Monday, April 19, 2021

The Unity Caucus: Solidarity When It Suits 'Em

 Talking points? With that tone? At your own members? Really?

(Advice to Unity: Don't draft talking points that aims to gaslight and insult your own members. Don't participate in spaces where you cast real teachers in some sort of "The Disgruntleds" light.  That borders on terrible. Save the sharp elbows and the BS for the politicians). 


I attended a wonderfully organized (informal) forum last night about how the union (members and leadership) has approached the process of endorsing a mayor.  The forum was hosted by the one unionist that everyone in NYC seems to be developing trust for; Daniel Alicea. He was able to gather members from Solidarity, MORE, New Action, the Retirees and the ruling Unity caucus together. That hasn't really happened before and it's wonderful that it did. The UFT has just experienced a rare no vote on endorsements last Wednesday so Daniel's event was billed not political (and people were invited with the clear indication that we were just interested folks having a discussion about how the UFT chose its endorsed candidate. Most folks had an open and honest discussion and exchanged ideas. This includes many folks from the Unity caucus who were in attendance. 

This, however, cannot be said this for every member of the Unity Caucus. I saw some fairly disturbing actions from some of the Unity people ranging from pure gaslighting ("Everyone participated because 14,000 members received an email" or ".. had a chance to leave a comment on the UFT's political website") to out and out sarcasm and rudeness. One Unity member actually had the gall to call the 55% of people who disagreed "The Disgruntleds", while offering a comment that was widely celebrated by the other Unity attendees in the chat. 

One forum member, who is not affiliated with any caucus, had to interject to object to the behavior and what he saw as Unity provocations. And, honestly, when contrasted against the idea that anyone who didn't think the process was pure perfection was a "disgruntled" union member (😂😭) his concern was NOT much of a contrast at all.  

All in all it was a good performance from the Unity Caucus. But it felt like a performance. And that left some incredibly sad. This is how the Unity caucus acted -toward its own members- during a challenging time. It's just not acceptable. 

After the forum ended, texts messages came in from people who were convinced that Unity had come en masse  and with a plan to derail anything that felt like criticism. My initial though to this was that it was just plain crazy. Unity hadn't pulled stunts like this in decades and the idea that they would take this approach to discourse with its own own members now (during a time when it is trying to connect with these same members) seemed like something they would be too smart to try (they are usually very smart folks over there). "Crazy", I thought. "Just crazy. They wouldn't do that".  

But then someone in one of the other caucuses was accidentally sent an email that had been sent to hundreds of members of the Unity in the hours leading up to the forum. 

The texts were right. Unity had a plan.  

The letter and the talking points are below for you to review yourself. This ... is how these folks approach discussion with their other members. I'm so disappointed. 









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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lucy, Charlie and the Football

 




Today's news: 

Standardized tests are a GO for the 2020 20201 school year. Nationwide. Period. USDOE has said they will not honor any state level requests to be waived. 

A Bit of Context

During the campaign, then candidate Joe Biden was asked a direct question: "... given that standardized testing is rooted in the history of racism and eugenics, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools". 

His answer was an immediate "yes". He went on to say "... you're preaching to the choir, kid, mmkay?" (you can see that whole exchange here). 


Yeah.

Today, he switched positions and announced standardized tests will not be cancelled this year. No way. No how.


Since the arrival of Common Core, the push against the use of standardized exams has included a wide variety of education stakeholders. Classroom teachers, parents, students, student advocacy groups have, in the past, all joined the struggle to push back. 

But make no mistake, from day one the education activists of the left were the folks who led that charge. And it was led against centrist Democrats like President Biden. I remember a time when some of those lefties walked hand in hand with suburban moms and dads all across Long Island and were welcomed to do so (many of those suburban moms and dads would later go on to vote for Trump and coin phrases like "socialist libtard" but back in the day, when forces were joined against standardized tests, the lefties were the ones who led the way. 

Neo holing the cookie

And Liberals have a long, combative relationship with the Democratic National Party. The basic formula of that angst exists within these two basic facts: 

1. The people who run that party are conservative leaning centrists. 

2. The ones who dream (and those who dare us to dream), yet lose the elections are liberals.


The Ol' Bait & Switch

For decades now, the centrists within our own party have approached elections in the following manner: The election begins by allowing our liberal star of the day to capture the attention and the imagination of America's voters. For the past two presidential elections, this has been Bernie Sanders. But before that, it was Howard Dean (2004). Before him, it was Paul Tsongas (1992)  and before him it was Gary Hart (1988). Even Ron Brown (1976) can be tossed into this category. You'll know them with any Wikipedia search. They're the ones who come in second during the primary season. The ones who were never offered the VP slot or any top level cabinet positions.

The algorithm continues. Eventually, the DNC finds a way to discredit the candidate as a presidential contender. This leaves voters with only choices of centrist Democrats. The majority of voters (not really knowing that they are about to vote against the things they had wanted in the first place) wind up voting for the centrist candidate  thinking they were voting for the big ideas. 

They weren't. 

By the end of the season (Spring), we all get stuck with a candidate (and sometime a president) who hates leftists ideas and people but uses them to his or her political advantage. He or she helps big corporations. He or she gives excuses to voters after having been elected. And their presidency is marked by what appears to be a stunning move to the center. It's not stunning. It was the idea the whole while. They simply worked a complex bait and switch in front of the whole nation.  

Trump knew this. That's why he tried to attract Bernie voters in 2016 and 2020. 

The facts are that we get stuck with presidents like Clinton and we get stuck with candidates like Kerry. We were happy to get stuck with Obama in 2009 but, seriously, no one really knew he was a centrist until 2009 when he bailed out banks and didn't arrest one CEO.  That's the way the DNC works. It has been that way since after the 1968 election (when a real liberal, Humphrey, lost).  Ever since, the DNC has run this bait and switch where we think we're buying a Buick, but we really drive off in a cheap Chevy. 

And, since Obama, we on the left have been super vigilant against this play. This cycle, we wanted student debt relief. We wanted legalized Marijuana (partly because it is so commonly used and partly because the Cannabis Prohibition laws have been used to commit true injustices). We wanted a livable minimum wage (not no $15 per hour. That's last decade's goals). And, yes, we wanted universal healthcare guaranteed by the government. Candidate Biden promised just about all of this. But so did candidate Obama and all of the other centrist candidates before them. So many lefitsts are, and have been, on the lookout for the ol' play, as it's called.

And it's been happening.  

First, it was student loan debt. After the election, Biden said "no way" to total student loan debt relief. Then it was 'no way' to 50,000 loan relief. He recently clarified that it's not going to be $50,000 worth of relief because "only Congress could do it" (there is no legislation asking Congress to do this). During this same week, the president also clarified his position on minimum wage by telling 50 governors on a conference call that it wasn't going to happen. See? The ol' switch. 

This game plays out with the standardized testing issue as well. Centrist Democrats want it (Centrist Democrats also want all teachers fired or working 20 hours a day for less than minimum wage). Standardized Testing  are an essential part to being a Centrist Democrat. Standardized Testing lay the ground work for convincing people to go to charters. They allow districts to fire teachers but keep terrible school leaders. 

Standardized Testing also pays for the centrists' education schemes. From charter schools to testing corporations, centrist Democrats own it all. They make money every time a teacher is fired, every time a teacher "needs improvement", every time a student engages in "school chioce" and every time a teacher needs a test, or a review book, or a review tablet or laptop.   In this manner, they reinforce the 40 year DNC myth that high grades in school can  change your life. Leftists just want safe happy schools where students can learn and also prepare for life. This is a centrists vision for education.  You decide whether you like the idea of accountability as an essential component. If you do, then you like tests. If you don't, then call your shrink, buddy, because you may be a liberal (and I'm so sorry!). 


Lucy and the Football

And this is why we use on the left use the allegory of Lucy and the football. It's a brilliant metaphor. And it is the only metaphor that fits this scenario. But, for decades now, good natured people (and defeated liberals who are desperate for at least some part of their agenda to become reality) have always listened to the DNC when they start. The discourse sounds something like this:

Lucy: Charlie Brown. Oh Charlie Brown!!

Charlie: (pauses to think) I can't believe it, she must think I'm the most stupid person alive.

Lucy: (places ball on the ground) Come on Charlie Brown!! I'll hold the ball and you kick it

Charlie: Hold on. You'll pull it away and I'll land flat on my back and kill myself.

Lucy: But, Charlie Brown, it's Thanksgiving. 

At this point in the depths of the liberal heart, we respond to the slight glimmer of hope being offered. We are such hopeful suckers, after all. And, even though we know the bastards did us dirty during primary season, we choose hope. "Maybe this time, they will make some of the things we have worked so hard for happen. Maybe now is the time we finally turn the corer here". So, being the hopeful suckers that we are, we engage in a harmless follow up questions hoping that we will things that will make us feel as though we have actually achieved something. 

Charlie: What's that got to do with anything?

Lucy: Well, one of the greatest traditions we have is the Thanksgiving Day football game. And the biggest, most important tradition of all is the kicking off of the football.

"Traditions?" we think. "Centrists like traditions?. Maybe we should listen for bit"

Charlie: (thinking. Doubting himself): Is that right?

Lucy: Absolutely! Come on Charlie Brown. It's a big honor for you.

That's usually where we bite the hook. "An honor!" we think. "Well, we are honorable people. We do care about honorable things. Maybe, just maybe ...". So, when we hear Joe Biden say "that's like preaching to the choir, okay?", we actually think "Hmm.... Okay".

Charlie: (turning to give himself room for the big kick. He walks with purpose. Being a thinker, he thinks out loud) Well, if it's that important, a person should never turn down a big honor. Maybe I should do it. Besides, she wouldn't try to trick me on a traditional holiday. (Convincing himself). This time I'm gonna kick that football to the moon!!!

This is the point we are then lulled into the believing. It's a fool's thought, to believe. But believing is also the starting point of great things. So we believe. 

To be clear: We do  need to figure out the academic damage! We do need to test in order to ascertain the extent of that damage! But all of that data is unreliable if collected during an enormously stressful period of time. In fact, it is terribly unreliable (they know this. They are probably hoping to get paid for a second round of tests next Fall). At the heart of the matter, we just don't want to stress our students or their families out any more than they already are. So, convinced that this is the time, we turn and we run for that football. And we run just as fast as we can because that's what liberals tend to do.

Lucy: (Looking determined, pulls football away just as Charlie Brown approaches his kick. No smile on her face. No fun to be had. Just a determined look to see if her play has worked again).

Charlie: (Lands right on his back)

So maybe a few journalists and bloggers whine and complain. But who cares!? The rest of the country isn't paying any attention to this at all. Some of us will complain. A few well-placed liberals in the education world will do what they can to limit the damage and, in a few weeks, this whole episode will have passed. It'll all be over. You know, like Neo and that cookie

Lucy: Isn't it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away. 

Peculiar indeed.