Friday, August 8, 2014

George Schmidt on HISTORY AND HISTORY'S DISTORTIONS

Chicago's George Schmidt is one of the founders of CORE, involved in the CTU for decades and an activist against high stakes testing long before that issue came on anyone's radar -- he was fired as a teacher for publishing the horrible CASE tests - which were discontinued after his expose. His newspaper, Substance, has been a force in Chicago schools for almost 4 decades. I learned about the existence of CORE from its earliest days from reading Substance. And so did many Chicago teachers.

Next Wed, MORE will be holding a "Lessons of Chicago" event - for about the 4th time. Unless I bring it up, there is no mention that there was actually a widely distributed newspaper promoting CORE as one of the factors in their success, it has not come up before and probably won't again. George, though a leftist, is not always perceived as being on the politically correct side of the left.

There is even a reading list for the MORE event. I haven't read them, but I bet none of the readings even mention Substance and its role as one of the lessons caucuses should learn from Chicago. I'm not even sure if they mention the key lesson - the ground game CORE built that penetrated 75% or more of the schools - and even how they built that ground game. (See below George's statement for the resources for Weds.)
5. HISTORY AND HISTORY'S DISTORTIONS. As you know, I've long been rabid about people who distort history to fit their own prejudices or narratives. As the character says in The Wire: "If you got enough money, you can be any story you want." The problem is that working class people don't have the time to go around and gather different "viewpoints" to figure out where the truth is -- and to model what they do next. I have shared lots of examples of this. That's why I haven't (yet) reviewed all of the books and articles that have been published since the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. Basically, each in its own way is trying to hijack a history that we helped make (beginning decades ago in some cases) and bend it for the working class leaders of the new century in one direction or another. I personally realize that the ruling class's control over "narrative" is more destructive, but having helped in a few major historical events, I know from experience how important it is that we tell our stories ourselves. So that's also what will continue into the future, just as we have throughout the past.

One of the most obnoxious and dangerous things about historiography is when people limit their sources to get the viewpoint they want. A writer who clips Catalyst and Chicago's corporate media to learn about the history of Chicago's resistance -- of which the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 is a central part -- is distorting history, not writing it. A write who ignores the role of Substance in the resistance to corporate "reform" back in the 1990s and high stakes testing as early as 1997 and 1998 is also falsifying history. Boycotts of the poisonous tests didn't begin in Seattle in 2012 no matter now many people proclaim a sectarian version of reality. And there are many other examples...

Thanks.

I'll be talking with you as possible and see many of you next week.

George Schmidt, Editor 

Join us for a discussion with Annie Tan, CORE Activist
Wednesday, August 13th, 4pm-7pm
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC, $5 Drafts & Well Drinks

How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, A Labor Notes book, available from MORE $15 solidarity price)

Strike for America, by Micah Utrecht available in hard copy or ebook from:  versobooks.com/books/1569-strike-for-america
For a short introductions, please check out “Uncommon Core,” by Micah Utrecht atjacobinmag.com/2014/03/uncommon-core-chicago-teachers-union/ or “Creating a New Model of a Social Union: CORE and the Chicago Teachers Union” by Robert Barlett at monthlyreview.org/2013/06/01/creating-a-new-model-of-a-social-union/

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