Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fred Konsky Reports on Police Harrasment of NYC Teacher Grade-in

UPDATE: Monday, Oct. 24, 11:50PM
See follow-up:  Using the People's Mic to OCCUPY the DOE on Tuesday, Oct. 25

The use of grade-ins where teachers demonstrate the work they do on off hours to the public at large in public spaces is an important tactic in the school wars. So the story below from Fred Klonsky is disturbing. Here is some background.

Last week I stopped by to touch base with teachers meeting there - what began as a grade-in turned into a meeting planning for action and they decided to focus on the meeting this Tuesday. I was only there for about 10 minutes but they weren't hassled at all.

When we met again on Tuesday we were told by some building security we weren't allowed to sit there. I wrote about the encounter (OCCUPY the PANEL FOR EDUCATIONAL POLICY) and how we were bothered by cops closing gates on us as we went to another space.

Today teachers from NYCORE, Teachers Unite and GEM planned to meet at the red cube across the street from Liberty Square from 1-3PM to do a grade-in and also plan the Occupy PEP action for this Tuesday. I haven't heard any reports of problems but this interesting report from Fred Klonky, visiting from Chicago, may be a sign that Bloomberg is telling the cops to squeeze the spaces people have been using for peaceful assembly and meetings. 

NYPD tells teachers, “No grading papers in public.”

October 23, 2011
by Fred Klonsky
Anne and I are in New York for the weekend to see our kids and grand kids. Plus it is our 35th wedding anniversary. Naturally we want to spend some time at Occupy Wall Street.
Liberty Park is jammed with people. Some have taken up permanent residence in sleeping bags and tents. Hundreds more fill the park every day with signs of one kind or another. There are lots of tourists, reporters and college students who have been assigned to interview the protesters.
There are drum circles, spontaneous dances and the steady flow of speakers whose voices get amplified, not by the banned electronic microphones and loudspeakers, but the technique of the crowd repeating what each speaker says in waves that carry the message to the back of the throngs who are listening.
As we left we stopped by a group of teachers who were doing a grade-in in an open plaza across from the park.
Grade-ins have become common in cities across the country as teachers gather in public spaces to do work that usually gets done at home, off the clock and unrecognized: prepping for classes, grading papers and doing the unending paperwork that the school bureaucracies demand.
Since there was no open space in Liberty Square, this group of teachers gathered across the street. A few minutes later two uniformed New York cops arrived on the scene.
“What’s going on.”
“We’re grading papers.”
“Can’t do that here.”
The cops disappeared for a few minutes and suddenly there were a half-dozen more New York cops.
“Can’t do that here,” they repeated.
“Thank you, officers,” one of the teachers politely said. And the teachers gathered their tests, folding chairs and hand-made cardboard signs and moved across the street, disappearing into the crowd.
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on the right for important bits.


  1. Grading papers in a public space that isn't a school building? I'm shocked - SHOCKED!

    I have to imagine that some of the NYPD folks are awake enough to recognize the absurdity of the things they're being asked to do. I can't imagine that as many police today are as divorced from the politics as they were in the past (at least I hope there's been some growth since the '60s & '70s). I realize that this country is very adept at continuing to create drones who either are mindless or capable of making themselves perfectly able to compartmentalize so as to perform anti-democratic acts. After all, I think it's not unreasonable to suggest that teachers are similarly agents of the state, even if these days more of us are starting to wake up and smell the contradictions. Most teachers I know well are appalled at the criticism being leveled at them over the past 20 years, not from the corporatists, but from fellow educators like John Taylor Gatto (the ones that are even aware of what Gatto has to say about the US public school system, its history, and its function in our inequitable society). I know of no teacher who would say, "Oh, sure: I decided to go into teaching to dumb down the poor and middle class and prepare them to be ruled by the rich." I don't imagine many police say, "I want to be a violent enforcer of unjust laws that strictly favor the rich," either.

    And I assume that some dialog between teachers and police as to their similar functions in our society could be very enlightening for everyone.

  2. Too bad some of them didn't have the balls to say, "Well, yes we can until you physically force us to move." As educators, I'm disappointed they couldn't think or talk their way out of situation more effectively -- even make an attempt to engage, delay, or distract the officers in an intelligent debate, attract media attention, or build upon this "learning moment."

  3. We did move without a that we could head down the block and go plan to Occupy the Dept of Ed today!

  4. To Unknown.
    Too bad you weren't there to set an example.


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