Sunday, September 15, 2013

Compare and Contrast Reactions to Teacher Evaluation: In Mexico 10,000 Teachers Protest, In NYC Union Leaders Defend the Undermining of the Profession

The education issues in Mexico and in this country and in other parts of the world are the same. That should tell you something. That the union misleaders who are wearing buttons that say Dec. 31, 2013 to mark the end of the Bloomberg era are not telling the members the truth about the neo-liberal assault on education, teachers and their unions.

Reports about how teachers have taken over Mexico City have been so biased in the NY Times. As if they are doing this so they can sell their jobs or protect corrupt union practices. In fact I believe they are teachers with similar attitudes to the anti-Unity folks here in NYC and to the Chicago Teachers and the over 100 union activists who attended the conference we held in Chicago last month.

MORE Steering Committee member Gloria Brandman was on the scene in Mexico last month as was Class Struggle's Marjorie Stamberg. Both are helping host an event on Sept. 24 to discuss the Mexico story.

Before I get to the Mexico stuff, here are links to reports from James Eterno and Arthur Goldstein on Mulgrew's performance at the chapter leader meeting this past Thursday.
This would be a good common core standard question: Compare and contrast the teachers in Mexico with those in the USA.

Here is the announcement, followed by 3 reports from Marjorie. I have to find Gloria's emails and pics for posting in the future. 

From Mexico City to New York City

Teacher Insurgency
in Mexico
Tuesday, September 24, 6 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center

365 5th Ave. at 34th St. Room 5414
B, D, F train to 34th St.; 6 train to 33rd St. (photo identification needed

Since mid-August, teachers in Mexico have electrified the country, striking against unionbusting educational “reform” laws that threaten to throw tens of thousands out of their jobs while privatizing and potentially eliminating schools in impoverished and indigenous areas.
This is not your usual protest: the teachers drove the Mexican Congress out of the capital, and twice blocked Mexico City’s airport. Up to 40,000 strikers are camped out in the capital’s main square, the Zócalo, in front of the National Palace, refusing to accept the anti-teacher laws.
Their example is an inspiration to us in New York and elsewhere as we face a global offensive against public education.
Come to a reportback and discussion with NYC educators who were
present in Mexico City and Oaxaca during this struggle.

*Gloria Brandman, NYC teacher, UFT Chapter Leader, MORE (Movement of  Rank and File Educators)
   *Tami Gold, professor and filmmaker - PSC Hunter College Chapter
        *Marjorie Stamberg, NYC teacher, UFT delegate, CSEW (Class Struggle  Education Workers)
             Video Reports from Oaxaca and Mexico City   
                      Light refreshments
                                       For more information, call (212) 460-0983

Here are a few of Marjorie's reports in chronological order:

Oaxaca, August 27--

The "Dialogue Round Table" that the government agreed to August 23 as teachers blockaded the airport, began yesterday. Over the weekend, government secretary Osorio Chung declared that, first, nothing would stop the educational reform, and second, if the "dialogue" didn´t produce results acceptable to the government, it would proceed with repression.

A columnist in yesterday´s paper, La Jornada (August 26th) put it this way:

"One of the first sessions between the leaders of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate which will take place today will determine the course to be taken both by a movement determined not to let itself be swindled and by the "reformist" powers who are preparing an iron fist underneath the silken glove of dialogue".

Meanwhile the teachers say they are still "on battle footing." Yesterday they surrounded the embassies of the United States, Spain, and Britain. And another ten thousand teachers are arriving in Mexico City today to join the massive tent city that is stretched out across the main plaza and several blocks into side streets of the Centro Historico. (Tourists stepping out of the Holiday Inn on Cinco de Mayo street have to wend their way through the maze of tents.)

The main negotiator for the dissident teachers of the CNTE warned the government, "You think we´re going to swallow this bait, but we are prepared for anything,¨ adding that the teachers had categorically no confidence that this was leading to a solution. In fact, the dialogue is a trap.

New York Times echoes Mexican Union Bashers

The view of business sectors, right-wing politcians and television monopolies who have demonized teachers was synthecized in a particularly ignorant and snooty article in Sunday´s New York Times by Karla Zabludovsky. As she portrayed it, the problems of Mexican education consists of nepotism, "poorly performing teachers," unions, and the "radical teachers group," the CNTE. In fact, Mexican public schools have been systematically starved of funds for several decades, teachers in rural and impoverished urban areas go through hell to bring education to their students, often without blackboards, let alone computers. The so-called reforms are an attempt to eliminate any form of job security for teachers, and to step-by-step privatize as much as possible.

Two of the three implementation laws were passed last week, which laid the basis for the introduction of school fees and tuition that would gut the constitutional guarantee of free public secular education for all.

But in face of the teachers´ protests, the government has not yet been able to ram through the third law, including the punitive teacher evaluations, which is called "Professional Teaching Service." This would effectively eliminate all job security for teachers. They would have to take a multiple choice test every four years, in which failing scores would lead to removal from the classroom for tenured teachers, and firing for teaches under a new probation law.

Teachers I have talked with at the sit-in and blockades have been struck by the parallels to our fight in the U.S. and theirs. And no accident. These reforms come straight from the OECD and other think-tanks of global capital. Obviously this has nothing to do with improving education and everything to do with union-bashing, profit for venders, and producing a "disciplined" work force of low -level technicians to meet the needs of the big multi-.nationals. The upper and middle classes will send their offspring to private. schools.

With the supposed "dialogue" which is actually the doorway to the massive repression, the government is trying to portray teachers as only out for themselves. But the teachers have responded, as one newspaper put it that they would "take whatever action they considered necessary in defense of free, quality education and the rights of the teachers."

Faced with the government´s treacherous maneuvers, the key now is to extend the strike and make it national. Teachers in Michoacan and here in Oaxaca are still out on indefinite strike; they´ve been out for 6 days in Tabasco; they´re walking out tomorrow in Chiapas. They may go out in Veracruz. The government is particularly worried that the strikes could continue into September when the so-called energy reform calling for the introduction of private capital into the state-owned Pemex oil monopoly is coming to a vote. Massive protests by teachers and other workers blocking Pemex installations in the oil states of Veracruz and Tabasco would have a major effect on the Mexican economy.

One final note-- La Bestia

On Sunday, the notorious train, called La Bestia (the beast) which carries hundreds of Central American immigrants on freight-car roofs, in the scorching heat, beset by violent gangs and corrupt police, through Southern Mexico derailed and overturned, killing at least 6 and injuring many more. There is an excellent documentary by the same name, (La Bestia) which shows the harrowing experience many of our students go through before they get to the U.S., It is available on Netflix

Report-back Day 15--

This will be my last post, as I head back to school. I want to see if we can put together a forum-discussion on the Mexican teachers strike, in New York. I'll let you know the date, and hope everyone can come, as we are facing the same urgent issues.

Things here came to a head over the weekend as Mexico president Peña Nieto delivered his first annual "State of the Union" report to Congress. But nobody paid much attention, as the real action was pushing through the teacher evaluations.

While up to 50,000 teachers, youth and other supporters were in the streets facing an army of riot police, the three major parties in Congress met behind a wall of 9 foot-high steel plates where they voted for the punitive teacher evaluations. This was even as the supposed "dialogue" with the leaders of the dissident teachers CNTE union was taking place in a downtown hotel.

But today in the planton (tent city) in the main plaza, teachers were not cowed. Wednesday there is a nationwide "mega-march" to kick off what they are calling a "teacher insurrection."

The PRD Mexico City government has been under fire from the right-wing for not cracking down on the teachers. New York's own former mayor Rudy Guiliani who was an advisor to the Mexico City mayor on security matters got into the act, calling to jail demonstrators.

But yesterday there were reportedly 6,000 city riot police, 2,000 federal police, 3,000 bank police, 2,000 state police from outside Mexico City, an anti-riot squad, a battalion of grenadiers, a regiment of mounted police, a helicopter and two armored water cannon vehicles to keep the demonstrators at bay. There were two dozen arrests -- many of them when police stopped a metro train and arrested every university student in the car!

The evals are very punitive. A leading Mexican political scientist,John Ackerman, denounced the law as one that would "literally throw out on the street a multitude of highly trained teachers dedicated to their students, with the excuse that they had 'failed' slanted tests designed for that purpose." "It's a classic three strikes and they're out," he remarked.

He said the real danger is that the classrooms will be staffed by people who would be disposed to be slavishly obedient to supervisors who could fire them at the least excuse. Or the classrooms would be left empty as teachers are forced to abandon school books and go drive a taxi, become a dishwasher in the United States, or.... (you can fill in the blank).

Going along with the anti-teacher "reform", the government of the Pact for Mexico plans to introduce sales tax (a whopping 16%) on food and medicine. This will literally deprive people of life, as one legislator said

The teachers here are incredibly dedicated. Particularly in the south of Mexico, in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacan and other centers of the resistance, they travel to small rural villages everyday to teach in schools that often have no electricity or running water. Forget about computers or smart boards, many of them don't have blackboards. There are no school lunches or breakfasts. Under the reform they are talking about introducing 8-hour a day schools and they will have lunches -- to be paid for by the parents.

The condition of the computers in the urban schools is notorious. Yesterday we were walking past a school in Oaxaca City (shut down because of the strike) and noticed that they had used the carcasses of old monitors as planters, with very pretty plants growing out of them!

What is going to happen next? It's hard to say at this point. There is a growing cleavage between union leaders (some of whom have tried to soften the blow by saying they won the right to appeal the evals-- where have we heard that before, UFT? There has also been a lot of talk that in Oaxaca, the returning teachers of Section 22 may fight to declare the state in rebellion and refuse to carry out the national law. Not impossible, they've done it before.
Urgent: Repression Underway Against Teachers in Mexico City
UPDATE,  11: 15 p.m. (New York time)  – Striking teachers have largely dispersed to campuses of the National University (UNAM), Mexico City University (UACM) and other schools around Mexico City, while several hundred remain at the Monumento a la Revolucion. The Mexican Red Cross is reporting 29 injured during the eviction.
UPDATE, 7:15 p.m. (New York time) – At exactly 4:45 p.m. (5:45 p.m. New York time), the federal police launched their attack on the teachers camped out in Mexico City’s Zócalo. The paramilitary police force entered from the side of the National Palace and the Cathedral, with two tanquetas in the lead. Teachers retreated into side streets while throwing rocks and sticks at the advancing federales. Videos show residents denouncing the police and supporting the teachers (
Some 3,600 federal police reportedly took part in the eviction of the teachers. The assault was coordinated by Rear Admiral Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, now assistant secretary of public security for the federal government, who was slated to be chief of public security in a government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist-nationalist opposition candidate who ran against Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The teachers have withdrawn to the Monumento a la Revolución, some blocks to the east of the Zócalo, where at present several thousand are awaiting a decision from the leadership as to the next step. The CNTE leadership is still hoping to negotiate with the federal government, while many in the ranks are in favor of falling back to the UNAM campus (Ciudad Universitaria) where it would be difficult for police to dislodge them.
Students at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENA) have declared an indefinite strike in support of the teachers and there have been clashes between police and several hundred ENAH students who shut down Periférico Sur and UNAM students who blocked  traffic on Insurgentes Avenue.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER  13, 5:15 p.m. (New York time) – Today the federal government of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has unleashed a massive repressive operation against the tens of thousands of teachers of the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers (CNTE), who have been camped out since August 19 in the capital’s main square, the Zócalo. The teachers are protesting an anti-teacher “education reform” which aims at firing tens of thousands of teachers annually and to increasingly privatize public education 
Alleging that it needed to clear the vast square in front of the National Palace in order to hold the independence day celebration (the Grito de la independencia) on September 16, and for a march by the Mexican military, the federal government gave the teachers until 4 p.m. (15 minutes ago) to clear out. Thousands of riot police lined up next to the Bellas Artes Palace a few blocks away while police helicopters circled over the Zócalo. Armored personnel carriers known as tanquetas are positioned on at least two sides of the square.  
At present there are reportedly about 1,500 teachers left in the square vowing to resist with sticks against the heavily armed granaderos (Mexico City riot cops). Earlier they seized a back-hoe to block one of the streets. Tents are burning in order to create a smoke screen to make it harder for the helicopter spotters to direct the repression. At the same time, thousands of teachers, workers and students are streaming into nearby streets of Tacuba and 5 de Septiembre+.
At the corner of Madero and the Eje Central, demonstrators are chanting, “Los policías no son trabajadores, son el brazo armado de los explotadores” (the police are not workers, they are the armed fist of the exploiters).
Some comrades of the Grupo Internacionalista, including a teacher from Oaxaca, are with the teachers in the Zócalo at this point, while others are meeting those arriving outside the police perimeter. At Ciudad Unviersitaria in the south of Mexico City, comrades are at a rally called by the National University faculty and staff union, STUNAM, to bring masses to the center in support of the teachers.
Recently the teachers union of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the SEPE-RJ, passed a motion of solidarity with the Mexican teachers at the initiative of our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil. In Mexico City, at the initiative of the Grupo Internacionalista, the CNTE reciprocated with a motion of solidarity with the SEPE, on strike since August 14 

Protest outside Mexican consulate in New York City against repression against teachers.

Today Mexican teachers are leading resistance to corporate education “reform” and the capitalist assault on public education and teachers unions everywhere. We must show active solidarity with our sisters and brothers at this crucial moment.
Note: A reportback by NYC teachers who have been present at the struggle in Mexico will be held on Tuesday, September 24, 6 p.m., at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street), Room 5414.

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