March 14, 2010

Following a democratic path

That's what Russia should be doing, according to Gorbachev.

In a Times op-ed today called "Perestroika Lost", he says his country "will progress with confidence" only if it follows a democratic path.
"For instance, all major decisions are now taken by the executive branch, with the Parliament rubber-stamping formal approval. The independence of the courts has been thrown into question. We do not have a party system that would enable a real majority to win while also taking the minority opinion into account and allowing an active opposition. There is a growing feeling that the government is afraid of civil society and would like to control everything."
Gorbachev must have been sitting in on our UFT Delegate Assemblies for a couple of years, because that's what it feels like down at 52 B'way.

Take the minority opinion into account? Allow an active opposition? You must be joking.

Ednotes always writes about what passes for democracy in our union, but this recent post really paints for us one dirty little picture.

Here's a bit of it, and you can read the rest at the link.
It has long been known how the UFT/Unity machine uses paid personnel in union elections. As most schools have Unity chapter leaders, they have a ready means of keeping control of the schools. But when they are faced with an independent chapter leader they use the district reps to try to intimidate them into not putting material in the boxes. And of course, we have constant reports of Dist. Reps going into these schools on union time to stuff Unity material in the boxes. If they see ICE-TJC lit, they even pull them out themselves.

For people who are not committed ICE or TJC activists (who they don't dare bother), these actions by the Dist Reps can be intimidating because in the union hierarchy the DR is the single most important person the CL, especially newer ones who feel very insecure in their knowledge, must deal with for help.

Now the use of this personnel has been standard operating procedure for the Unity machine.

What people don't realize is that the elections every three years for union officers are not as important as the elections for chapter leaders which occur the year before (next elections are spring 2012, which is where serious battles will take place when it becomes clear that Mulgrew will be as big a sellout as Weingarten). This is not an accident. Unity pulls in all new chapter leaders into training and uses those sessions to recruit them into Unity just in time for the big election the year after, which in most cases shuts down the ability of the opposition to reach those schools without schlepping physically into those buildings. Since ICE-TJC are working teachers, the ability to impact the vast majority of schools is minimal.

But even if they could get a leaflet into all the schools, that is minimal compared to having a thousand Unity people in the buildings actively bombarding people with pro-Unity material and intimidating people who are sympathetic to the opposition. In fact, Unity chapter leaders often just pull out the leaflets from the boxes after the ICE-TJC rep leaves. One ICE chapter leader who stuffed boxes throughout her district sent me this email:
Three years ago, in my district, many school chapter leaders who are Unity pulled out ICE-TJC literature and thrown them away. I have had teachers that I know call to tell me and even a security guard. Who knows what will happen this year?
Well, we know what is already happening this year. Yesterday I received this email from a non-ICE chapter leader who is an independent critic of the UFT leadership. It got ugly.
My district rep gave me an argument about putting ICE flyers in mailboxes. She said that everything gets back to her. I said that I have the right to do this, just as the New Action person had the right to come to my school and distribute, and that she had the right to come to do this.

She said that she doesn't see how I can think that a chapter leader could run the union. I pointed out that Mulgrew was a chapter leader, and so was she.

She was disgusting. Told me I am a member of Ice (you and I know that I'm not). I pointed out that Weingarten laid the groundwork for many of the problems that we are dealing with now. She said Weingarten isn't there anymore. I said that RW handpicked Mulgrew.

I mentioned Diane Ravitch. She said that Ravitch is mentoring Mulgrew. !!!!!!

Are they very threatened?
As I said, the opposition must have a critical mass of chapter leaders who will stand up to the Unity goons to make a dent. . . Over the past few years ICE and TJC have understood that and have focused on building this machine, which they had to start building from scratch when New Action, which had 40 years to build a machine, abandoned the fight and joined Unity. Much of the New Action vote, which was less than ICE-TJC last time, comes from this machine. Now that many NA people are retired, they have about 40 people going around schools pushing their stuff. And some people are not aware that they have sold out and just check the NA box thinking they are still the opposition - just this weekend a retired friend asked me if he should vote NA to vote for me. I gagged.
He continues this over at his blog, and I'm sure will be reporting on all election events from now until the date the votes are counted.

Ballots must be returned by April 6th, by the way. They'll be counted the day after.

My bet is that ICE analysis will follow within hours after that.

March 6, 2010

The UFT — the "lions of treachery"

Don't you just love it when our own union gets giggly happy over designing new ways to evaluate us?

Just look at that smile over there on the right.

That picture was circulated in the Chapter Leader Weekly this week, with a caption that read:

"Enthusiasm was in the air at UFT headquarters during the March 3 kickoff for the Measures of Effective Teaching Project, a two-year study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in which volunteer teachers will help create objective and reliable measures of effective teaching."
It's not enough that the city hires grad students, calls them "teachers" the first year on the job, and uses them to kill tenure and push veteran members out of their jobs. The UFT accepted that. It talks a good game, sure enough, but it's positioning itself beautifully: when we lose tenure and the ATRs are all fired, they can claim it's not their fault.

And it's not enough that know-nothing administrators — sometimes unsuccessful, unmotivated, or unlicensed teachers before they jumped into admin — get absurd freedoms to evaluate us. The UFT accepted that too, and even gave up the right to grieve the truly wicked stuff.

And it's also not enough that the Steve Brills, Nick Kristofs and so many others of the capitulating press continue to heckle from the sidelines, passing off the EdDeform press releases as if they were real news. The UFT buys into the same jargon just as much as the press. It took them way too long to reject the profound deception of the school report cards and faulty test data.

Now the UFT has signed on big time to the new Gates project on teacher evaluation.

When I first heard about this project in the fall, I thought Bill and Melinda were just bored in bed and looking for a way to spice up their sex life. Why not hit teachers again. It was fun last time when we destabilized the system with those new small schools.

But I'm clear now, thanks to the NY Times Sunday magazine article, which says the reason they're spending big bucks on teacher evaluation is because Bill's just "personally very curious." It's nothing to do with sex at all.

As I write this, Ednotes is posting something on the same article.
Next day, he writes this one.

We learned about the UFT involvement in this project months ago, when a ripple of shock went through the Delegate Assembly as Mulgrew announced it. Not much of a ripple, it's true. Unity delegates were by that time comatose or running on automatic.

The union's total commitment to both Gates and EdDeform can't be more clear in the article describing the project in the Dec. 11th issue of the NY Teacher. :
Another Gates focus is teacher quality. The foundation would pour $500 million into three to five “deep dive sites” around the nation, including big urban districts, which will act as laboratories for new ways to measure teacher performance and better link it to tenure and salaries. It will pay for research on using data systems to measure student and teacher performance.
More horrifying is this other paragraph talking about the November event at which Gates unveiled his project:
Invited were such lions of education reform as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, his Washington, D.C., counterpart Michelle Rhee and Bush Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, along with top advisors to President-elect Obama and AFT/UFT President Randi Weingarten.
This is not the outside press. This is our union rag calling Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Margaret Spellings "lions of education reform."

In my experience, calling a person a "lion" of something is a compliment. The term is never used to describe someone's antisocial accomplishments. Take George Bush, for example. I hate what he did to the US Constitution. It was a massive offensive, but I don't go around calling him a "lion of Constitutional reform."

I see no reason for our union paper to call Joel Klein a lion of anything, except that he eats red meat and takes no prisoners.

You can blame Mulgrew for this new collaboration with Gates — and you must — but don't forget Weingarten, who's a one-woman steering committee at the national level.