Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Passion of NY State Senator Bill Perkins

School Scope Column in The Wave: Friday, April 30, 2010

(Ed Note: The first section is an expanded rewrite of a posting from a few days ago, now tied into the Bill Perkins charter school hearings.)


by Norm Scott

"These guys must be crazy," I was told by someone I know. He was referring to those who keep fighting no matter how bleak things look. "Why would someone of retirement age stuck in the rubber room not just retire," he said? I can't explain it but I understand it. Why stand up to BloomKlein when they own the world, including the press (except the Wave, of course)? Or the UFT leadership?

Not that there is any comparison in terms of danger, but I thought of that guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Or the people who stand up for human rights against Putin in Russia no matter how many of their friends are killed. Or any number of people throughout history who were mad as hell and wouldn't take it any more.

I thought of this as I was watching the academy award foreign language winning film The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina). One review states: "A thoroughly entertaining murder mystery, The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) stars Ricardo DarĂ­n as a retired prosecutor who can't let go of a 25-year-old rape and murder that he considers still unsolved, but solvable."

Benjamin, the detective, is relentless in pursuing answers. But the movie is really about passion. His 25 year unrequited passion for his married boss, who may have had similar passions (they keep you guessing.) The unending passion of a husband for his murdered wife. Benjamin's alcoholic sidekick Sandoval helps track the killer by figuring out he is a passionate soccer fan. "You can change almost anything," he tells Benjamin. "But you can't change passion. It will always win out."

I find many Humphrey Bogart films fall into this category. In "Deadline-USA" he edits an independent newspaper standing up to the mob while it is being sold to a Rupert Murdock type publisher who will kill the paper so his sleazy NY Post prototype will have a monopoly. Bogart gets the gangster in the end but loses the paper. However, his speech to the judge about the need for a democracy to provide divergent points of view is a must see. In Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not" Bogart is a seemingly cynical boat captain who does the right thing by his rummy helper (Walter Brennan) and a woman on the loose (Lauren Bacall), finally standing up to the WWII German tyranny by helping resistance fighters. And then there is Casablanca, my favorite movie of all time, where Bogart (Rick) jumps off the fence and begins a beautiful friendship with the resistance.

Maybe passion is what explains so many inexplicable actions by so many people. And thank goodness for these crazy, passionate people. If not for them we would all be living like the zombies in that revolutionary Apple commercial at the 1984 Super Bowl. Or like the drones at Tweed.

The Passion of NY State Senator Bill Perkins

Speaking of joining "The Resistance", a national network has been forming to fight the attacks on public education with lots of action in Florida (where some teachers engaged in a sick-out), Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC where a dissident, Nathan Saunders is running for president and if elected would throw a spear at a dirty contract deal being set up by Superintendent Michelle Rhee and AFT President Randi Weingarten.

With it being open season on politicians, NY State Senators have been amongst the most ridiculed in the nation. Our own Malcolm Smith, Pedro Espada and recently deposed Herman Monserrate are prime suspects. But then comes along Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, who gives you a little faith.

Perkins, you see, has been one of the lone politicians to swim against the charter school tide, not only in NY but perhaps the nation - including President Obama, whose market-based support for undermining the public school system takes him as far away from being a socialist as possible.

Pretty gutsy stuff for a Harlem politician to push back against the policies of the most popular president in history in the Black communities. And Perkins has been vilified. The sleazy NY Post has been rabid, with up to three articles, editorials and columns a day attacking him for holding hearings examining the activities of charter schools.

If you have read the Wave over the past few months on the activities of Malcolm Smith and his Peninsula Prep charter school, you know what "activities" I'm talking about. Scandal after scandal has emerged about these schools that put our tax money into the hands of private interests with little or no oversight. Their partners in crime at BloomKlein headquarters are aiding and abetting them by favoring charters over the public schools they run, especially with the co-location shenanigans where they purposely declare a public school underutilized - see our own Goldie Maple here in Rockaway, where parents have attempted to push back.

Perkins leads an emerging line of resistance coming from Black and Latino/a communities undergoing the charter school influx. Harlem is the epicenter, with 28 charters, and more Harlem politicians are joining Perkins.

Hedge fund managers and other Wall Street types who led us into the world of financial meltdown support charters. (Why miss an opportunity to get their fingers on public funds?) Democracy Prep charter school founder Seth Andrew is so outraged at Perkins that he is calling on his buddies on Wall Street to raise a massive amount of money to defeat Perkins who is running for reelection this year. In what may shape up as the modern equivalent of "The Battle of Hastings" in 1066, the Norman conquest of Britain, Wall Street backed armies, joined by charter school advocates, will invade Harlem this summer in an attempt to knock Perkins off as an example to any politician who might dare to question how charters are misusing public money. I know of at least one Norman who will be there standing with Perkins.

Perkins' hearings were held on April 22 and started at 8am. I was the last speaker when it ended at 9pm. Boy, was I hungry, since I got there at 10am with my trusty little video camera and tripod. See some amazing parent voices on the ednotesonline you tube channel.

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