Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts on Ed Deform and the 68 Strike

There is an interesting discussion over at Gotham, where a Unity slug is trying to brand MORE as some far out left group based on a comment Peter Lamphere made in motivating the MORE/UFT resolution supporting the NAACP suit on the specialized high schools. That the UFT is supporting the reso is interesting given the old historical stand on exams being strictly merit. (See Podair, "The Strike That Changed NY" and the Kahlenberg  Shanker bio).

You can read the background of the discussion at Gotham here.

Below I am responding to "mg" who responded to a clear Unity slug, "Peg".

In an earlier comment I pointed out I was on the picket line in 68 and at the time, as a 2nd year teacher, totally supported the strike. Two years later when I became an activist I began to hear the other sides -- and there were many. But I would still take the position that I would not cross the picket line as group of teachers, led by Teachers Action Caucus (TAC), did over the fact they supported community control. I think that hurt them as an opposition caucus for the next 20 years until they merged with another caucus (New Directions) to form the current New Action. (Many people involved in my caucus at the time (CSW) also had crossed the line and felt some ambiguity over that as time went by.)

Here I make the point that the Abe Levine/UFT line that the strike was only about due process for 19 teachers who the community wanted transferred as opposing the community control is a distortion, especially given that due process is barely breathing today. (When some told Shanker they wanted out he told them to stand firm as the issue was bigger than them. It sure was.)

Here is my earlier comment to Unity slug "Peg" who keeps trying to pin MORE to an anti-68 strike position:
I was on the picket line in 68 but I also saw both sides of the issue and both were wrong. Peter said that the UFT strike in 68 created a break with the black community. There is no one anywhere in NYC who wouldn't agree with that. Even see the Kahlenberg bio of Shanker. Abe Levine distorted the issue when he said the UFT struck only over due process when we all know part of that strike was to kill community control -- whether you agree with comm cont or not, Abe is lying when he made it seem that wasn't a factor.
19 teachers were transferred without due process and the UFT claims it went on strike for 3 months over that issue. Now when due process rights of most NYC teachers are violated every 5 minutes your UFT/Unity caucus leaders lie down like dogs. Have fun defending them.
Here was my last comment where I try to connect the Ford Foundation early version of ed deformers with today's crowd attempting to paint the UFT as the enemy of the black community on education.
Right mg. "Peg" is here to distract people over the UFT refusal to allow a vote on what will be a major change in the contract, as even Leroy Barr said was required. And cold warrior Abe Levine would re-invade Vietnam tomorrow. Here are some thoughts which I will post on Ed Notes so feel free to comment there.

The reso supporting the NAACP position on the specialized HS came out of a great discussion of that issue at a MORE meeting earlier this year. The UFT modified it and there were some back and forth discussions over coming to a joint agreement. So I do want to make this point that Unity and MORE were on basically the same page here and Peter was chosen to motivate it.

I agree that Peter didn't need to go back to 68 in his speech and in fact I don't hold the same exact view he and a portion of the left holds on the strike. (For your info I am a MORE capitalist).

Luckily MORE, unlike Unity Caucus, is a democratic org where we can openly discuss issues (come to our meeting on Saturday to see the difference from Unity).

But since we're in this space, I will chime in with a few thoughts that might make connections between issues like the evaluation and the 68 strike.

I'm part of the conspiracy theory crowd that feels certain forces at the time -- with many of the very same views today's ed deformers hold -- probably the same people -- the "liberal" Ford Foundation at the time -- were out to create a split between the power of the UFT and the black community and they succeeded royally. Note today that their descendents are using different terminology to split the union away by using the charter school wedge. The UFT fell for it then (do you think that working something out about the 19 transfers just might have led to a better outcome?) and has fallen for so much of it now by actually agreeing with so much of the ed deform program makes for an interesting study. They are boxed in and fear treading the delicate line if they take an out and out position opposing charters as destroying the fabric of public education. Luckily MORE can do so and will do so.

(By the way, Shanker and I think Ravitch through the years raised issues related to "Balkanization" of the schools if we allowed community control, which is somewhat ironic in that charters have done just that --- boy, how far has Ravitch come -- I now find myself and others walking a line between supporting public ed but under some level of community control, which is the position I believe MORE is working out -- some subtleties involved here. The UFT on the other hand supports mayoral control, partly as a consequence of the 68 community control issue -- the UFT would rather deal with even a Bloomberg than with 32 separate school boards. Thus any calls for an elected school board as the Chicago Teachers Union is doing will be rejected by the UFT -- not only is the leadership anti-democratic internally, but don't want any real parent say in their own local schools, other than making sure their kids do their homework and join the PTA -- note the silence of the UFT over the weak CEC Bloomberg set up, which I am betting makes the UFT happy).

After 68 the UFT leadership was shunned by so much of the communities they alienated. Randi as a break from the Shanker/Feldman era was able to make inroads and Mulgrew responded to Peter by claiming his man of the year title given by the NAACP.

Now just think of what the Joel Klein crowd have done by raising things as the "civil rights issue of our time." And the Waiting for Superman movie. The very goal was to break down whatever ties that have been built. And the UFT is left backpeddling, having never forgotten the outcomes of the 68 strike, still its fatal weakness. If you could ask Shanker if he would do it again, what do you think he would say?

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