Monday, August 10, 2015

Should MORE be LESS? The Key to Organizing Opposition in the UFT is to Decentralize

I've attended a few MORE meetings. While I was very impressed overall, they did not seem particularly interested in the issues of micromanagement and harassment that go on in many elementary schools, which is what keeps those teachers too busy, preoccupied and exhausted to get more involved politically. Also, a lot of our younger teachers are not aware of their union history -- in my school (which you know, I believe, in District 14) the vast majority of newcomers had no clue. There were also many TFAers - don't know if that's the case in the district as a whole, but the TFA fellows frequently don't stay in the profession, and therefore are not interested...
Comment from Leigh on Facebook, Talking About UFT Elections - Double Oy Vey! -…/talking-about-uft-elect…
Leigh raises some good points. Before responding, let me digress a bit. History is important and Ed Notes tries to handle that issue - but maybe we need study groups.

Since Shanker the concept of a strong leader/personality has been the norm -- the UFT has had only 4 presidents since Shanker took power. And often the opposition caucuses have had clear leaders and personalities. My goal in helping form ICE was to dilute the leadership - everyone should be encouraged to lead. It didn't always work out that way because we didn't attract enough people willing to take on these roles. I'm pretty happy with the direction MORE has been going -- since we started 6 month steering committee terms we have had almost 30 people take part. If I asked someone to name the leader of MORE they would come up with a dozen names - some may be louder than others - but we have successfully gotten more people involved than I could have dreamed of - and the key is that so many are in the 6-15 year teaching range and in their 20s and 30s - a new wrinkle in the opposition since the 70s.

But there are also inherent problems in a diffused leadership situation - sometimes people wait for others to act - someone has to pick up the ball. That is the essence of what Leigh is saying - sure people are concerned about these issues but the mechanisms to address them - are not yet in place. 

I would also point out that on the other side MORE is open and flexible enough for Leigh to come in and take over that aspect and lead the way in the battle -- people would jump on board. I think MORE's failure has been to make it clear that this is possible - meetings are often so centrally managed.

My recent thinking is decentralizing so people are empowered to act - to organize. To make it easier for people like Leigh who want MORE to tackle an issue to jump in.

I see the upcoming UFT elections as a way to establish some ways of doing that. There may be resistance from some who see that a centrally managed campaign is essential - and aspects of that do need to be taken care of. But if MORE

Here was my response to Leigh on facebook.

Norm Scott  
 -- your comment has given me some food for thought. This system is too big to crack without decentralizing -- and one of my goals is to get MORE to function with that mentality. Many of us have never been entirely happy with MORE meetings, especially the earlier ones where people did a lot of talking and not doing. This past year we began to focus more on getting work done --like chapter leader assistance - they are often keys to getting a fightback going at the school level - but one saturday a month is really not the way to get things done. MORE's elementary school people are concerned but as you say too busy to do much about it. I think what is needed is a MORE elementary school group that tackles the specific problems in a committee not in a meeting - maybe break the meetings in 2 and have the committee meet - then follow up on their own. If you are interested in working on issues like these let me know. One approach would be more to focus on these issues at the district level - not on the central where there is not much that can be done. So maybe getting some D 14 elem school teachers together might be an idea. If one district gets some changes that model can be shared with others. 

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