing control, and as a result placed both the UFT chapter leader and a delegate under 3020a charges. It ought not to be an option for principals to bring people up on charges for the offense of doing their jobs as union reps. Nonetheless, the still-Bloomberg DOE policy is to let principals do Any Damn Thing They Please, no matter what. This, surprisingly, has not been questioned by allegedly progressive Bill de Blasio. It was ignored by Carmen FariƱa, and the current chancellor hasn't lifted a finger to change it either.

Nonetheless, the entire CPE1 community stood with the besieged union members, regularly attended the chapter leader's hearings, and eventually both UFT members were restored as teachers. Typically, the principal was removed but not disciplined. Principals get the message that they can do whatever, disregard the staff and community, get slapped on the wrist, and go on to shuffle papers at Tweed or whatever it is they make them do.

A friend of mine said there were two problems in the UFT--the membership and the leadership. It's said in jest, but it's true. Janus, I believe, has been a wake up call for them. I know it's been one for me. I'm unusual, though, and I'm not glad or proud of it. I'm out here every day saying pretty much whatever I want. While that's not typical, I'd like it to be.

The Forest Hills teachers, I'm sure, would rather not be doing this. No teacher wants to spend time battling administration. Our jobs are already incredibly stressful and time-consuming. Plus, a lot of us have lives outside the classroom. We have families, interests, passions, hobbies, dreams and aspirations. We want those things not only for ourselves, but also for our students. That's one of the reasons many of us went into this.

Make no mistake, our option of having lives is under attack. It's no coincidence that charters are mostly non-union, or that working in them can be unsustainable for people who wish to have lives outside of work. The only thing that matters in some of these places is test scores and how to manipulate them. If that's not the central goal of your existence, you're unlikely to last.

Alas, when you're under assault, fighting back becomes not only a necessity for survival, but also a moral imperative. That's why the members at Forest Hills are speaking and acting right now. Yet in other places this isn't happening. It's certainly not happening in schools where harassment and abuse by administration is not a way of life. It's also not happening in some schools where it is.

I kind of understand. Knowing that the principal is a vindictive lunatic, there's a lot of personal risk in being the first to take a stand. Once, years ago, I told Michael Winerip, then-NY Times education columnist, that I had two students in my beginning ESL classes who were fluent in English but illiterate. The students were misplaced and the school was doing nothing to address their core issue. Winerip asked me if I was tenured, and I told him I was.

Winerip didn't even write about me, but merely sent quotes from me in a fax to the DOE. My then-principal was apoplectic, and told me in great detail how ungrateful I was. I wasn't exactly sure what I was ungrateful for, as this principal had never reached out to help me at all, ever. It didn't matter, though. The principal started calling me into his office, usually at the end of the day, and making me wait so he could tell me how awful I was, and how the appropriate people had covered their asses. (The fact that no one had reached out to help either of these kids was never mentioned. Both helpfully dropped out of school shortly thereafter, resolving the problem.)

This went on for a while, until he denied me new textbooks I needed for my class. I found that the contract said he needed to provide them  The principal not only stopped bothering me, but also bought us books me when I threatened a grievance. Now that was a pain in the ass, but in the scheme of things was relatively nothing. I know many  people who've been through way worse. Not the least of them is the chapter leader of Forest Hills, who evidently gets letters in his file for the egregious offense of being chapter leader of Forest Hills.

This chapter leader, though, has the support of his community, who voted overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in the principal. By ourselves, we are just that--by ourselves. Union means we stand together and support one another. It sucks being the first to stand up, and a whole lot of people don't want to do it. I don't blame them.

Janus is an attempt to destroy union and leave us standing all alone. No one who brought the suit gives a crap how much money we make, and they'd be more than delighted to have us work for minimum wage as at-will employees. If you believe the people who come to your house saying they want to give you a raise, well, you are a fool, a dupe. It's changed leadership and it's changed me. It needs to change all of us.

If we can collectively wake up we can turn a negative into a positive. This is not an easy jump to make, and it won't happen overnight. But it's one of the things I'm going to encourage this year, both publicly and privately. We are stronger than we know. It's time we started not only knowing it, but also acting on it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

On Bernie Bros and Textbook Insanity

Over the last few days I'm seeing a resurgence of the old stereotype about Bernie Bros. I'm always disappointed when people roll out stereotypes. I learned about them when I was very young. I was the only Jewish kid in my elementary classes and my fellow students were more than happy to demonstrate what they were. I went home and asked my father why we weren't Catholic like everyone else. That question cost me ten years of religious instruction that didn't really take.

Bernie Bros, when I first heard it, suggested thuggishness and intolerance, particularly intolerance of the decidedly mediocre Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. I was pretty surprised by that. I was besieged with messages that I hadn't learned anything from the 1972 loss of George McGovern to Richard Nixon. This was a remarkable argument, since we now know that everything McGovern believed about the Vietnam War was correct, and we would've saved many American lives if we'd chosen him.

I'm critical of Democratic candidates, and as a result people have told me how risky that is. I don't want to see Trump elected again, do I? In fact I don't. Maybe it's time we stopped tossing out 1972 as a cautionary tale and updated our collective barometer. It's ironic, because despite being called a Bernie Bro, whatever that means, I voted for Hillary in the general. It didn't much matter that I wasn't fond of her policies. Trump is delusional, racist, and juvenile. He's the worst President I've ever seen, and he makes GW Bush look like Albert Einstein in comparison. (The quote in the photo is often attributed to Einstein, by the way, but there's no evidence he actually said it.)

The takeaway for some of my Hillary-supporting friends is we must not question any Democratic candidate. That's an odd conclusion. The fact is that Hillary managed to lose the election to one of the most unpopular politicians on the planet. And no, it doesn't much matter that she garnered more votes than her opponent. Donald Trump is President of the United States anyway. Why is that?

Quite simply, it's because a whole lot of people didn't deem it worth getting off their asses and voting for her. So what can we conclude from that? Does it mean that we should keep our mouths shut when Democratic hopefuls are unsuitable?

For me, that's already impossible. Cory Booker is no different from Betsy DeVos in educational philosophy. I will not vote for him, ever. The fact is, of the other Democrats, none are great on education. All should be. I'm being turned off by several candidates eager to distance themselves from Sanders. His ideas are widely supported by Americans, and polling shows that.

2016 gave us a "safe" candidate, a candidate who didn't stand for universal health care, reasonable wages, taxes on those who can afford to pay them, and college for all. In case nobody noticed, she failed. Setting us up for another so-so candidate who stands for status quo and not much else will be a catastrophe. So go ahead, call us Bernie Bros. Show your ignorance.

But let's leave it at that. It's important we get a candidate who can pull Americans off their couches to vote. I voted for Hillary last time, and woke up the next day to find Donald Trump was President. I don't intend to do that again, so let's look carefully at the candidates, and nominate someone worth voting for this time.

Forget 1972. Let's make sure we don't repeat 2016.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Forest Hills High School UFT Votes No Confidence in Principal Ben Sherman, 195-21

It's tough being in a leadership position. You have to really gauge what you should and should not do. My position is chapter leader, and I'm acutely aware I have to act in the interests of members. For one thing, it's an elected position. If I'm asleep at the switch, I deserve to be dumped.

It's different if you're a school leader, like a principal. Of course you aren't elected, but it's important to take the temperature of the place rather than zoom in like a Tasmanian Devil cartoon character. I watched my last two principals pretty carefully as I was chapter leader for all or most of their tenure. I know that both were slow to implement significant changes, getting the feel of the place first. I've had significant differences with both, but we manage to get along somehow anyway.

My source tells me the chapter leader at Forest Hills got called into the principal's office for a disciplinary hearing right around the time the no confidence vote took place, and not for the first time either. It appears being chapter leader in itself is an offense at Forest Hills. That's certainly one approach you can take. Go after the CL and hope everyone else falls into place like so many Stepford Teachers. (Of course, they probably have very few no confidence votes in Stepford.)

It seems like the previous Forest Hills principal did things like hire deans and place aides at student bathrooms and exits, and that evidently added a little order to things. The current principal has other ideas, according to a memo I was sent:

The Principal removed aides outside student bathrooms.  At the May 8, 2018 UFT Consultative Council meeting, the Principal stated, that rather than sit aides by the bathrooms, the “money could be better allocated in other things.” (coaches for tenured AP’s?)  Gangs of students congregated in the bathrooms.  Fights broke out.  Urine was thrown into a classroom.  A toilet was violently smashed from the wall. Students got stuck inside a bathroom.  Through all this, the Principal left the bathrooms unattended.

But the no confidence vote seems to have rattled him a bit: 

 Only now, on the verge of a Vote of No Confidence, does the Principal start returning aides to positions from which they had been removed.

Better late than never, I suppose. Deans are pretty key to running a large school. Our principal has not only appointed more deans, but, with UFT cooperation, also changed them from .4 to .6 so that they all serve more periods than they used to. The Forest Hills principal has a different philosophy, evidently:

“Mr. Sherman asked why the hallways were good at the beginning of the year.  A teacher answered that students knew there were consequences and also there were more deans around.  The number of deans has decreased by 29%.  Students are realizing that there are not adults patrolling the hallways.  Mr. Sherman stated that we have enough deans and SSA’s and that our school is also a training site“ (March 27, 2018, UFT Consultative Council minutes)


I'd argue that it's good for students to know there are adults with radios, capable of communicating with one another, in the hallways, but of course I'm just a lowly teacher. My sources tell me that student conflicts are spilling out into the neighborhood and the neighbors find them to be no fun at all. One might conclude a principal who doesn't get along with staff might have issues with the community at large.

I don't know the principal of FHHS. What I know is that there is a philosophy that pervades Tweed and dates from Bloomberg, and it is toxic. The philosophy is this--we are in charge, we will do whatever we like, and you can all go to hell if you don't like it. In fact, Bloomberg had an entire Leadership Academy in which he pushed this philosophy. Bill de Blasio did nothing to change this. The current chancellor, who I think is super smart and capable, has yet to make a dent in it either.

A better philosophy is to get to know one another and find ways to work things out. Calling the chapter leader for a disciplinary meeting because there's a vote of no confidence reminds me of this guy:

 

That's not a leader, and that's not leadership. Real leaders are thoughtful and careful, anticipating issues. They know that not everyone is going to like them, and they live with it. They know that when they make decisions there will be critics. Trying to intimidate teachers, especially by trying to shut down union, is a terrible move. For one thing, it only exacerbates the problem, as demonstrated by this very vote.

For another, if you were to be successful, you'd have a bunch of terrorized Stepford Teachers just going through the motions. Unless your goal is to create an entire school full of Stepford Teenagers, that's a pretty silly way to go. It's our job to bring out the voices of our students. It's our job to make them open up and speak. Maybe we can even make them sing.

Either way, shutting down the voices of their teachers is precisely the wrong way to go. There are ways to get along, and just in case principals failed to master them in kindergarten, someone ought to offer a refresher course in principal school.

On the other hand, if the principal is overwhelmingly disliked and distrusted, dangerous to the school body, and reviled by the community, maybe he just needs to go. 

Is Your Arbitrator Fair and Impartial?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, not necessarily. Unless there's something vital this story failed to catch, its subject, a now-fired young teacher  playing online Xbox games with students harbored no ill intent and caused no harm. It's bad judgment, I think, as off hours social involvement with students ought to be off the table. Still, I'd argue that this should be a cease and desist, a counseling memo, or a letter to file at the very worst.

Of course, I am not an arbitrator. Arbitrators are our last go to for theoretically unbiased decisions in matters between administration and UFT. I'm sure I've written many times about the grievance process, but I'll do a quick recap--Step one is with the principal, who likely as not is the person who violated the contract. Pretty much everyone thinks what they do is right, and there's an entire department they call "legal" whose job it is to tell principals to do whatever the hell they feel like. At step one, your chances are slim.

You then move on to step two, where you meet a representative of the chancellor and one of the superintendent. Alas, the reps there are all Bloomberg leftovers trained to believe the principal is always right. In one case I brought to them last year, when a letter in file was issued over three months after the incident occurred, we got a response back stating the incident was not an occurrence, and that the three month rule therefore did not apply. I wondered what drugs you'd need to take to think of this stuff. I've been waiting almost a year for this, along with a half-dozen other cases, to hit an arbitrator, but the wheels of UFT grievance grind exceedingly slowly.

The problem is that once you hit an arbitrator there are no guarantees you will get a sensible decision. Exhibit A, I suppose, is the young teacher being fired for playing online video games with a few kids. Hopefully that will be reversed on appeal. But I've got stories of my own.

The first will be the arbitrators on class size. I wrote in the Daily News about how they approved "action plans" that served no one but those who favored classes that exceeded contractual limits, already too high. Arbitrators thought it was a good idea to leave 37 kids in the class and give teachers one day off a week from tutoring. I told DOE reps at contract negotiations that the only possible way that could be helpful would be if I used that time for therapy to deal with the stress and frustration of dealing with the oversized classes.

Another time, I grieved that teachers didn't receive full schedules with rooms the day before they left for summer break. I did this because we'd received strips of paper giving us new schedules that were identical to our old ones. The rooms, times, co-teachers, and comp-time jobs turned out to be identical too, even for people whose comp-time jobs were expiring. I argued that this was a farce and a blatant violation. The DOE said it was fine, and the arbitrator agreed.

Our school uses an SBO to enable PD, teacher teams, OPW, tutoring and other things. It's pretty popular, and drew 100% support last year. It drew close to that in previous years. After I lost to the arbitrator, I added language to the SBO stating that teachers would get new programs rather than recycled ones, and that there would be good faith effort to anticipate what would happen. Of course they'd be subject to change, and of course the contract anticipated that.

Here's the thing--the arbitrator failed to understand unequivocal contract language. Maybe he was stupid. Maybe he was on drugs. Maybe he didn't like me. Who knows? In the end, all that matters is he was dead wrong. And this guy could be the guy who decides whether or not you get to keep your job. That's chilling.

I'm not sure what the solution is here. I know that arbitrators are jointly picked by UFT and DOE. I also know that DOE stacks the deck by sending wasteful crap cases to arbitrators on black letter violations. I have a bunch of them waiting, as the DOE, which has no respect whatsoever for educators, hopes that arbitrators don't understand or enforce unequivocal language. I'm hopeful that some new contractual regulations will redirect a portion of the obvious cases from the paws of arbitrators.

Meanwhile, I don't have a whole lot of faith in their judgment. Hopefully they'll do something to change my mind, and soon.

Friday, February 15, 2019

MORE Dumps Everyone in Entire Caucus

Breaking--The MORE Caucus, after having dumped its elected UFT Executive Board members (though only the ones who still regularly attend), has decided it was time to make this policy universal. After a meeting with the new Steering Committee, the one it self-appointed after unilaterally dumping the old Steering Committee, it was determined that the only way to effectively ensure a loss in the upcoming election was to have no membership whatsoever.

The caucus, which had already decided not to run for any office it could possibly win, deemed it too risky to actually have any members. After all, people might vote for you by mistake. And you never know when one some troublemaker may decide having an actual voice in union matters might be something worth pursuing. Next thing you know, they're speaking to people and expressing ideas. Who knows what sort of ideas these might be?

A MORE leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the following: "The thing about the Executive Board is that, if we organize, it's possible we will win. I myself am too busy to actually spend two Monday nights a month at 52 Broadway. After all, there are my rumba lessons, there's hot yoga, and then there are the political groups I actually care about. Anyway, I don't have time to go and if I can't do it, I don't trust anyone else to do it either."

Another leader, also speaking under conditions of anonymity, told NYC Educator, "Here's the thing. It was a lot of work to get rid of the troublemakers. We had to violate all of our rules and bylaws to do that, and then we found there still weren't enough troublemakers out. So we bounced Norm Scott, because he kept talking about the stuff we did. That made us look pretty bad, because we actually did all that stuff, and it's unacceptable to have people know about it. By getting rid of him, we were able to stop him knowing what we were doing. Now we can do whatever we want and no one will know."

It's ironic, because we at NYC Educator spent years slamming Unity for a loyalty oath, only to be invited to run on their slate with no preconditions whatsoever, with a specific request that we keep challenging them. So we asked why, if MORE was an open caucus, it kept tossing people out. How can this caucus possibly represent a union if it only accepts members who represent a very narrow political ideology?

"We've thought about that, actually," answered our source. "Though we've tossed the current troublemakers, we really have no way of knowing whether new people will cause more trouble. In fact, even I might get an idea and cause trouble. So I also have to go. That's why we've decided to toss out absolutely everyone. This is really the only way we can assure absolute ideological purity and no variation whatsoever from our purposes. For example, if we continued to have members, some of them would eventually want to not only run in union elections, but also win them. We can't have that."

"Furthermore, it's not really social justicey if we just toss out some people and don't toss out others. So in fairness to all, we're going to throw absolutely everyone out. And we want everyone to know that we aren't doing this on basis of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or any standard whatsoever. If you are human, you are out."

We brought forth the possibility of animals and/ or artificial life forms, but our source had no comment.

MORE is planning to place an ad in NY Teacher, in which it will focus on the necessity of striking. Strike is the only way, our source said, for MORE to get what it wants. Winning a UFT election is absolutely off the table, said our source, since that would mean the members who won could be corrupted. After all, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and no power whatsoever corrupts not at all.

When NYC Educator asked what would happen if they did win, our source replied, "Well, that would be highly inconvenient. I, for example, haven't got time to go to any more meetings than I already attend. What we would probably do with the union is the same thing we are doing with the caucus. We would throw everyone out. Then, there would be no more union meetings and I could get back to doing stuff that was more important."

What exactly is it that's more important than working to make a better union, to improve working conditions for us and learning conditions for our students?

"No comment," said our source.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

UFT Delegate Assembly February 13, 2019--Show Us the Money

4:24—Michael Mulgrew asks for moment of silence for departed staffer Denise Costa.

Candy distributed for Valentine’s Day, but Mulgrew says there will be no beer in March.

Strike in Denver over merit pay. Problem is percentage. We don’t work as heavily with Denver as other places.

Donald Trump Jr. calls us loser teachers who are indoctrinating the youth of America as socialists. Upset students support strikes and fighting for public education.

You can go on NYSUT website to see new state deductions for teachers. It seems like ten states targeted by tax program pay about 9% more, which will affect us. Sadly, this money goes to other 40 states to pay for their services. Will affect state and city budgets.

AFT Exec. Board was last week. Passed resolution about next presidential race. Allowing all state and locals to work with anyone running for President now. When deemed strategic they will call all leaders together to come up with a final determination over what’s in best interest for public ed., health care, and working people. Not about who we like the best, but rather our basic focus on worker and union rights. This may be one of the ugliest political years in our history.

State—Shortfall in budget right now. When Tom de Napoli says it we know it’s real. Billion dollar increase for ed. but we want more. Going up on March 18th. Please no drinking on bus because we have to lobby.

APPR will get done, and if there is a problem we will rise up across the state. Decoupling, no more mandating use of state test scores. Students will no longer have scarlet letter if they don’t do well on tests.

Governor says he wants all ed. funding at local level based on need. We agree. Ran numbers with his method. We agree with intent, but not methodology. Says only local districts have to fund by need, not state. If we did it right now, 80% would be cut and only 20 would increase. We don’t want to hurt student A to benefit student B. There would be shares, blocks of money sent to school districts. We don’t think this will work and we don’t want this issue. No one at hearing thought it would work

Governor says CFE is dead, but we don’t think so. When we are lobbying on 18th, we will try to get that piece done.

We want teacher choice to continue. We know it’s a direct payment for supplies we need. Want to solidify so we don’t have to fight for it every year. Our collaborative programs, like Dial a Teacher, are very successful. They reach students and community.

NY put more money than any state into schools. Do you see it? Where does it go? Lawyers, consultants, management, executives… becoming more of a problem.

Met with CEC presidents. They’ve learned because they are acitivists—upset about special ed. non compliance and budget. Why are we not getting what we need? Why doesn’t special ed. money go to children? We file special ed. complaints every year, have many schools repeatedly out of compliance.

We understand there is overhead and fees, but we don’t understand why we don’t see money in schools. They’ll say it’s teacher salary, but that’s just a piece. It goes way past the chancellor. Tweed is the land of Tweed, with a lot of little castles. There isn’t a single school there, and we don’t need the castles either.

Want to focus on percentage of funding that gets to schools. Mayor’s office announced a cut, exactly same number as outside consultants. Do you think they will cut them? Many previously worked for DOE, were administrators. Believe this will not be just consultants. Hopes he’s wrong, but probably cuts will be felt at school level.

Enough is enough. Tired of parents having no special ed. services and principals saying they have no money. Not true. 13 years ago, Bloomberg gave principals control of budgets, and that’s when this started. How can you have a phase out plan for special ed. classes?

Hoping at city and state level we can fix this. Worthy endeavor to push for this. We met with city council, which agrees that when we give UFT money it gets to schools. We need our own APPR committee for our new contract. Mulgrew reminds us raise will cover only one or two days of pay period because it begins tomorrow.

DOE has to design, with us, a training which lays out the purpose and objective of evaluation for a year as well as the cycle. What are responsibilities for admin and staff? Training must be done in beginning of next school year. First we have to design it. We’ve never had this before. It’s ours. We build it from scratch.

Will be two observation cycles, beginning and end of year. We will start committee, asking VP of education to send out info, need reps from each level. Has to be manageable. We are not there to fight. I will do that if need be. Committee will design training. Law dictates purpose, and they cannot reinterpret. Will send out on Friday.

Announced 50 schools in first cohort of Bronx Plan. It’s what we say it was about. We know school communities have been neglected for decades. Principals’ union quite upset and filed with PERB to stop it. Sad they weren’t trying to stop it but their paper says otherwise. This is how people are when they’re always in charge.

Clear to me that principal union not happy about contract, Don’t like empowerment, voice or options. Might not be your principal, but union thinks they’re in charge and they make all decisions. Thinks DOE shouldn’t talk to them unless they aren’t in good standing. We will hold our ground. There will be a small segment that push back to silence us and not allow us to implement. Happy about rollout, and quick speed of it. Schools will be visited this week.

We’re trying to show that when it comes to this student population, no one has reacted to the challenge. Professionals in building need to be supported, not have outside people walk in and tell them how to do their job. It is your plan, what you plan, that will be supported and the responsibility of the DOE to make it happen. Support coming from UFT and DOE.

Student debt clinic—
This is a members only benefit. Not just enough to support them when they come into profession. Many members face economic hardship. Even city now has dropped revenue projections, but our contract is done. When committee said we should move forward now, you were all right. Technically, we’d have started on Friday. We don’t have to wait now.

More than half of membership has student debt loans. Started looking into this, working with AFT, and decided we needed to support members. Because we are in public ed. or health care, we can enter into different programs. From last June we looked for law firm and student debt service business, brought them together. We designed this service. Members can do initial analysis, and then you can work with business. Can restructure yourself or they can do it for a fee, reimbursable if they can’t help.

Started off slow, have never advertised, but they fill up in a day when we put it on calendar. All five boroughs have one in March, already full. We will change times union is open and focus on it in summer. Only had one person come because it can be on phone, but not while driving.

We had a member paying $700 a month for 30 years. That’s common now for student loans. Got it down to 288, still for 30, but now, after debt clinic, 220 for ten years. (gives other example). These are real dollars in member pockets. You will have to be patient with us as we’re just beginning. Thanks advocates.

Last, implementing contract. Main piece of voice and empowerment is consultation and operational. Consultation is good. As of two Friday’s ago, you can put notes online to us. We want all, good and bad. DOE will say it doesn’t work, but it does in majority of schools. This is not an operational complaint. Just because you discuss something doesn’t make it a complaint. You have to say you have a problem and you want it rectified. We need it online to show what is working. This is professionals working together. When leadership doesn’t work together, it doesn’t work.

CL may file complain on paperwork, curriculum, PD, supplies, workload, space or safety. They call this an anonymous grievance process. But it doesn’t matter who brings it up. We now have agreed upon safety standards. Principals just got them recently.
Detail situations, upload documentation and request specific resolution. Strategize with team at school. CL needs to have a team. You can’t do this alone. You must attempt to resolve issue. If you cannot, you tell principal. Principal has five days after it is put online, at UFT website (gives instructions on how to file complaints).

Will be joint training for safety for CLs and DOE shortly.

Knowledge is power. You need to use contract or it won’t be worth anything. We need system to know it must be responsive all the time. This is about day to day operations. Don’t confuse consultation form with operational complaint. Be sure to file right form. Use it to organize and engage members. Is PD aligned to curriculum?

Q—Do you file complaint of first day or on fifth when they don’t resolve it?

A—First day, but tell principal it must be resolved in five days. Tell them UFT legal says we have no choice.

We have our week off coming up. We got here without use of snow day. Getting worried that it’s been so nice. More than halfway through, raises come in tomorrow, contract was early, state and city are getting cuts, we are set for 42 months, and it’s our job to implement this contract.

Thanks us for what we do each and every day. We will make our school system stronger and get support we need.

LeRoy Barr—March—2.3, CL 3 weekend. March 9 counselors conference. Early childhood March 16. March 23 Para luncheon. Asks for push for paras to sign up for 50th anniversary. March 30 middle school conference. March 31, Herstory brunch. UFT election ballots go out March 25. Have to turn out vote. Pride committee having raffle for Bway tickets following DA, Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Mulgrew—Questions

Q—Members upset about a plus credit, concerned it was mandatory.

A—Not mandatory. Option instead of college credits. Doesn’t start until September. Not all college courses, but will be CTLE. Must adhere to need of student population or program taught in NYC. Developing courses now. Trying to make it less costly to get MA plus 30 while giving relevant courses. Can still go old way.

Q—Before last consultation, principal said we had to have AP at consultation. I said they were only there if we invited. Said CSA was urging him, and he backed off. Do other CLs have this problem?

A—Yes. If you have agenda item that needs AP, then submit to principal, but it’s at your option. You can settle in different venue. CSA wants all APs in. They’re acting out. Will keep doing stupid things. If adults are forced to say what is or isn’t working, it’s a good thing. They don’t want to do it. They want to discourage consultation. Don’t let them do it.

We have schools that beat the odds. They have real support and collaboration. There is teamwork approach at these schools. Also they have the arts. Not only principal. Some just want to be in control even if research says it won’t work. They seem okay with that, judging by actions.

Q—Where is community learning school money going? We have managers in building not under same management structure, who seem to get more money. Seems DOE does this to hire people who aren’t repped by union, do same work for half the money, at-will employees. This affect students and community.

A—This causes them to be unsuccessful. Not our biggest budget issue, but we need to look at it. We’ve taken legal action against DOE on this.

Q—Option PROSE with observation system. How does 2 observations impact?

A—Up to you what you want to recommend. Required waiver at time. Have a conversation and come up with something.

Q—Can you update us on election for public advocate?

A—Many candidates, seems that forums were helpful. We’ve had groups inside UFT complain about many of the candidates. Recommendation to see what happens and then get involved for actual race after special election. We have more people pushing against than for candidates. Best we do no endorsement now.

Motions—


None

Resolutions—Mel Aaronson—Retired Teacher Chapter—to honor those who founded UFT—remembers collective begging. There were several organizations. HS teachers thought they deserved higher salaries for have MA degree. Leaders on both sides came up with compromise, that HS teachers would be getting salary based on degree, and elementary teachers could get same if they got degree. Seems simple now, but wasn’t then. Came together and on March 16, 1960 UFT formed. There was election, between UFT, NEA, and Teacher’s Union, and UFT won right to collectively bargain. Urges vote to honor founders, some of whom are in room.

Question called

Passes unanimously

Tom Brown
—teacher member TRS—supports resolution to elect Debra Penney to TRS board. Is smart, competent asks lots of questions and understands responsibility. Dedicated to ensure benefits remain strong. Defends defined benefit pensions. Attends conferences. Has complete confidence. Urges support.

Dave Kazansky
—Rises in support. In three years, has made mark, presented on panels, impressed with knowledge, diligence, communication and compassion. No question our pensions stronger with her. Asks for unanimous passage.

Question called.

Passes unanimously.

Paul Egan—To Increase NY Participation in Census—Every ten years there is census. Apportions congressional seats. In danger of losing two. Census designed to count number of people not citizens. Trump admin wants to scare people off and hurt blue states. 700 billion in federal funds determined by census figures. Involves, public ed, bridges, snap, emergency preparedness. We have to get everyone counted but we have 61% return while national is 76. We have 38% immigrant population. Felony to share census info with anyone in federal admin, including ICE. We need to educate members and school community to fill in census.

?—OT PT, rises in support. Says they just voted up contract. Turning up is everything. Largest turnout in history of chapter. Turning up and being counted is everything, Urges support.

Peter Goodman
—Also affects representation in congress, and money from fed affected too.

Gloria Wingrad
—calls question.

Called.

Passes unanimously. 5:55.

Mulgrew does raffle. We are adjourned.

Monday, February 11, 2019

UFT Executive Board February 11, 2019--Principals Don't Like Contract, Prefer to Do Whatever They Want

Howard Schoor welcomes us. 6 PM

Speakers—Bob Mc Cue—35 year teacher—CTE celebration Friday, more than 600 people. While applauding participants mind drifted toward Walter Morris, CTE teacher. Had been in Lithographers Union. 1989 determined to get teaching license. Taught offset press work. Track coach 12 years, brought millions of dollars to school. Changed to teach law and forensic science. Became teacher of year. Even after tragic loss of son, channeled energy into serving students. Asks for moment of silence.

Patty ?—Walter bought a student a suit for interview, then bought him shoes. Loved every one of his students. We rise for moment of silence.

Yvonne Riesen—reps 10X213—BETA—dress in blue in solidarity for right of basic instructional supplies, no microscope, scales, money allocated not committed, no paper. Must dig through garbage for paper—principal verbally abusive, spreads fear, probationaries in tears, ATRs demoralized, take 4 in row or two C6 per day. Furniture falling apart, fights break out, fires, and we’re told not to use alarms. Teacher passed out and they debated who to call.

Tyrannical nature of principal. Oppressive, incompetent admin goes unchecked. We need to move forward, and we can’t under this principal.

Schoor—Send me what you wrote. We will bring it up with DOE. Debbie Poulos will look at your complaint. Basic instructional supply issues have been being resolved quickly. We will send people to your school.

Minutes—approved.

We approve resolutions for NYSUT convention.

President’s Report—Michael Mulgrew

All trips tomorrow with yellow buses canceled tomorrow, but school is open. Along with Walter Morris, we had another major loss, Denise Costa, who helped with parent and school groups. Loved by many. Passed. Moment of silence.

Albany—little pushback—we just had 12 hour ed. hearing. APPR should get done before April. We still have work in NYC.

We need to implement new contract. Union that reps principals hates our contract. They went to PERB against Bronx plan. We know schools run better with partnership and collaboration. CSA hates it. Says they don’t mean harm, but they want it stopped. When I hear of principals who don’t give instructional supplies, there is a procedure. He has five days, or it goes to superintendent, and then to me. Union that reps admin doesn’t like our agreement. Too bad. They don’t get to interpret what’s in our contract.

Moving forward we shouldn’t have to file grievances. We should be able to work things out. Won’t group all principals together. Things going well in many places. Not about who’s in charge, but about helping one another to move forward. We will play this game and if we have to run a specific campaign, we will. They say we run school system but we don’t. Lots of people would be in other places if we did.

Any CL can put consultation notes online or file complaint. Some principals work with us because DOE doesn’t support them. We like to work with these principals. Small minded people worrying about who’s in charge will not produce results. We will stand strong and deal with this. It’s our job to make sure this contract becomes real at every school. Adcom will focus on consultation notes and work complaints.

We have a week off coming up. So far, weather’s been okay. When we get back, push will be evaluation. Starting official meetings on design. Wednesday at DA we will announce and form committee on joint training. Contract live on Valentine’s Day.

Basic tenet of unionism is contract words only good as people using them. No good if not being utilized. That’s why we want to empower people at worksites and have anti-retaliation language.

Wishes nice Valentine’s Day and vacation.

LeRoy Barr—Last Thursday Feb. 7 showed story of Eagle Academy for Black History Month. This Thursday life of Reginald Lewis, please join us. CTE awards, congratulates them, were 4-500 people. Congratulates all.  DA Wed 15th, EB 25th.

Schoor—CSA Bronx plan statement on line Google it. Raises on 14th. UFT website explains which bank gets which date.

Questions

Jonathan Halabi—Supported contract—things I liked best mentioned by President. There are principals afraid of these things, but I’m afraid we have people who don’t belong in schools, refuse to consult, problematic work experience as speaker said. How can we separate them from us and students?

Schoor—Chancellor tends to give us lip service without fixing anything. This chancellor is different, has moved people out, and we are hopeful he will do something. We had two issues they should’ve fixed and didn’t. We are working on schools and will continue.

Halabi—What was criteria for Bronx plan schools? Surprised by few that didn’t have collaborative principals.

Schoor—Wasn’t on that committee. Will report next time.


Arthur Goldstein—I have two things today. First, I understand that AFT does national endorsements. Nonetheless, we’re the largest local in the country and we have a big voice. For my money, no democratic candidate at all is great on education, and it falls on us to educate them, at the very least. However, Cory Booker in particular is abysmal. His positions are indistinguishable from those of Betsy DeVos and I’d argue he’s Betsy DeVos with a tie. I’d like to see us ahead of the curve here. What are we going to do to make sure our endorsement doesn’t go to a  Democrat who hates us and everything we stand for, and how are we going to advocate for presidential candidates to adopt positions that are not insane?

Also, I have an article here from New York Teacher. It suggests that UFT thinks 115 million dollar penthouses ought not to pay less in taxes than a six million dollar brownstone in Brooklyn. I couldn’t agree more. It also suggests that if we get people who can afford 115 million dollar penthouses to pay their fair share, we could fund reductions in class sizes. We now have a blue Senate so this bill is no longer DOA. Also, the NY Times surprised me quite a bit by stating Cuomo’s people have not opposed it. What are we going to do to push this forward and help a million kids and tens of thousands of working teachers?

Also, following up on question of space requests for charters but not for public schools. Have you met with chancellor?

Schoor—We have not.

Four of our members are on AFT Exec Council and carry our recommendations and thoughts. Will get you more info. That about the penthouses just came out again, and there is a move for some people to tax apartments they don’t use Will ask Paul to talk about it. No bill yet, so nothing to support.

Reports from Districts

George Altomari—April 13th social studies conference. Has been success for decades. Offers CTLE credits. Honors Maril Celenti.

Sterling Roberson—Wants to add about CTE awards—individuals we honored are those recommended by their schools. Some ranked first, second, third in automotive around globe. Teachers and students are exceptional, and we have a day to celebrate individuals who facilitate learning. Thanks all who made ceremony a success. Thanks individuals who printed materials, set tables, and did everything.


Schoor—OT/PT contract approved 52-48%. Wanted to make sure their salary increases went into effect same time as other members. Released employees for 90 minutes to vote. Had 72% turnout on one day. Mail ballot had 50% turnout. Almost half came to Queens.

Amy Arundell—1000 people came into our office. Great show of union activism.

Schoor—Saw many members we don’t usually see. We are moving forward. We are not finished with this chapter.

Tom Murphy—Retired teacher chapter has annual meetings. We speak to people in NY area and around country. Mood of retirees very good. In touch with issues and people in schools. Thinks people are not happy. Not upset about our politics. Will approach 4K members before we’re done.

Legislative Report—Paul Egan
—Moment of silence for Chelsea’s career. Tremendous game for first 30 seconds, but lost 6-0. My job here is complete because everyone knows about Chelsea. Norm Scott had article in his hand from NYT.

Election by time we come back for Public Advocate. Asking everyone to sign for Lobby Day March 18.

Special order of business
—endorsing Debbie Penny for retirement board.

Tom Brown—Delighted to support resolution to re-elect Debbie for TRS board member. Smart, strong, competent, fast learner, asks lots of questions, and understands role as trustee. Oversees policies and funding of retirement system. Wants benefits to remain strong. Advocate for us and defined benefit pensions. Attends multiple conferences on retirement systems. We have complete confidence in her. Look forward to working together for all members. Please support her and resolution.

Passes.

Resolution to increase New York participation in 2020 census


Paul Egan—People don’t pay much attention but has massive impact. Court case over President putting citizenship question in to frighten people. Was kicked off by district judge but will go to SCOTUS. Not to count citizens or voters, but rather all people in country. They determine a whole host of things—roads, funding, education, Medicare, 700 billion dollars to be split up by census. If our numbers are underreported, we will lose. Red states don’t worry. NY underreports. Average is 76%, NY is 61%. 38% of population in NY State is immigrant. Imperative we increase numbers. Under title 13 is felony that census share this data with anyone including ICE. Hard to convince people but they need to know.

We want everyone to participate and encourage participation. Also way seats in House are decided, gets us electoral votes.

Schoor—also affect state legislature.

passes

We are adjourned 6:54

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Executive Time for Teachers

Sometimes people tell me I'm too rough on the President. It's not his fault that all that Fake Bake tanning lotion turns his skin orange. If you covered your body with that crap you'd be orange too. You can't blame him if he wears his tie as though it's 1974. Hey, if Lou Grant wore his tie like that, why can't Donald Trump?

He's the President of the United States, they tell me, and if that's the case, I should show him some respect. Then I read that he spends 60% of his day on "Executive Time." He doesn't actually go to work until 11 AM. Now if I were cynical, I'd say that's a good thing. After all, the less time he spends working, the less damage he can cause. You know, with a job like President of the United States, you can cause a lot of damage, For example, even though he got three million fewer votes than his opponent, he's appointed two Supreme Court justices. In his defense, one of them did not appear to be rapey.

Anyway, I've decided to follow in his footsteps, and I believe doing so will earn me the neverending gratitude of my students, most of whom hate Trump. This, though, might be the thing to win them over. Why not give all of our kids executive time? From all I can see, since everyone has the right to pursuit of happiness, my students ought not to be left out. If their day is ten periods, six of them ought to be executive time. Or perhaps we'll only require them to be there 40% of each class.

Despite what you read in the tabloids, teaching is a pretty goshdarn stressful job. Giving us 60% executive time will help a lot. For example, when you know your supervisor is coming around for a drive-by, you can simply take your executive time. The supervisor will be unable to give you a bad rating if you aren't there, and even if the voices in his head make him do so anyway, you can avail yourself of executive time whenever he wants to meet with you. Then it won't count anyway, since he gave you no feedback.

With executive time, working people around the country can finally get the break they need. All those folks working at Walmart can take a few hours to see the world outside the superstore. Maybe parents who work 200 hours a week could spend 120 of them with their kids. In fact, by being a role model, maybe fewer people will hate Donald Trump. Instead of simply lying to everyone about infrastructure, about the wall, about how his tax cut would help people other than his uber-wealthy BFFs, he could say, "Hey, how about that executive time? Did Obama give you executive time? Did Hillary?"

I, for one, am glad that the Commander in Chief finally had a good idea. Take a break, America. The President says it's okay.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Everything but the Voice

This year I'm teaching a supposedly advanced class of ELLs. I say "supposedly" because a whole lot of them have either tested advanced on the NYSESLAT, which supposedly measures language level (but doesn't), or tested out of ESL altogether. It doesn't necessarily mean they know anything.

Many of these kids are lovely in one way, another, or many. There are 34 of them in my class. Many of them passed the English Regents exam this year. To my mind, though, exactly one of them knows how to write.

My young writer went through something very difficult and learned something. It doesn't matter what it was. It only matters that it's a compelling story, she related it, and she came to a very sharp conclusion. My writing prompt was to tell about something that was a turning point. She was the only one of my 34 who really grabbed the topic and went with it.

Several  of my other students have been handing me personal statements for college. I will read them and make suggestions if asked. I have to say, though, that I've read half a dozen of them from this class, and one is more abysmal than the next. You'd think that these students, all of whom came from other countries, had never experienced anything whatsoever. To me, uprooting yourself and facing a new culture is a remarkable thing. I've never done it, nor have most people I know. One kid said she was told not to write about that, as it's an overplayed topic.

I disagree completely. Your trip to the United States is not my trip. Your family is not my family. Your experiences are not my experiences. Most importantly, your voice is not my voice.

We all have a voice. Sometimes I think that's all we have. Certainly it's what keeps me writing this blog. But when I teach writing, voice plays little part. You see, there's this thing called the English Regents exam, and my kids can't graduate high school unless they pass it. I'll help them pass it, but for years I've thought that showing them how to sputter out a tightly scripted essay using canned terms taught them is, well, how to sputter out a tightly scripted essay using canned terms.

That's okay as far as it goes, but it isn't really writing. David Coleman, Common Core architect/ troglodyte, famously said no one gives a crap what you think or feel. (Imagine a teacher with that attitude.) Coleman set us on the course of spitting out tidbits of crap in a certain order, and branding it an argumentative essay. I'll grant you there's a skill set to read four articles, pick out which crap supports your point of view, pick out which crap is the opposing argument, and then piece together 300 words to compose whatever crap the Regents exams asks of you.

Still, it's not anything I want to read. I mean, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes an argument that Americans need health care, that we need to get paid a living wage, or that we ought to stop destroying the earth I perk up and listen, because she's speaking from the heart and because these are important issues. She cares, and other people see that. Then they care too. When some kid reads eight pages of crap on a test and regurgitates a bunch of arguments, well, if I get sent to some high school and am forced to rate it, I will.

That's not what argument is, though. Argument worth considering comes from the heart and is supported by the brain. If it hasn't touched the heart somehow, there's likely nothing worth reading. And if there isn't anything worth reading, there wasn't anything worth writing either.

I have a student I will call Sara. Sara is from China. She is lovely. She is good-natured, eager to do well in class, and gets excellent grades. If she were your daughter you'd want to wear a sandwich sign, beat a big bass drum, and walk up and down the street telling the world about it. Despite this, her personal statement was an ungodly mess, bereft of purpose, almost impossible to follow, and if you like her the way I do, heartbreaking to read.

I'm not usually at a loss for words, but I can't tell kids their work is crap. I told her to think of an interesting or funny experience she had, and she looked at me as though I'd just fallen from the sky. She never brought a revision.

When I was in college I did well on papers. I would usually try to make them amusing somehow, or put some kind of interesting slant to them. I tried to make them things I might want to read. I suspect professors, after reading piles of crap, were mostly amused. One English professor insisted I'd plagiarized when I hadn't. I suppose I should've taken that as a compliment.

Here's the thing--sometimes I love to read. Some authors keep me spellbound. I can read Catch 22 over and over again. It's the voice there, the one that sees the humor and absurdity in absolutely everything. To me, it's perfect.

We bring our kids through over a decade of school and we give no attention whatsoever to their voices. We aren't turning out thinkers or writers. We're basically just showing them how to make a sandwich out of words, rather than cold cuts.

Now don't get me wrong. I like sandwiches. I can devour a good book. But the crap we make kids write makes me feel like I'm eating a ream of looseleaf paper, with no seasoning or dressing. It's just not the kind of thing we ought to be forcing our children to do.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Sprituality and the Speaker of Bad Words

Last year for a while I was reading about Buddhism. I had a couple of short books on it loaded into my phone and I read them on the subway. There was a lot about it that I found appealing. I've never been particularly religious, and Buddhism did not seem to make the kind of demands, other religions did. You remember the Laura Nyro line?

I swear there ain't no heaven, but I pray there ain't no hell.

I've never been comfortable with the notion that everyone from my religion was bound for paradise, while everyone from yours was bound for fire and brimstone. (And no, I'm not comfortable with you going to heaven and me getting the fire either.) Buddhism didn't seem to make that threat. One point for Buddhism.

Honestly, I don't remember much of what I was reading or why I was interested. But one of my colleagues, who is Buddhist, told me I was on the wrong track.

"You use too much bad language," she told me.

I was pretty surprised at that. It was true I'd used bad language, and it was true I used it while speaking with her. She'd never complained. If she had, I would have stopped. I don't use language like that in the classroom, and I don't use it with people who object to it. Nonetheless, I find it kind of expressive, and it's my go to when I think it works.

I read somewhere that people who use bad language are more honest than people who don't. Now people like me, who use this language, are inclined to immediately believe stories like that. Is it true? I'm not sure. But I don't have what you call a poker face. I'm probably not the best person for intricate negotiation, because if you come up with a notion I deem ridiculous, I'm likely to just answer with one word, and it won't be a nice one.

I have a lot more patience for kids. It's kind of my job to let them know better, and show them how to be better. I speak to them a lot more carefully than I do to adults, in general. That's not always a good thing. But my Buddhist friend had never even given me an inkling. In fact, I'm still not completely sure that she personally objected to my disgusting language. We got along very well before having that conversation, and we still do now, at least as far as I can tell.

"What about Ms. X?" I asked her.

"What about her?" my friend replied.

"She uses language at least as bad as I do, and she's a Buddhist."

"That's different," my friend said, with a tone suggesting that was the end of our conversation.

I haven't pursued it further. I wonder if you get a pass for being born Buddhist. I'm pretty sure nothing in any of the books I read said you had to refrain from using bad language to be a Buddhist. I wonder what Siddhartha said when Kamala was bitten by the snake. I'll bet it wasn't, "Oh popcorn balls." or "Oopzie." I know what I'd have said. Of course we have 911, and ambulances, and hospitals, so things are different.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll pursue this much further. But one of these days I'm gonna get a second opinion on this language issue.