Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Assignment--Wake the Sleeping Giant

Congratulations to all my colleagues who've earned a break today. We have a few months off, and we need it. So go take a trip. Or go to the beach. Or stay home and do whatever makes you happy. Lots of principals will say you do that to return refueled and recharged. In September they'll all say how excited they are to be back. Sometimes I believe them, but other times I don't.

But make no mistake, we are at war. Barack Obama and Arne Duncan degraded our profession by taking suitcases of money from reformies, and consequently pushing for teachers to be rated by junk science. They also insisted on the proliferation of charter schools, which are largely non-union workhouses for recent college grads (or not) who may put up with it a year or two. They paved the way for Trump and DeVos.

An issue with no union is you're on your own. This is a bad place to be when the supervisors and principals are thirty years old if you're lucky. If their main qualification is having hacked the miserable charter gig for a year longer than anyone else, it doesn't precisely speak to their leadership qualities.

There is absolutely no doubt that's the model Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos and the largely insane US Supreme Court wish to replicate. They've had it with all this career stuff. Pensions are outdated. Better to have a 401K, hope for the best, and find out what the most edible brand of cat food is for your golden years.

The only road ahead for us is paved with activism. I'm hoping to impress this on union leadership as well. So far, though, they're worried about offending people who like Donald Trump. The problem, though, is that people who like Donald Trump actually support this stuff. I don't know how, exactly. Last night I was at a retirement party talking to a retired teacher who supports Trump. He was telling me how wonderful retirement was, and how via this and that he actually brings in more money by not working than by working.

I pointed out that, whatever Fox News may have said on the subject, all of his heroes oppose his retirement. They oppose his health care. I'd argue they oppose his fundamental dignity, though we didn't get to that point. Oddly, he acknowledged all that, but didn't want to dwell on it. What he wanted to discuss was why I blocked him on Facebook.

I did that because, though I long tolerated and responded to his frequent use of ad hominem and strawman attacks on me and my beliefs, I found it beyond the pale when he used them on one of my Muslim colleagues. She's a mom who is fearful for her children since the advent of Trump. I understand that. I told Fox-following friend that she sent her kids to Muslim schools and worried for their safety. His wondered what they taught in those places. I wondered what they taught in all religious schools.

He says not all Trump supporters are racists. I'm sure that's true, though I'd argue that anyone who supported Orange Man is more tolerant of racism and bigotry than I am. I'd also argue, though, that all or most racists are Trump supporters, and that this is not remotely coincidental.

I'd say the hatred toward ethnic groups is one and the same with hatred toward union and good jobs.

We need to oppose all of it. We need to do so publicly and vocally. We need to wake up the sleeping giant that is our membership. Public School Proud is nice, but not remotely enough. If you don't think we're in crisis, you aren't paying attention.

A friend of mine says there are only two problems with the UFT--the membership and the leadership. Our challenge now is awakening and activating both, and we've got our work cut out for us.
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