Saturday, August 31, 2013

EdNotesOnline Blog 7th Anniversary: Reflections on 15 Years of Ed Notes

The real reason I got to meetings: rice pudding
With Aug. 2006 being the founding month of ednotesonline, I thought it time to reflect after seven years of ednotesonline (4954 posts) and 15 years of Ed Notes, when including the published versions.

I was inspired by 3 blogs:
  • NYC Educator who began in spring of 2005 but gained a big audience with his opposition to the fall 2005 contract.
  • Jeff Kaufman starting the ICE blog during that contract fight.
  • Ms. Frizzle who I met at a robotics event and began to follow her blog when she wrote about the event.
The blogging world has changed. With the proliferation of an amazing team of bloggers hitting hard on every issue, the original work of getting the word out no longer seems as necessary.
With Diane Ravitch posting every 10 minutes on the very same issues I used to write about there is no longer that need to get up early to post about things. I go to Perdido or NYC Educator or all the other great blogs on the blog roll. In fact I spend so much time reading them I forget to blog myself. Increasingly, I think it is not as important for me to say my puny 2 cents but to collate what all the others are saying in a way to reinforces their points

And then there is all the organizing work I feel takes priority. I just do not want to be a keyboard warrior -- using blogs and social networks without trying to put real people in real places together to build real organizations at the local level. Thus the migration from ICE to GEM (a sort of bridge org - in retrospect) to MORE, the first org I've been with that has been able to develop some structure with the potential to scale up. (Very early stages, of course.) In fact there are so many young(er) MOREistas that my work is no longer necessary - I don't feel guilty about not doing anything and have been able to restrict what I do to a few areas like the upcoming MORE newsletter modeled somewhat on Ed Notes (3 or 4 times a year - and I hope you will sign up to distribute in your school).

The first ednotesonline blog post was this:

All these guys are gone (Buffy on the left at the end of 2003, the girls on the right in 2011 and 2009) replaced recently by these gals in 2011 and 2012 who sort of just popped up - like an unplanned pregnancy.

Penny left, 1 yr old, Bernie rt, 2 yrs old

Really, I expected to be living in Paris by this time. Now I'm stuck with a young set of cats that will outlive me. We could always take them with us to Paris. Parlez Vous, Pousse?

My second Aug. 2006 post was this: Ednotes Online - August 31, 2006 which focused attention on ICE.

By the time I began this blog almost 8 years after starting Ed Notes, I was focused on helping build the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) the caucus that Ed Notes helped spawn. But by the 2007 UFT elections it seemed clear that ICE was not going through the kind of growth I had hoped for - in fact it was shrinking -- and I began to refocus.

ADDED: When Angel Gonzalez came to ICE in 2008 he pointed out many of the organizational flaws, which led to the more activist GEM, which is how we met Julie and a bunch of other people who would never have come to ICE.

This blog was an extension of the hard copy of Ed Notes which began in 1998. I lost a whole lot of them due to Sandy but am in the process of trying to get them all online so there is a complete record for anyone to use my rantings for a book or article about the history of ed deform or the history of the UFT since Randi -- her takeover corresponds with the birth of Ed Notes -- and in some ways she helped inspire it -- she seemed to offer in her early years a reform message and Ed Notes was an attempt to influence those reforms -- which never came.

We have been fighting a 3 front war: ed deform nationally, the NYCDOE, and the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership.

We are proud to have been one of the first in NYC to warn against ed deform as far back as 2001 due to our George Schmidt connection in Chicago. Thus my warning headline in Sept. 2002: COMING SOON TO A SCHOOL NEAR YOU: MAYORAL CONTROL.

The DOE since Bloomberg has been the local/devil's incarnation of ed deform.

The UFT leadership has been a longer term battle -- since I became an activist in 1971. I was active 'till the early 80s then spend over a decade working on my house and getting an MA in computer science, teaching as an adjunct at Brooklyn College, etc.

When I became chapter leader in 1994 that pulled me back into union work. But I was no longer viewing the leadership as the enemy. My main focus was on my principal so I wasn't paying much attention beyond that. Though I opposed that first 1995 contract -- Randi's first disaster -- I did not take part in the bigger battle to defeat it  -- led by people like Bruce Markens -- remarkable in that he was the elected Manhattan HS District Rep -- and to their credit, New Action, which actually functioned like an opposition should at that point -- though never really able  or willing to go deep into the grass roots. It was only when I took a sabbatical during the 1997-98 school year that I began to look at central UFT policy more closely.

Randi took over at that time and she was insecure, so she reached out to Ed Notes -- in fact embraced it in some ways -- soon I was receiving offers to join Unity Caucus. For at least 3 years I actually supported her. Given the poor state of the opposition -- even pre-sellout I thought New Action a poor organization with little hope of making much of an impact. So in those early years I aimed to use Ed Notes to lobby Randi to reform the union -- and she managed to play me very well - which I why I am an expert on Randi duplicity -- a Randiologist.

It was only in the spring of 2001 that things began to get clearer that Randi was not only not a reformer, but a dangerous force who began to restrict democracy even further than Shanker and Feldman had done, using her style to fool people into submission.

After the UFT elections in March 2001 I attempted to use Ed Notes to get all opposition people together but that fell apart. So, reluctantly, through the 2001-2002 school year, I began to think about what it would rake to build a new opposition. One thing was clear: I would have to retire in order to make that effort. Thus in July 1, 2002 I retired and immediately set out to expand Ed Notes from a delegate assembly newsletter to a citywide tabloid with 10-20,000 copies in circulation. That led to meeting enough people through the 2002-03 school year to form ICE in the fall of 2003 which led to GEM which led to MORE.

For me the 11 years of retirement have been very fruitful personally, mainly because of the amazing people I've met and worked with.

And I meet new people every day. Yesterday afternoon I went to a Change the Stakes action meeting. A 17 year old student at a NYC HS had attended the meeting we had on Tuesday (see rice pudding photo above -- and YES I had another one yesterday) and came back again as she wants to help organize students to oppose high stakes testing. What a powerhouse this little slip of a girl, whose family comes from Southern Asia, is. I felt such a connection to this kid who is 51 years younger than me. As we walked to the subway she told me her story and I told her mine. I walked down the stairs feeling I had made a friend. How amazing that I could meet and connect with someone like her.

So that is one reason why I keep doing this.

But also because we are turning the tide.

Fred Smith recently wrote:
Call the "reformers" profiteers, one-percenters, privatizers, corporatists, powers-that-be, smart-money guys--call them realists.  And call us parents, teachers, dreamers, organizers--yes, call us idealists.  But don't call us losers.  Because in the end we're going to win.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations stormin Norman as your blog has kept many informed with regards to serious issues facing education. You have accomplished this with facts, some humor, and hard hitting editorials. Your blog is the next best thing to the original ednotes handed out at the Delegate Assemblies back at Fashion Industry HS.

I noticed that... said...

This was very touching, celebratory, and an informative blog moment. May your efforts to inform the public continue for many, many, many years to come.

By the way, you definitely look good next to the rice pudding.

NYC Educator said...

Happy birthday EdNotes!

chemtchr said...

Congratulations and thanks, Norm. For all these years, your posts beat the sun up, and supplied new intelligence from the field. You were also helping to inform a new national movement, through your union work.

Up here in Massachusetts, we began to discern the same outlines of the coming assault on public education. Many nights I followed up your leads, and Susan OHanian's, working to unravel new and ever-more-destructive corporate strategies, instead of sleeping. I would carry your links over to Edweek, and post them in comments to an historian who was blogging there.

Yes, the tide is turning and the celestial bodies didn't accomplish that all on their own.