Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Social Justice Is for Everyone, Including Teachers

Norm Scott says it's hard to "out social justice Randi," and in a lot of ways he's right.  AFT and UFT leadership are certainly diverse. And Randi hits every note when she speaks. There is no doubt whatsoever that she's aware of racial inequality. She's a great advocate for the LGBT community. Communities are well-represented at the AFT Convention. In fact, the only community I know of that has no representation whatsoever at this convention is UFT high school teachers.

That said, social justice does not apply only to race, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. Social justice applies to all groups, and one of them is working teachers. Another is unions. I'll admit to being a little biased here, as I'm unabashedly in favor of both. I oppose things that hurt working teachers and unions, and I think it behooves us to fight them with everything we've got. And if we haven't got what we need to fight them, it's on us to go out and get it.

That's why I am mystified as to how Hillary Rodham Clinton can stand in front of us and babble nonsense about how we can learn from "public charter schools." I don't even know what that means, or what we're differentiating. The fact is every charter school is privately run, judged by different standards, and no charter is on a level playing field. For charters to boast of their stats when people like me are teaching kids who have been in the United States only five minutes is ridiculous.

I'm also mystified as to how my union, the most powerful in the country, can support things like mayoral control. How on earth do we support giving absolute power to a fanatical ideologue like Michael Bloomberg? And when we finally get a mayor who is not insane, why do we not fight tooth and nail when they demand he pay rent for the likes of Eva Moskowitz?

How do we not only support, but also have our President take part in writing a law that has us rated via value-added junk science? How does our President determine the reformiest man on God's green earth, John King, is a reasonable and unbiased arbitrator for our evaluation agreement?

How can UFT leadership attack the opt-out movement, a grassroots uprising of parents outraged about reforminess? How can those who control our union call allies of the movement "reckless and feckless," and make ridiculous arguments about how they cost schools money they don't even have?

I could go on, but here is the point---MORE fights for social justice for teachers. That's why we took the high schools, and that's why we will move ahead and win further. MORE opposes judging teachers by test scores. MORE opposes using our kids as puppets who sit for tests just to prove how much we suck. MORE believes teachers are under assault and need help.

We reach out with both hands to working teachers. We want to help, and we want to force our leadership, if necessary, to help too. I am an open book. I don't work behind the backs of Unity to thwart them when they are trying to support children. But I will fight them with everything I've got if they want to block social justice, say, for ESL students just because they can. MORE believes our working conditions are student learning conditions, and I couldn't agree more.

If Unity wants to play stupid games and write baseless nonsense to discredit us, that's fine. But we are standing up for teachers, we are standing up for children, and we are standing up for communities. We are not afraid, we will not be deterred, and we will not be intimidated by the usual nonsense.

We're open to working together, but we expect nothing. You can't have any social justice unless you include working teachers, and you can't put children first if you put teachers last. And you can't represent teachers if you sign loyalty oaths to leadership and vote as told.

Democracy is from the bottom up. UFT Unity is top down. We will fight for the voices of high school teachers and all teachers. Social justice applies to us too, we aren't going to forget it, and we aren't going to let UFT Unity forget it either.
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