Thursday, October 18, 2012

UFT Delegate Assembly: I Go AWOL

I've reached the point where I go to DAs for social reasons --- to see people and schmooze. And to hand out literature as part of the gauntlet delegates face as they enter. I considered writing a piece on the history of Ed Notes for the new delegates in a craven attempt to get more readers for this blog but I decided to hand out the MORE lit. But first I had to race over to Staples down the bloc to print up the 2-sided leaflet listing our candidates and the lessons of Chicago. There was a separate leaflet announcing our meeting on Saturday with Xian Barrett from CORE/CTU and our newly anointed presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh. And a leaflet with the resolution below. Lots of busy bees.

I'm waiting for reports to come in and will report more on the DA -- if you were there email me reports or leave a comment. The reason is that I never went up to the meeting. 

Once most people were inside by 5PM I left to head over to the Change the Stakes meeting. Of all the meetings I attend CTS is one of the best since half the people are parents. They were featured on the great NY Times article on Sunday - see MORE/CTS/Parent Voices Members Featured in NY Times Article on Testing.

Then I had to leave that meeting early to make my fiction writers group meeting at 7 which always takes place in a restaurant. So I got to eat short ribs for the 2nd time this week. Some diet. I weigh more than I did Friday night when I got back from Portugal where they gave us 3 meals a day with not all that much walking. Anyway, we had invited 2 new recruits so I wanted to be there. We started the group over 6 years ago as an outgrowth of a course at Gotham Writers -- why pay when we could do it ourselves. It has to be one of the longer running writers groups even though only 2 of us from the original group are left. We have a few people on hiatus and when one of our leaders put out an ad she got 40 replies. Amazing -- people are really serious about this writing stuff. I only write fiction occasionally (though Unity would call what I write here "fiction") to force myself to use my imagination. I'm sort of -- or supposed to be --- in the middle of a novel but only when I have a group deadline do I actually write. And finding it a very hard thing to do but as intellectually challenging as anything.

So I got home almost at 11 only to find that a wire was disconnected from the alarm -- I think I found a suspect. At least I caught some of the John Stewart show covering the debate. Really funny stuff. Now I'm watching Craig Ferguson and it's almost over and I have to go to a play tomorrow night so goodnight.

Oh, I heard some good news. MORE may have gotten this resolution on the agenda at the DA. Peter Lamphere spoke on it. There has been a lot of discussion on listserves and he media about this issue of diversity at the specialized schools. There was a very good discussion at the MORE meeting on Saturday where I learned a lot about an issue I hadn't been paying too much attention to. If I weren't so tired I'd share all that info with you but time to go to sleep after a brief celebration over tonight's Yankee rain out. Here's hoping for 40 days more of rain in Detroit.

Resolution on SSHS exam

Whereas high achieving Black and Latino students with demonstrated interest and abilities in science and math have been disproportionately excluded from admission to the Specialized Science High Schools, and

Whereas the admission process to the Specialized Science High School is based on a single exam that favors students that take specialized test preparation classes, including those provided by private tutors, for months and even years prior to the exam, and

Whereas of the top 165 specialized High Schools in the country ONLY NYC uses a single exam as the entrance criteria (NY Daily News October 1, 2012) while the rest of the country uses different combinations of exams, grades, recommendations and interviews, and 

Whereas students from families without the financial means for, or awareness of, the extensive test preparation classes are seriously disadvantaged in admittance to a SSHS, and

Whereas the closing and division of middle schools and comprehensive neighborhood high schools has both narrowed student access to the laboratories and programs specializing in science, technology, engineering and math that support student efforts to enter the SSHSs and at the same time intensified competition to enter the SSHSs, and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers supports racial diversity and integration of the public schools

Be It So Resolved,

That the United Federation of Teachers support the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Federal Civil Rights Complaint against the SSHS admission process and offer assistance to that effort, and

That the UFT establish its own committee to consider alternatives to the current admission process that may help to admit a more inclusive and racially and economically diverse student body to the SSHS and gifted and talented programs in NYC public schools generally.

(Offered by the MORE Caucus to the October 2012 UFT DA)


  1. In response to actions last night at the DA:

    Hi Norm,

    Although the circumstances of my life have not allowed me to be as active as I had been in the past, I want you to know that I imagine a great many more people have become educated and activated because of the work that GEM and now MORE have done in a short amount of time. The herculean and immensely creative efforts of people like Julie, Brian, Sam and others, including yourself, are a breath of fresh air and point towards a new direction in teacher unionism.

    Imagination, pragmatism and a genuine spirit and practice of democracy will guide more and more teachers, parents, students and other citizens toward building a system of education that is more reliable, equitable and successful than what is currently in place.

    The outdated, unimaginative, undemocratic, sectarian silliness embedded within a belief system that harkens back to 1917 Russia and places the death of capitalism first and foremost at any debate of the real-time conditions on the ground is pure lunacy.

    The leadership of the UFT lacks courage, resolve and imagination, perhaps because its founders were once the very "sectarian" people described above who turned away, adopted its worst "tendencies," and then wrapped them up in "pseudo-democracy" so that it could be sold as snake-oil here in NYC and across the country via the AFT.

    Mendel's actions last night aimed at squelching dissent should not surprise anyone. What is surprising is why anyone at this point in "history" would bother engaging the leadership at the DA. It is futility. Perhaps it feels good? Perhaps it sustains and validates one's ideology?

    I suspect in the end, the work that a group like MORE does (and think about how powerful just a small segment on a Sunday morning television show is compared to "dancing with the Unity stars") will transform the DA in the future.

    The hard work of all unionists should always be commended, especially those unionists who try to improve our working conditions, however, I have learned that in life, some paths are just darn better than others.

    Peace to All!

  2. Unity's response to democratic unionism is no different than the corporatization of public education. I am reminded of an old Mel Brooks line, "We mock the things we are to be."

    The overreaction is symptomatic of our union leaders' incompetence and fear that they will lose their positions. With a strong opposition their fears will be realized.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.