Monday, August 4, 2014

Jousting with Diane Ravitch

Typical Unfunny and Unclear BATS Messaging at Work

Well once again two of my favorite clay pigeons flew across the horizon and I simply couldn't resist taking a shot at them. The insufferable BATS are banging all the pots and pans they can find and photoshopping bodies into the crowd pics they took of themselves at the Guanopalooza fest they held in Washington D.C. last week. I read a post on Diane Ravitch's blog from one of their number and responded to another member in the comments section with predictable derision and disputatiousness. The BATS had their allies to be sure among the commenters but I was amused and reassured to see no shortage of like minded souls who shared my personal view of them as lemming like and obeisant to the whims of Great Dear Leader Naison the private college prof, stern Priscilla, the home school mom and Marla, their token classroom teacher. 

I also ventured to take a run at my favorite  union phoney who also happens to be a protected species and sacred cow on the Ravitch site, you know her, you don't get her, you can't get rid of her, ... Randi Weingarten! And I guess this is where things got interesting. For a classroom grunt I guess it's kind of special to have someone of Diane Ravitch's stature respond to you by name and directly, even if it is in an attempt to call you out.  Here is a link to the whole episode.


Word has reached me that Randi is now organizing an action to protest the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. Does she think she’s the FBI now? Could she not gain access to the Malaysian Air crash site to protest that too? It’ so painfully obvious that this is a person abusing the trust of her constituents while tap dancing around the elephants in the ed reform room and searching “causes” that sound swell on a bumper sticker but have zero, squat, zilch to do with the business of running the largest teacher’s union in America. Does she think Americans will like us if she finds enough worthy causes to lose herself in? And does she think none of us notices that she continues to refuse to take on the enemies of public education mainly because she is their puppet and they are her masters? If the voting wasn’t rigged she’d be working for Pearson or Gates by now.

August 3, 2014 at 11:56 am
Sean Crowley, do you have any evidence that the voting at the AFT was rigged? Please present it. Randi was re-elected with some 97% of the delegates. Did you have other information or are you a union-buster working in disguise?re-

Saddam Only Bested Randi by 3% in the Polls. That Tell You Anything? 

I didn't respond because my esteemed  friend and colleague in NYC chimed in on my behalf (I was preoccupied at the Corn Fest Parade watching my youngest boys ride their baseball and football floats...) responding thusly: 

Michael Fiorillo 
August 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm
Diane, the AFT vote is indeed “rigged,” in the sense that it is nothing but an empty, pro forma exercise, where the results are determined ahead of time.

This is due to the fact that the union is a one-party state that is completely dominated by Unity Caucus, which has controlled the UFT/AFT for over half a century, requires the signing of a loyalty oath before joining and to maintain membership, and which has a gerrymandered vote for officers and convention delegates which gives undue power to retirees.

How much credibility do you give to the leadership of an organization where the majority of voters for President must sign a loyalty oath?

Correct: very little.

The UFT is one of the few unions in the country that allows retirees to vote for officers and convention delegates, and changed its by-laws last year to give them even more proportional weight in elections. As has often been pointed out on this site, the national union remains controlled by New York’s UFT, which with the exception of a brief caretaker administration after the death of Sandra Feldman, has always been controlled by Unity Caucus members.

It’s a bitter irony that retirees, who will be among the last to enjoy the benefits won by the UFT when it was run by Albert Shanker, who unlike Weingarten was a real trade unionist, are the effectual guarantors of the sell-out misleadership whose catastrophic collaboration with the so-called reformers will all too-likely insure that no teacher under the age of forty will receive a pension and be able to afford a comfortable retirement.

Anyone who would like some “proof” of teacher apathy, consciously cultivated powerlessness and demoralization in NYC should look no further than the fact that only 18% of active teachers voted in the UFT officer elections last year, which also determined the convention delegates who just reelected Weingarten, with the overwhelming majority of votes cast by retirees.

Weingrew are quite happy with that, as it guarantees the shamelessness with which they grovel before Bill Gates, in Randi’s case, or before our Reptilian NY Governor Cuomo, for whom Michael Mulgrew serves as a semi-official concubine.

You can pretend all you like that Randi and her pawn Mulgrew run a democratic organization, but the sad reality for working teachers is that UFT/AFT elections are far less competitive than elections in your average banana republic, and those results have absolutely nothing to do with teacher’s satisfaction with the job the misleadership is doing, but rather are a measure of their apathy, demoralization and sense of powerlessness, all of which are carefully and cleverly cultivated by Unity Caucus which, aside from the so-called reformers, is it’s chief beneficiary.

To which Diane Ravitch did not respond simply put because there was nothing she could say to rebut him.

I had to chuckle at being called a "union buster working in disguise" though. The very premise that someone hammering Randi Weingarten must be an anti union operative demonstrates how completely flummoxed Dr. Ravitch must be when it comes to making a disinterested and objective appraisal of Randi Weingarten's "solution driven" unionism. Those of us living check to check and doing the grind from 8:30 until 3:00 in front of dozens of kids are more likely to call it "concession driven" unionism. But when it doesn't affect your dinner table conversation and you don't have to download 288 page modules in order to teach a goddamned short story to a bunch of ninth graders, I guess your reality allows for such a term as "solution driven unionism" and you never give it a second thought. Some of us on this end of the spectrum do though. 

After she asked me if I was a union buster in disguise I half expected her to ask me if I taking grass too. It's hard to stay relevant when you get your daily talking points from people like Mulgrew and Weingarten. And it's a shame to be this intelligent, this articulate and this well informed on so many facets of the war but so woefully alone in left field on the topics of Randi and BATS. 


  1. I, Dr. Michael Flanagan, was at the BAT rally 7/28. I have been teaching for 28 years in NYC. We had more than 500+ teachers/ parents, children, at the DOE, from 38 states. My daughter was there with me. We conducted leadership workshops and 6 of our members met directly with Arne Duncan himself after the rally to express our concerns. Starting with the fact we do not like the word "Rigor" and getting heated from there on. Here is a video interview of a teacher and hip hop teacher/artist Jeremy Dudley. You can hear my band performing in the background. During the clip at the end of me singing Lean on Me, I was surrounded by more that 60 teachers holding arms and singing along. Not sure where the photoshop rumors are coming from, but I was there. It was a great day.

    1. Well, Dr. Flanagan, the photoshopping was a comic bit of hyperbole, I wonder why you didn't object to the image of pots and pans being banged as it was equally absurd. Do you think it would be possible for anyone to successfully photoshop bodies into a crowd pic to create the illusion of a larger crowd? I didn't so that's why I went with the hyperbole. Ahh but there's the meddling intellect, we murder to dissect as Wordsworth warned us and now you've rendered two of my gags dyscomical. I am thrilled for you and your fellows that you were able to share a true kumbaya vignette as you described. I guess that's the stuff folk guitars and headbands were meant to deliver. A group that repeatedly pounds its chest about its 50K strong membership then delivers 500 souls for an event they'd been touting since January is a group that needs to get honest about its membership numbers. Glad you had a good time and that you've been able to keep from crossing swords with the red guards of the guanocave so far. But keep speaking your mind and speak it when one of them hasn't had their herbal tea yet and you'll get a taste of the ridiculously ill treatment so many other sincere and dedicated teachers have experienced from your leadership cadre. Thanks for including the fact that we may call you Dr. too, it was obviously relevant to the comment.

  2. And a lovely discussion it was.

    NJ Teacher