We all know that Superman isn't going to rescue public schoolchildren. But let's face it: Neither is Action Hero Matt Damon. At his educator mom's request, Damon traveled from a movie set in Vancouver, British Columbia to speak out for public schools at the SOS march in Washington, D. C. on July 30. Inexplicably, most of the D. C. area teachers stayed home.The SOS folks did an amazing job for their first rally. It was really grass-roots stuff and they should be proud of how well it went. But Susan's right: where were the busloads of teachers from NYC, VA, NJ, PA, DE, MD and DC? Why didn't the NEA and AFT state affiliates buy into SOS? Because it wasn't "theirs"?
Longtime educator Gary Stager, who red-eyed from California, asked an important question : "Washington D.C. is less than a day’s drive from hundreds of thousands of teachers. Why was Matt Damon fighting for their profession while they stayed home?" A subway ride away and they couldn't make it?
Please don't say these hundreds of thousands of teachers were scared. What should scare them is the reality of their profession being systematically destroyed.
I'm naive enough to have been stunned by the low turnout at the SOS march, but I think I've figured it out. Both the NEA and the AFT made a show of donating $25,000 for necessary basics like lots of water, a medical station, and so on. But union leaders didn't come and they didn't bother to mobilize teachers to show up. A dozen or so people worked the crowd handing out souvenir fans (compliments of WTU/AFT Local No. 6 AFL-CIO) but there was no mobilization of DC teachers.
I can understand, to an extent, holding back on the first year to see what this was going to be about. But there's no excuse for next year: all hands on deck. We need a lot more teachers on the Ellipse next July (or whenever) if we're ever going to make our case heard.
Maybe this is way over-the-top, but why did Obama get a pass at SOS? Ask the NEA. Ask the AFT. Ask the SOS speakers.Which is, of course, despicable. But the question stands: if the corporate reform movement is so bad, why is Obama getting a free pass? I heard a few chants against Arne Duncan, but that's missing the target, isn't it?
Maybe it's to be expected at an event underwritten by a union that has already endorsed Barack Obama for a second term that the only visible criticism of Obama at SOS was provided by someone in the crowd from LaRouche who showed up with a poster depicting the President with a Hitler mustache.
The debt ceiling debacle, unfortunately, tells us something about our president: he kowtows to insanity far too easily. The fact that we can't even discuss a Keynesian solution to our current mess is proof that he has allowed the country's conversation to drift dangerously to the right.
So it is with education. Like every other politician, he talks about how important schools and teachers are, but it's clear Obama hasn't thought things through enough to have an truly informed stance - witness his statements about high-stakes testing, which stand in direct opposition to his actual policies like Race To The Top.
No, it appears our president is willing to accommodate people who have nutty views about education "reform" in the same way he accommodates those who would drive our economy off of a cliff. The unions have an obligation to drag him back to the center by staking out positions clearly opposite to those of the Gates/Rhee/Broad/whomever cabal.
Instead, they dance around using VAM on standardized tests to evaluate teachers when they should really come out forcefully and say "no way, no how." And they give away their endorsement far too easily.
Again: I've found that teachers, in general, do not like politics. We are trained to diffuse conflict and reach consensus. Unfortunately, that is not called for here and now. We need to fight, and we need to win. Enough pussyfooting around.
All Hands On Deck.