Thursday, November 17, 2016

He Who Shall Not Be Named (by UFT Leadership)

Below is the text to a UFT Resolution we discussed at the Executive Board meeting last Monday. I feel funny writing this, since all of us, the high school reps, enthusiastically approved it as it appeared to us. However, by the next day leadership had decided to modify it, taking the very measured approach that brought us what I'll call the Hillary Clinton disaster.

Who knows how much money and time UFT invested in that event? They actually had a campaign office at 52 Broadway. Now perhaps you remember Hillary Clinton. She ran for the US Presidency on a platform that included no universal health care, no living wage, support for what she called "public charter schools," and public and private ridicule of Bernie Sanders, who promised a move to actually improve things. She managed to elicit so many collective yawns from people who supported Barack Obama that they stayed home and didn't bother to vote.

What you see below the post is a resolution that targets "the presidential election" where it used to target "President-elect Donald J. Trump." The obvious implication is that leadership, after wholeheartedly endorsing Hillary Clinton, is fraidy-scared to directly criticize the new American Bigot-in-Chief. And from where I stand, that means we are pandering to bigots, racists and anti-Semites.

Now perhaps I'm being hasty here. It's entirely possible that UFT leadership has taken the same approach Harry Potter's wizarding community took to Lord Voldemort. Perhaps UFT leadership collectively refuses to utter the name Donald J. Trump, calling him, "He Who Shall Not Be Named." I haven't seen clarification.

But there are Trump voters in our midst. I know some. UFT has decided not only that they would be offended if we were to name their candidate, but also that they are too stupid to notice "the presidential election" is code for "Donald Trump."

Even if they are not, however, "the presidential election" did not say that Mexicans were drug-dealers and rapists. It did not say we ought to ban Muslims from the country. In fact, it did not even advocate grabbing women "by the pussy," or walking up to them and kissing them whether or not they consented. It was not "the presidential election" who appointed a white supremacist anti-Semite to a federal position.

Not to belabor the obvious, but I'm an English teacher and can't help myself. The presidential election happens to be a process. It's a pretty flawed process, in fact, one in which the person who gets the most votes loses. Be that as it may, people make decisions, and the person who made every single decision I've referenced was President-elect Donald J. Trump. Failing to label him as such is disingenuous and cowardly. We can do better.

Now surely UFT leadership disagrees. They are worried they might offend Donald Trump voters. Here's the thing--they offend Donald Trump voters by merely existing. A few weeks ago, I was approached at 52 Broadway by a teacher who wanted to know how to get out of being a member. I told him there was probably some form he could fill out. He then said he specifically didn't want to pay union dues. I told him to vote for Donald Trump. He said he would. I'm not sure why the UFT is worried about offending him. First chance he gets, he will stop supporting us, as will the majority of current members when queried as to whether or not they wish to pay over a thousand bucks a year.

We can continue to be afraid of our own shadows. We can continue to recruit people to work for the union based on loyalty oath rather than competence. We can continue to stand for little and hope for the best.

Or we can build an activist union of people who really wish to improve things for working people. For me, the choice is clear. For leadership, which proposed this change in the shadows with no input whatsoever from elected NYC high school representatives, things are muddy. It will almost certainly pass 95-7.

I'm tired of wallowing in the mud. What about you?

Resolution Calling for Respect for All People

(Changes are italicized and bold)

WHEREAS, the presidential election targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation’s promise that all people are worthy of respect; and

WHEREAS, the presidential election has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools ; and

WHEREAS, the recently-concluded presidential election has returned open racism, homophobia and misogyny to the forefront of national politics and featured incendiary rhetoric with little precedent in modern history; and

WHEREAS, in the aftermath of the election, our communities have suffered hate-motivated violence and vandalism at a pace exceeding the wave of Islamophobic incidents in the wake of the September 11 attacks ; and

WHEREAS, this divisive political atmosphere has given rise to fear and anxiety among students and inflamed racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom ; and

WHEREAS, people are upset and feel that government has failed them, there’s no reason to give into a climate of fear; and

WHEREAS, the UFT remains committed to creating a safe and supportive environment as well as stamping out bias-based bullying and harassment in all its forms by providing training for compliance with the Dignity for All Students Act and by operating the Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education campaign, which includes an anti-bullying hotline, fairs and presentations in schools; and

WHEREAS, the New York City Department of Education Respect for All campaign considers harassment and discriminatory behavior, physical injury or threat of injury, harassment, teasing, taunting, peer rejection or exclusion to humiliate or isolate a person to be a violation of Chancellor’s Regulations A-831, A-832 and A-443, and the Student Code of Conduct; and

WHEREAS, the Dignity for All Students Act approved in September, 2010, by the New York State Legislature contains the following provisions:

•             A policy that specifically prohibits discrimination and harassment in public schools based on actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, sexual or physical or mental disability, with procedures to ensure that the policy will be implemented and enforced;

•             Training of administrators, teachers, other school related professionals and students on how to deal with diversity in schools and address incidents of harassment and discrimination when they arise;

•             Documentation and data collection to determine just how prevalent the problem of harassment is in New York’s public schools and where the needs are most profound;

•             Funding to implement the principles above in a way that avoids unfunded mandates for school districts; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT affirms that public education is critical to the future of this country; that all communities inside our school communities deserve respect and dignity; and that workers have a right to unionize and be treated fairly; and that the UFT will aggressively fight the erosion of these core values; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to launch a series of actions to defend our communities and our schools and affirm our values, beginning on Monday, November 21, with a Day of Action; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT calls upon every school to form an action committee to plan and execute these actions; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will partner with and encourage the DOE to support the expansion of the Respect for All initiative, so that school communities serve as sites where all students and staff are safe from acts of discrimination because of ongoing positive and developmentally appropriate behavior and speech in and out of the classroom; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT urges the DOE to require time during the school day for educators to engage in conversations and activities that will support learning communities that celebrate diversity while ensuring tolerance, respect and positive conflict resolution, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will urge the DOE to present professional learning to develop our abilities to design and implement learning activities during which differences are respected and celebrated.   
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