Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When Your Seat at the Table is a High Chair

Just a Matter of Time

It strikes me that we missed an opportunity here in B-Lo. It also occurs to me that I am as guilty as anyone else of allowing it to slip away without as much as a crisis of the soul in which I faltered and took the path most traveled, called myself a coward and spit on the ground in disgust. It was suggested somewhere that one way to fight back against the ever encroaching ed reform beast would be to refuse to participate in writing SLO's. The proposition put forth on social media was that if you refused to write them the district would create them for you. 

The defiant statement being I'm not going to help you tie the rope you're using hang me. Tie it yourself if you want it that bad. I admit it caught my eye and I toyed with the idea for a bit as did a few others from what I was reading on various platforms but in the end it was eventually shouted down by upper union management. The rationale was that it could be construed as a job action/strike and we could all be punished accordingly. Now I understand in the event of a traditional strike the most glaring repercussion is that we get docked 2 days wages for every day spent on the picket line. As the SLO refusal isn't an actual strike with teachers refusing to go to work I can't exactly say how they would go about punishing us for it. 

Would we be docked double for every day our SLO's were late? I guess that's as close to a strategy as they'd need but the real problem is nobody as far as I know even took it that far. The idea came up, flew around the room for a few minutes and created a little excitement among rank and file who are desperate to strike back against the incessant barrage of harassment and hectoring we've been subjected to by the state and the board and City Hall's winged minions. But the thing with feathers was shot down and removed from circulation before very many teachers even considered it as a possibility.

 I remember fuming at Dick Ianuzzi when he came to a Town Hall Meeting at UB a few years ago as President of NYSUT. His mantra was "We do ourselves no good dying on the barricades." I interpreted this as an order to cower behind them while King and Tisch  and Old Bob Bennett flung everything they could lay their hands on at us. I didn't care much for the message then and I'm surprised now that the very people responsible for throwing Ianuzzi out of office have embraced his "seat at the table" mentality in spite of the fact that they're handed kids menus and served NA beer while the rest are feasting on steak and scotch. 

Just when Ianuzzi was beginning to get focused and dig his heels in to fight Cuomo and Tisch and the rest of them is about when Weingarten and Mulgrew decided Dick had to go. Yet here we remain. Stagnant and under siege from receivership, APPR, arbitrary SLO deadlines, an out of town carpbetbagger of a Superintendent calling receivership school teachers "dregs" a department head calling teachers who followed established Regents exam protocol "terrorists" and not to be forgotten we're hearing from NYC that a serial wackjob Principal has had all the adult desks dragged from classrooms and tossed on the curb because she doesn't think teachers should be sitting down. Yet, we continue to play ball, to accept our high chair at "the table" waiting Job-like for something to give. 

Once I saw a pre-strike rally in Philly on the evening news. I think I was still in college. The place was jammed and they were all wearing red. You couldn't hear anything anyone was saying and there was a maniacal baritone voice booming into a mic. Nobody had to hear what was being said. You knew. The auditorium huge and electrified. The place was rocking and they were saying We've had it with your bullshit and we're not taking it any more. The roar of the place was indescribable. Lit nerd that I am I thought of MacBeth as he readies for the inevitable and girds himself for battle: 
—Arm, arm, and out!—
If this which he avouches does appear,
There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here.
I 'gin to be aweary of the sun,
And wish th' estate o' th' world were now undone.—
Ring the alarum-bell!—Blow, wind! Come, wrack!
At least we’ll die with harness on our back.

Bold talk for a one eyed fatman yes, but you have to love the spirit of the guy as he knows what's coming is not going to end well but he embraces it anyway. Defiant, resigned, determined. Grim.

The longer I observe the machinations of NYSUT on Latham the less I hear of MacBeth, the less raucous red clad rank and file ire I feel. When I hear what our union leadership is preaching now I long for Dick Ianuzzi's barricade bravado. Compared to this lot he's Pete Seeger singing Which Side Are You On? In place of Mac I hear the voice of Twenty Something T.S. Eliot's J. Edgar Prufrock sniveling permission to wear his trousers rolled and wondering if he dares to eat a peach. The voice I hear through the NYSUT bullhorn sounds more like:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

Accent on "Politic, cautious, and meticulous, Full of high sentence but a bit obtuse."  It bears mentioning that this passage is a reference to Polonius who was skewered by Hamlet while hiding behind a curtain. So much for the seat at the table.  It's high time we shed our Prufrock and channeled our inner Old School Philly while we still can. 


  1. It's because of people like you, Sean, that David Coleman and his ilk want to eventually banish literature from the schools and have the kids reading "informational text," such as the the US Department of Energy and Environmental Protections Agency's recommended standards for home insulation, which is one of EngageNY's suggested texts.

    Here kids, fetch...

    1. I admit I wracked my brain for some quoteable material after you crushed the Gatesbys on Ravitch's site. How did people like us get anywhere without these informational texts?

  2. Great read Sean. I am in 100% agreement of course. The opt-out movement will only get us so far, particularly if it doesn't show in November 2016 that it can be turned into a movement that can dole out consequences at the polls to go with refusals on tests. The time is really here for greater acts of civil disobedience from teachers. Whether it be a strike, school wide boycotts of test refusals, or whatever else we can muster. NYSUT, of course, will never stand behind it, as they refused to offer any support or endorsement of conscientious objectors the past couple of years. However, the sort of widespread, militant action that is needed is not the sort of thing they are capable of organizing anyway. They are all putting their heads together trying to tap into the next dance craze as the way to "fight back." The sort of action you are looking for can only come from the rank and file and will only be effective if it comes from the rank and file. The question is whether or not the rank and file has the stomach for it.

  3. I see very little stomach for anything except a lot of bitching. And as soon as anyone gets up on their hind legs they are quickly tranquillized and declared a loose cannon or an idiot because they don't grasp the consequences. I think when it happens it will be lightning strikes. It has to be quick, it has to cause maximum disruption and it has to happen in many places simultaneously so it can't be duct taped to get through the day. NYSUT is useless and it's tentacles are everywhere. They will not help so the best they can do is stand clear and cla innocence which is exactly what they'll do. Chickens

  4. Funny Sean Crowley, I took apart my youngest son's high chair today and packed it away in the basement. Coincidence, maybe...but here this loose cannon sits wondering if there is any way it isn't too late. 5 days until those nasties are due...5 days to rally the rank and file. I don't want to rub my spit into the dirt just yet but I'm also not sure I want to spit in NYSED's face alone. Unfortunately I don't know how to get the ball rolling. I do however have a high tolerance for tranquilizers...any ideas out there?

  5. Yeah I feel your angst. Just returned from a trip to Florida for a wedding and I'm not feeling like I have too many answers. I think the best thing we can do in the meantime is work to feed the Opt Out numbers in whatever way we can. I don't believe even the hardest core of the hard I know are ready to throw themselves off the wall just yet. We need to stay united and work together as much as possible even when it means ignoring NYSUT and others who seem to have zero sense of urgency in any of the fights we face.