Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Triangulation 2 from George Schmidt and a Question on Shanker and Democracy

This is a video of a statement/question I made at the Century Foundation breakfast in November sponsoring the Kahlenberg book tour which was taped by CSpan. Weingarten was on this panel defending the UFT charter school and pointing to how the only group in the business community that supported her was the Broad Foundation. I guess that was some response to attacks on the ties between the UFT/AFT/Shanker /Weingarten and the anti-union business community.

I pointed out there was another view on Shanker overall and on democracy in particular and asked why the business community was only interested in ed reform on the cheap - ABM - Anything But Money - but plenty of time blaming the teachers - I didn't get to talk about the "culture of low expectations" or the answer being lots more professional development, but never class size.

George Schmidt on ICE-mail in response to the triangulation post a few days ago:

Colleagues and friends:
Merry Christmas.

It's been the same here in Chicago for some time. And the same story could be written today about Barack Obama as he triangulates his way towards the same policies as the Clintons, only with some New Age charisma added. We know what the Clintons have wrought through corporate "school reform". Let's keep a close eye on what the Obamaites will bring under the same ideology.

AFT and the Chicago Teachers Union also use the Hart polling firm to shore up their prejudices. Rather than leading, they "traingulate," as the NYT story reported Sunday.

But here is one to remember. Four years ago, in December 2003, I sat with the staff of the Chicago Teachers Union while people reported on a Hart poll of the unioni's 35,000 person membership. That data formed some of the basis for Debbie Lynch's 2004 election campaign (as opposed to having a grass roots organization in each of the city's 600 schools). A month later, insult was added to injury when Jan Schakowsky's husband, Bob Creamer (of the same "triangulation" crowd in the Democratic Party) became Debbie's "campaign consultant." Creamer didn't even know that the union's rules precluded a caucus from getting the home phone numbers of voting members to do massive phone banking (one of the stocks in trade of that type of election planning), nor was there any plan for a GOTV push the final week.

Result #1? Debbie lost the election in two phases, first by not getting a clean majority in a four-way race in May, then by losing by 500 votes in June. After a flurry of media events, Stewart took over the reins of the CTU in August 2004. It's been downhill even more quickly since then, as recent numbers show.

Result #2? The Chicago Teachers Union, under the new leadership of Marilyn Stewart, has a sliver over 30,000 members, and is declining faster than anyone can count in the face of school closings and charterizations here in Chicago.

Irony #1. A recent Hart poll showed that the members of the CTU are completely confused on such basic issues as whether Mayor Daley is good for the public schools or not, or whether Arne Duncan (our "CEO", as Klein is your "Chancellor") is, too.

That's leadership for you.

Let's not forget that "triangulation" in the 1930s left the USA unarmed at the time of Pearl Harbor. One of the books handed down to me by my family was a thing called "Common Sense Neutrality", a collection of essays by a bunch of isolationists and pro-Nazis.

My Dad, who was in the U.S. Army in 1941 before Pearl Harbor, talked about using wooden "rifles" and "machine guns" during the massive maneuvers in Louisiana two months before Pearl Harbor. The "tanks" they had to fight with and against were often decorated Model Ts or souped up jeeps. That's one of the reasons why GIs were massacred at places like Kasserine Pass during the early days of combat against Germany.

And, it's still possible that had Hitler not declared war on the USA after Pearl Harbor, a declaration of war against Nazi Germany might have been difficult in the U.S. Congress.

Triangulation has a long and ugly history in this country. Many of our comrades were hounded in later years (after the Nazis had been defeated) for being "premature anti-fascists." I'm glad to have been working with all of you premature anti "school reform" people while Rani and Ed dither around looking for a center that is really way out there on the right (just as, it later turned out, "Common Sense Neutrality" was partly subsidized by the Nazis Fifth Column on the East Coast).

Best for the holidays,

George Schmidt
Editor, Substance

One of the themes of the Kahlenberg book is that Shanker was fighting off the anti cold war "isolationists" on the left who wanted to lighten defense spending and focus on the problems here at home. He pretty much gives Shanker credit for the fall of the iron curtain – the glories of "tough liberalism."

One the ideas behind our forum this Thursday is to look at the reasons this book is being promoted at this time and by whom: Century, Broad, Chester Finn. Reading that Times piece on Sunday tied some things together -- the tough liberal concept is part of the Clinton campaign for the presidency.

If you can stand it watch the c-span program at this link . The panel had Bela Rosenberg, Eugenia Kemble, Diane Ravitch, Randi. I got to ask one question near the end but they cut me off.

Here is a link to a video of the short time I got to speak.

The speaker after me was Velma Hill who headed the earliest efforts to organize paras into the UFT (one of the good things). The old gang gathers.

Kemble is an ideologue in the Shanker mode who wants to kill democracy in order to save it from communism, which to them included anyone on the left or anyone who opposed their "enlightened" policies. Thus they are entirely justified in their minds in changing and manipulating union rules to keep power. Rosenberg wrote many of Shanker's "Where We Stand Columns."

New Century has put up short segments on you tube of each speaker. A pretty intensive effort to get the word out.


I put up The Nation's piece "Shanker Blows Up the World" here at Norms Notes.

Here is a direct link to my "question" which was in response to Eugenia Kemble's claim that the UFT was democratic and that complaints about democracy came only because the opposition lost all the time. I pointed out that when they did win the high school VP election they changed the rules.

The entire cspan video is at: http://www.booktv.org/program.aspx?ProgramId=8957&SectionName=&PlayMedia=No


  1. A better question may have been, "Why isn't the alternative POV represented here, and is this an example of what we can expect from what the UFT calls democracy?"

    Of course, that's not of much importance, since answering your question was clearly a low priority. As Leo Casey says, ”The question is mute.”

  2. I was responding to Kemble who was responding to the critics. At the NYU meeting in October after Debbie Meier made a great critique of Shanker, especially on democracy, I got to echo it after Kemble said how democratic he was. Peter Goodman then got up and said he could go into Shanker and argue with him and never got fired. Like that's democracy. He never tried to disagree with Shanker at the DA where he would have found Unity Caucus discipline - or democratic centralism - take effect.


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