Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Paradox of the UFT Voice

I'm going back and forth with Norm Scott over attending the AFT convention in Minneapolis this summer. I think I'm going, and I think it's going to be pretty expensive. Of course, while I shoulder my own expenses, I'm also covering the cost of 800 UFT rubber stamps who will go there and do Any Damn Thing They're Told. Now there's a price they pay for that trip, and that price is their voice. But voice is not important to those 800, or they wouldn't go.

You see, here's the thing. Certainly I find it outrageous to be among the very few people elected by New York City high schools and yet be shut out of AFT, NYSUT, and NEA, all of whom collect my dues notwithstanding. But I do have options. One would be to join the Unity Caucus. Now I'll grant you no one has asked me to do that, but that's because I write this blog every day and spare no one my opinion. I have no doubt had I simply been elected chapter leader of the largest school in Queens I'd have received an invite.

But what's the price for joining Unity Caucus? The price, very simply, is your voice. If you're a follower of Diane Ravitch, and you believe that value added adds no value, you can't be a member of Unity Caucus and say that. After all, didn't Michael Mulgrew come back from creating the original APPR law and boast he had a hand in writing it? If you've signed a loyalty oath you can't just come out and say what a bunch of crap that is. Now a few years back, when leadership vociferously opposed judging teachers by test scores you could have, but once they decided their seat at the table was dependent on junk science, well, so was yours, and you had to believe otherwise.

The UFT transfer plan was a great thing, and the UFT even said so when it initiated it. I was for it, because it got me away from an abusive and self-serving supervisor. And so was UFT Unity. But in 2005, their position evolved, and they decided it was better to close schools and dump teachers into the ATR. Of course, if you were in UFT Unity you had to support that, even though it directly contradicted the last thing you supported. Because that's the price of admission into the elite, invitation only Unity Caucus. Members support Any Damn Thing They're Told.

So what's in a voice? Would it sound the same by any other name? Well actually it doesn't matter what it sounds like. Of all the 800 people we're shipping to Minneapolis, none of them have a voice. They will vote as they are told, assemble when they are told, and shut the hell up when they are told. They will represent the interests of their members if told to do so, and represent any other damn thing if told to do that.

I can't join Unity and sign a loyalty oath because leadership frequently acts against the interests of my members. I can't say it's good for them to be judged on a cookie-cutter rubric when there are better ways. And sure, the UFT can toss out the strawman that those of us who oppose junk science want 100% of an observation in the hands of administrators. But if administrators are so bad that observation reports are improved by the addition of random junk science, the problem is decidedly not the observation system. It's time for the UFT to get active identifying and trying to remove supervisors who are insane. Why should teachers be the only ones to enjoy the thrill of having targets painted on our backs?

Now UFT leadership can huddle together at 52 Broadway and plot and scheme how to keep working teachers from influencing their plans to get that coveted seat at the table. Or they can invite us in and let us use our voice to save our profession. Either way, my opinion is not for sale, nor should anyone's be. If UFT Unity really believed in Unity, they'd take down the wall they use to keep us out, and value the fact that we are not restricted by ridiculous oaths to speak as we are told.

Either way we will follow them where they go and represent our members. Because that is, in fact, our job. Too bad our leaders don't agree.

But they might come around, one way or another. And if there is any way on earth, we're gonna find it.
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