Thursday, February 02, 2017


I was with a UFT employee the other day who decided to let me know what my problem was. Evidently I just sit around all day writing, and anyone could do that. This is easy, he said. Also I regularly post inaccuracies and mislead people. Who would've thunk it? I had no idea.

I asked for examples, but the person could not provide any. The only thing the person offered was a denial that there was a loyalty oath. I suppose you could say there is no loyalty oath. There is only this document, with which prospective Unity Caucus members agree to the following:

  • To express criticism of caucus policies within the Caucus;
  • To support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums;
  • To support in Union elections only those individuals who are endorsed by the Caucus, and to actively campaign for his / her election;
  • To run for Union office only with the support of the caucus;
  • To serve, if elected to Union office, in a manner consistent with Union / Caucus policies and to give full and faithful service in that office;
In other words, you can only disagree with them in private, you must support them publicly, you must vote for the candidates they endorse, you will only run for an office with their blessing, when in that office you will do as you are told to do.  

So maybe it isn't a loyalty oath. Maybe it's a simple agreement that you'll speak when you're told, do what you're told, and sit down and shut up otherwise. To me, there's not much difference. But hey, everyone interprets things differently. Let me know how supporting charter schools, common core, mayoral control, the ATR, and getting paid ten years late helps represent members. Let me know how opposing opt-out and failing to oppose Cuomo and Bloomberg helps too. Maybe I'll join.

I will tell you, though, that writing every day is not easy. That's why so many people choose not to do it. In fact, I have no idea how I do it. You might be surprised to learn that being a full time teacher as well as chapter leader of the largest school in Queens is not precisely a walk in the park either. Now I'm not complaining. I choose to do this, and I've learned that I actually love having a job so full of surprises it borders on insane. I'm not insulted when people, my students included, call me crazy. I pride myself on being the craziest person in the classroom.

But easy? I don't see that. Easy is signing the Unity card, doing what you're told, and going on all-expenses-paid trips. It certainly beats the hell out of paying out of pocket, like I do when I go. And please, don't tell me about all that work you do at the conventions. I sat in Minneapolis and listened as a guy told everyone in the national version of the Unity Caucus how to vote on each and every measure. There was no discussion or debate.

Easy is not being judged by Danielson, and having at least four drive-bys a year. Easy is telling people who work under the shadow of Danielson that you know what's best for them and they ought to stop complaining. Easy is getting a nice gig working for the union, spouting absurdities that sound good to you, and getting paid more than any working teacher in New York City. Easy is having a reliable after school gig in a nice borough office, giving advice that may or may not be valid, and not worrying about it at all. Easy is when your chapter dumps you as leader and the UFT keeps you on all your perks regardless. 

Easy is going to the DA and the Executive Board, waiting to be signaled how to vote, and voting that way regardless of what you may believe (if anything). It's a lot less easy when you're outnumbered by a factor of ten to one. Easy is going to the Executive Board, taking your sandwich, and sitting with your phone in front of you navigating Facebook and ignoring absolutely everything that goes on, while quietly cursing the seven people who show up and ask questions, making you wait an extra 30-60 minutes before going home. 

As for me, I certainly make mistakes. Sometimes people point them out to me and I correct them. Sometimes people send me things and I add them. Sometimes people ask me not to write things and I don't. But to simply tell me I have it easy, and that I write fake news?

Hey man, that's the stuff I hear and read in the media. We're flush with cash and doing nothing. Go ahead and talk like that. But when you do, you may as well be Donald Trump. And honestly, if you want to get face to face with me, start petty fights over facts you haven't got, and essentially tell me to shut up and sit down when we can just as easily find common ground and work together, it not me who's taking it easy.

And that's a pity, because we are in crisis, my brother.  I'm doing things I never thought I'd do before. If you're doing the same old nonsense, you are taking it easy. It's frightfully obvious to me that the option of doing the same old thing, the only option of which your caucus can seem to conceive, is sorely hazardous to our health.
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