Monday, March 19, 2018

On Blogging and BLM

I started a shitstorm (not my first) when I posted about the January UFT Delegate Assembly. This was the one when Dermot Myrie got up to propose a resolution to support Black Lives Matter and it was voted down by Unity. When I write about meetings, I mostly write whatever I see or hear without editorial content. I generally add a snarky headline, and the one I chose that night was "Black Lives May or May Not Matter."

This was then picked up by Lindsey Christ at NY1 and a few other outlets. It upset the hell out of the Unity Caucus, who wrote some particularly vicious things about the "not so loyal" opposition. I always read the nasty crap they write about us and think I could do it more effectively. On the other hand, I don't really do personal attack much anymore. I used to do it more frequently when I started the blog, but I use it less and less over time. It's not as effective as actual argument, which is my personal go-to.

One of the primary things that's reduced my use of ad hominem was doing real union work.  Being chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded school in the city, is insane. Sometimes I tell people my job is insane and they think I'm complaining. Surprisingly, I'm not. I thrive on having an insane job. I wonder whether teaching is an insane job, if I  have an insane approach to it, or both. It doesn't much matter. I love what I do, and when I say how crazy it is, I'm fine with it. (That doesn't mean I don't like time off now and then.)

But it's easy to sit on the sidelines and bitch about the union. That's what I was doing before I got involved, though I didn't really know it at the time. I was particularly tough on Leo Casey, because he was the designated mouthpiece over at Edwize (UFT had a blog back in the day.), and frankly, he was pretty nasty to us too. As soon as I became chapter leader, I went on a mission to try to reverse our school's overcrowding. Leo Casey came to our school and set up a meeting at DOE. At this meeting we were able to come to an agreement that worked well for a few years.

So what can you think when a person you've said the most awful things about for months and months comes out and helps you? It's pretty awkward. You can't really just say that everyone in leadership sucks unreservedly, even though you've been saying that for years. It's a lot easier to talk like that if you're far away and play no part in union issues.

I have legitimate criticisms of leadership, though. There's class size, which was placed in the contract over a half-century ago. You'd hope we'd have moved forward since then. There are the excessive observations. There's the junk science. There's our wildly undemocratic process. There's the ATR, which was and still is a huge error that needs fixing.

My Executive Board buddy Mike Schirtzer wrote this a while back, and I guess it's time I say it too--I don't remotely suspect Unity Caucus of racism, bigotry, or anything of the sort. I think they made an error not endorsing Black Lives Matter, but I certainly don't believe they feel black lives don't matter either.

They called it a splinter issue. They're right that by endorsing BLM you're liable to lose the Trump/ racist contingent (assuming that isn't already a done deal). Make no mistake, there is that contingent in UFT. I saw it very much on display on UFT's Facebook page preceding the Staten Island march protesting the Garner shooting. I had not planned to attend that march, but I was so thoroughly disgusted by remarks from my fellow union members that I changed my plans.

More recently, it appears to me Hillary lost the election (among other reasons) because she failed to stand up. Hillary didn't support universal health care, a living wage, or affordable college. The guy who ran her campaign was no friend of ours. Like Obama, who proved to be a terrible education president, we endorsed Hillary unconditionally. I'm not privy to high-level negotiations, but why on earth are we giving our support to people who lecture us about "public charter schools," whatever they may be, at the AFT Convention, of all places? It was easy for me to vote for Hillary against Trump, but she didn't look good alone (or compared to Sanders, who I believe would've defeated the Donald).

To my mind, this is the same thought process that kept us from endorsing BLM. I know Trump voters who are just not going to pay union dues. Why should they? People like me will pay. Trump wouldn't pay. He'd make us do it, and indeed we pay millions for all his golf junkets and military parades and whatnot. I don't think Trump voters are the ones who will save our union. Trump voters would ruin the union just as eagerly as they're ruining these United States.

MORE isn't perfect either. MORE"s handling of the Garner march was embarrassing. I understand there was a meeting in which they tried to retroactively support it, which was even more ridiculous. Hey, you were there, or you were not there. I've been at more than one meeting in which a bunch of white people sat around and pondered how to attract more educators of color.  I wondered, why are you asking me?

Off the top of my head, I'd say that educators of all colors and sizes want to be treated with respect. They want better pay, less stupid paperwork, fewer pointless mandates and fewer lunatic administrators. They want better, not worse working conditions. They want to work with confidence, not live in fear. One thing MORE has right is that our working conditions are student learning conditions.

Maybe we should all get together and improve those conditions. I'm ready. Alternatively, we can all run around and insinuate nasty shit about one another.
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