|April 16 2001
Note To California Resisters Part Two
Where Are We and What Shall We Do?
In two recent posts, two challenges were offered. One suggested that my previous criticism of the teacher unions might be uninformed, that the unions may be a viable option for school reform. The other asked: Ok, what do we do to organize for change in schools and society?
In the next paragraph, I am going to sum up what is said at length below. I do that because I know a lot of people don't have much time. However, I wrote at length, too, because I do not believe what we are facing is simple, easily grasped. It is complex and while a summary is possible, it is also oversimplified. To that point, many people on the list read and commented on an earlier piece I wrote, largely on the same subject. That article was published in Substance Newspaper, originating in Chicago. Those not familiar with Substance may want to take a look at it. This is a link to that article: (http://www.geocities.com/elethinker/RG/CA-resisters.htm )
These are key points below:
*High-stakes tests occur now because of a shift in our socio-economic context.One thing everyone should be sure to do is to attend the International Education Summit in July 2001. Here is a link: (http://www.geocities.com/elethinker/RG/ChicagoConf2001.htm)
This is the longer version:
We are returned from the AERA in Seattle and can report that the sessions led by Susan Harmon, Mary O'Brien, George Schmidt, Kevin Vinson, Wayne Ross, Sandra Mathison, and other parents and professors went quite well. Our sessions were among the few, in a sea of professors, that linked the K12 world with the universities and the communities--and that addressed the social context of school, suggesting that attempting school reform without addressing social and economic reform is like washing the air on one side of a screen door. We attacked the high-stakes tests as more than just a bad teaching method, but as a method of dividing people who should otherwise be united-a method of social regimentation.
At the same time we were in Seattle, our colleagues in New York City were in a conference there, taking leadership in the fight now rising in suburban areas against the standardized tests. As was our experience in Michigan, wealthy districts which had the power took leadership in the battle. In Detroit, later, school workers demonstrated decisive power in a massive week-long wildcat strike that paralyzed the city.
We all pointed to the use of exams to regulate what is known and how people come to know it, and to deepen segregation not only as it relates to race and class, but to bogus definitions of 'ability'. We also suggested that there are limits to reasoning with power, and that at a certain point power must meet power, in resolute action. The violence that is perpetrated by the test-bosses will draw action in self defense.
It was clear that there is a rising tide of resistance to high-stakes standardized tests, but that the power and perks attached to the dominant side are considerable. On the other hand, while we were in Seattle it was also clear that direct social action in schools and communities is beginning to sweep ahead of traditional avenues of redress.
For example, teachers, students, and parents in Tijuana seized schools and administration buildings and held them for days, still holding today, demanding better working conditions and pay. They were led by radical elements in the union and the community. Teachers in Washington State are planning a series of wildcat strikes (against the union leaders desires and the state law) to fight for lower class size. They are led by local union leaders, and community activists, working together. Most significantly, the uprising in Cincinnati has demonstrated in clear terms that a society which seeks to make segments of its own citizens superfluous will have a price to pay. The Cincinnati rebellion is being led by youth and mid-west radicals who are rejecting, completely, the calls for peace from traditional turncoat local and national leaders, indicating that these leaders have taken positions which now make it impossible for them to lead.
The deepening gaps of the Master and the Slaves, rising inequality, booming irrationalism, deepening segregation and repression---all this has another side: the chickens are coming home to roost: civil strife. This expanding impoverishment, and the rising resistance, a movement to more than reform but to overcome, is lodged not in our minds, but in a system of exploitation, capital, which is loyal only to those who exploit the best, the most severely. As capital careens along, even the winners in the greedy race are realizing that they won nothing of real value The economic crises that are clearly brewing, the collapse in auto, the energy/capital fund shifting, the long overdue demise of the NASDAQ, rising international competition from nations that were believed dormant; all of that adds up to an impending social crisis.
At some point, anyone interested in social justice must confront the economic, social, and political root of injustice, and to do more than try to make it better, but to get uproot it altogether.. That means the testing movement needs to think not only about how to get rid of the tests, but how to get rid of capitalism.
While capital surely has ways out of the crises ahead, including its favorite means of escape, war, it may be that this upcoming juncture will be more devastating than most people have lived through.
That the government is not a neutral body, not contested terrain, but mainly a weapon of the rich, should not require proof (though I offer up the recent purchased presidential election and the CA energy/capital crisis), if it ever did. This sets the background for our discussions about what to do and how to do it.
In a recent note, George Sheridan, a Ca-resister participant who has added a great deal to the CaResisters list and whose work I respect, said this:
"I am not an expert on the AFT, nor on the workings of the upper reaches of >the NEA. However, based on my experience in the United Farm Workers, >AFL-CIO, and in CTA, I am skeptical of the negative reporting about unions >that is a staple of mainstream media and press. Since unions are at present >the most powerful organized force for progressive issues in America, such >negative reporting obviously serves the interests of ruling elites. When it >is repeated by people without independent or personal sources of knowledge it is ignorance, heavily influenced by corporate propaganda."
To me, this is parallel to saying, "I am a good priest, but I don't know much about the Vatican." I do not think interchanges like this should be settled by claims to expertise, but should be resolved by exactly what the people involved have to say. However, since the challenge is made, I note that, other than being a k12 teacher, I have been a labor organizer for most of my adult life, having worked for the NEA, AFSCME, the UAW, and SEIU. I have a MA in Labor Relations and have written extensively, in refereed journals as well as in the popular press, about the labor movement. I have a PhD from Penn State, in interdisciplinary social studies, language, and literacy. I've been a professor for about 6 years. So here goes the rest of the story:
There is nothing at all progressive about what passes itself off as a union movement in the US. In fact, there is really not much of a union presence, less than 14 % of the work force. If we take the traditional definition of the union movement, and call that the AFL-CIO (of which the NEA, the largest union in the US, is not a part) then we can say that the unions are, above all else, collaborators in creating oppression. They are racist, nationalist, sexist, and utterly undemocratic. The AFL was organized to protect the crafts of its early members, that is, to be sure 'other' people (black people, Chinese people, Hispanic people, women, etc.) could not enter the craft. Hence, the AFL was an employers' dream, created along craft lines, it would be possible to have a dozen unions in the same work place: the carpenters in one union, the plumbers in another, etc: easily divided, as it is today (note the ludicrous fractured spectacle of airline job actions). Today, moreover, a significant voting section of the AFL-CIO is made up of police officers and prison guards. This is not what I think of as progressivism.
(These are Labor History lecture notes that were published in 1989 by the Labor School at Wayne State. To those who request, I will supply a short bibliography.http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/LABHIST.htm )
Other than a brief period in the thirties when the communist-led CIO led integrated fight-backs (and the earlier moments of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1905-1925), the reactionary essence of the AFL-CIO has been the main tendency since WWI, and even before.
The AFL-CIO, now run by SEIU's John Sweeney, is just as devoted to the backward program as the AFL run by George Meany and Lane Kirkland, who ran the union by brooking no opposition for nearly 40 years. Sweeney made his views clear in a 1999 Wall Street speech in which he declared, truthfully, that the main job of the labor federation is to protect US capitalism.
This explains why the UAW, for example, lost nearly a million members in the auto industry, and did nothing. It explains why the combined might of the AFL-CIO, led by its most powerful affiliates, the UAW and the Teamsters, completely lost the Detroit newspaper strike, and nearly every job action that they have engaged in the last 30 years. It's why workers in US auto plants reject the UAW membership campaigns. Besides not wanting to fight back, the union bosses today have only distant memories of how to do it. What should be clear by now is that the only people the union bosses can defeat these days are their own members. Here are some published articles that I wrote in this regard:
The American Federation of Teachers, with around one million members, is the largest teacher affiliate of the AFL-CIO. The AFT presides over most of the urban school districts in the US. The AFT was BUILT on racism, the racist New York City teachers's strike of 1968. Led by Albert Shanker, the AFT (and AFSCME) initiated the long decline of labor in the 1970's, with their concession contract with the city of New York, which prompted a series of concessions that proved to be like giving blood to sharks: the bosses wanted more.
In addition, Shanker and his protege (now AFT boss) Sandra Feldman, led the AFT in steering the international activities of the AFL-CIO. Until very recently, the AFL-CIO bosses spent about 50% of its dues income outside the US. The present shift from 50% has only been a slight drop down. Now why would they spend like that? They did it because their main mission is to defend US capital, and because since WWI the AFL-CIO has been a key player in US intelligence activity outside the country (look up "AIFLD", here is a quick link: (http://www.us-mex.org/borderlines/1994/bl8/bl8aifld.html). AIFLD-AFL hacks busy themselves destroying indigenous labor movements outside the US, especially left-led movements. The top leadership of the AFL-CIO is nearly indistinguishable from the Central Intelligence Agency. But, as noted above, the parallel to the Judenrat should be clear to most who know what that it.
Here is a published article on Shanker: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/SHANKER.htm
This is a link from a top labor historian on Shanker http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue23/buhle23.htm
While there have been some shifts in the AFL-CIO lately, AIFLD has been supplemented by the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), the close links of the AFL-CIO leaders and the Central Intelligence Agency continue today, in part through a group called the National Endowment for Democracy, led first by AFT's Al Shanker, later by current AFT Boss, Sandra Feldman. (Labor Notes, April 2001 p8,9.)
Besides its leaders role as police agents, The AFT is utterly undemocratic, unchangeable without extra-legal measures. It is run by a caucus system that denies members a secret ballot, so the union bosses can be sure people vote 'right.'
The AFT represents the only nationally organized body of people who had a profound interest in defending urban education in the US. Given that school is an arm of the government, mostly a design of elites to maintain social control, it is not likely that the government would take up the challenge to save urban schools, and it didn't. But neither did the AFT. Instead, the AFT bosses systematically fought to prevent struggle against the urban collapse, and personally profited from it. The AFT is mainly responsible for organizing the decay, the destruction, of urban schooling in the US. That's because the leadership of the AFT is. literally, the police.
Key unions in the AFL are, after all, historically run by the Mob, like the Laborers Union, the Hotel Workers Union, the Teamsters, etc. The 'best' reform effort, led by the quasi-socialist Teamsters for a Democratic Union and Labor Notes, produced the gangster Ron Carey, who made it possible for the Hoffa family to regain power in the Teamsters. Carey, it must be remembered, was joined in his criminal activity, embezelling money to prop up political campaigns, etc., by other top AFL leaders, including leaders from AFSCME. It is quite unlikely that any major affiliate of the AFL-CIO can be reformed, and given the imminent nature of the crisis in front of us, it is a waste of good time and energy to try.
The NEA is not part of the AFL-CIO. It's history is hardly more proud. The NEA was born of a huge company union that Upton Sinclair wrote about many years ago, in "The Goosestep" and the "Goslings". Before the 1960's, NEA was run by school administrators and book publishers. It was a segregated union, until the late 60's when, challenged by the rising call of the AFT for collective bargaining, the NEA shifted gears and adopted a form of Saul Alinsky's issue organizing style, and became for a brief moment, a fighting force.
Quickly, though, the NEA was reigned in, and under the mis-leadership of Mary Hatwood Futrell, Bob Chase, former NEA president Keith Geiger, Treasurer Dennis Van Roekel, and others, NEA as early as 1985 secretly began to maneuver toward a merger with the AFT and the AFL-CIO, a merger which would have adopted the undemocratic structures and the program of the AFT-AFL-CIO. The secret ballot would have been eliminated in the NEA, as would have many other chances NEA members retained to change the union. Importantly, the merger would have also enshrined the program of Bob Chase and AFT's Sandra Feldman, "New Unionism," the unity of big business, the government and labor, in the National Interest. This is known elsewhere as the corporate state, a cornerstone of Mussolini's Fascist Party. The merger would have offered the NEA hacks jobs for life. The AFL is desperate for NEA dues income to bolster its declining treasury, due mostly to a continuing decline of members.
NEA is unquestionably more democratic than the AFT, but that does not make it democratically run. In a convention where the secret ballot remained in place, the rank and file shocked the NEA bosses and voted "Hell NO" to the merger scheme. That did not stop the union overseers who are still seeking the merger through other avenues. The Rouge Forum existed as opposition to the merger and published material like this: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/merger.htm
We were among only a handful of people who fought the merger and predicted that the merger vote would fail. We later published analyses of the vote. This is a published article about that: http://eserver.org/clogic/2-1/gibson.html
At the same time, however, Chase, Feldman, and other top teacher union bosses, did pursue the New Unionism campaign--with a vengeance. Joining the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the NEA and AFT took more than 50 full- page ads in the New York Times demanding grade retention and more standardized testing. They supported the takeover of entire school systems (Detroit) by the rich, and they gave away seniority and other hard won protections (Cleveland) in exchange for rewards based on test scores. They bargained into contracts clauses which allow schools to be 'reconstituted', teachers laid off without redress, based on test scores (Detroit). In Cincinnati, while ignoring the social conditions that led to an urban uprising, AFT leaders gave away seniority clauses and wage increases in exchange for a wage-bonus program based on teacher evaluations--designed by the Educational Testing Service. In Detroit, AFT supported the outsourcing of more than 3500 school worker jobs (all ALF-CIO members), in order to support the school takeover.
On the other side, during the most prosperous period in the history of the world, Chase and Feldman and their underlings did nothing to promote the interests or unity of students, education workers, and community people. Wages remained mostly the same, benefits declined, class size in most areas went untouched, books and supplies were never negotiated seriously. Close ties were never made with parents in poor and working class schools on a systematic basis, mostly because the outlook of the union leaders In brief, the AFT and the NEA leadership continued to organize the decay, not only of schools, but an entire society.
While it is correct to make this accusation personal, in that Feldman/Chase et al personally profited from their Quisling roles ($300,000 a year salaries plus nearly bottomless perks), it is also true that the unions are simply not structured to take on the task at hand. They are designed to exclude, not include, to keep out parents, students and community people who have the greatest stake in social justice. They exist to reform the Master-Slave relationship, not overcome it. Even so, the union bosses must be held responsible for more than being lousy unionists, for being corrupt. The fact that it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to run for any high NEA office should be a signal of what might be gained by winning. The rewards for the union bosses, as to the Judenrat, are considerable.
Their culpability is especially rooted in the fact that school workers are better positioned than anyone, now, to fight for democracy and equality in the US. The industrial working class has been decimated. More than any group, more than the IRS, the military, the prison system, more than any organized force, teachers and other school workers are pivotally positioned to overcome things as they are and to not only envision a better world, but to organize for it.
Instead, Chase and Feldman made sure that teaching remained an apartheid job, more than 90% white, by promoting bogus certification standards that lock people without inheritances or other resources out of the profession. The burning fuse in education today is in part high-stakes testing, but it is as much the fact that a teaching force that is overwhelmingly white and middle class is facing a student body that is becoming a majority of people of color. In this case, they will reap what they sow. One key reason why the AFL-CIO, the most race based of all international unions, is nearly irrelevant, is its own internal racism, its complete isolation from the people who, on the face of it, might need unions most.
Rather than take the lead in organizing communities and school workers in struggles for social justice, which could include the democratic voices of millions of people answering injustice with equality, Chase and Feldman helped to steer nearly all the action of the unions into the most corrupt of all arenas: electoral politics. They spent uncounted millions of dues dollars, and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, trying to choose one lesser evil over another, slowly ratifying the project of capital, in whatever guise. This is no honest mistake. It is a deliberate diversion.
In some areas, California for example, electoral work was indeed used to make modest gains, the cap on class size for grades k-3. However, there is no active base of educators who can defend that gain should the legislature or the governor choose to take it away. This is another trap of electoral work. Voting does not count at work, the main determinant of the lives of nearly everyone.
Moreover, the NEA, which elected CA governor Davis, has its horizons set so low that it is afraid to seriously take him down for his feed-the-rich energy policies, which stripped the state budget, money that could have gone for schools. This comes from the lesser evil opportunism of NEA leadership. The AFL-CIO, worse than NEA, has supported the utility privatization mania which threatens to destroy the lives of poor and working class people in California, because the AFL has members in the privatized jobs. This is, in fact, typical of the AFL, which consistently lobbies against funding for the public sector, because the big union is driven by private sector groups.
Here are two quotes from top NEA leaders. From the director of political action of the Florida NEA, "If voting mattered, they wouldn't let us do it." From the retiring executive director of the Ohio NEA, Robert Barkley, who said in December 2000 that if the NEA was really listening to its members, "First we would rarely if ever again give a cent to a political party or a politician." The electoral arena is a trap, a distraction, from the organizing work that needs to be done to exert control over our work places and our communities. That control is demonstrated by the ability to decide what the curriculum and methods of instruction will be, for example, and is won through the ability to open or close schools, as we will: collective action in the schools and in the streets.
Teaching is the most free of all working class jobs. Right now, it is actually possible to be an open communist and teach in urban areas (see the recent Carol Caref case in Chicago, where a teacher took students on a trip to fight the Klan, was fired, and later reinstated). Surely the possibilities for teachers to act, to organize for democracy and equality, is there for all to use. In April of 2001, Hawaii education workers shut down every school in the state, the second state wide strike, the first being Florida, 1968. The entire province of Ontario Canada was shut down by a teachers' strike three years ago. Education workers have power, and right now they have the freedom to organize for it.
Most teachers will not use that freedom to fight for equality. There is no history of most teachers taking risks for real democracy and equality, anywhere. However, there is a history of SOME teachers taking leadership roles in resistance movements that reverberate into work places and communities, fight-backs taken up by industrial workers, young people in the military, prisoners, which then sweep back into and around the schools, and offer teachers more freedom still. Consider France in 1968, or Detroit in 1967, LA in 1965.
Part of the battle in schools, but not all of it, is the fight over high stakes standardized testing. We should remember, though, that it is quite possible to have segregated schools that teach lies without standardized tests being enforced. Winning this fight is not winning the fight, it is winning a battle. High stakes testing, as noted above, is only a symptom of deepening inequality, the need of elites to regulate knowledge, and to segregate people. The testing movement is combined with school takeovers (Detroit) and vouchers to whipsaw education, to intensify alienation, and to enforce the rule of the rich.
So, what exactly shall we do? After all. many of us are in unions (including me--the CFA which is affiliated with nearly every union in the US, and the AFL).
The crux of action in school, in workplaces, in communities, is to grasp the relationship of each aspect of work to the total system of capital, to understand that nothing, nothing, happens outside of the context of the struggle between those who own and inherit, and those who do not. It is not possible or desirable to only reform the relationship of the Master and the Slaves. What must be done is to overcome it, beyond overturning it, beyond overthrowing it, to create within the struggle for the future caring communities where people can love one another, despite every message of civilization to do otherwise, and where the latent, often wasted, talents of millions of people can be offered a chance to blossom, while at the same time our eyes are on the target: to end exploitation, alienation, irrationalism, and the fear of genuine love.
Specifically, this means the challenge to educators is at least two-fold: How we get rid of high-stakes tests is directly tied to the question-How do we get rid of capitalism? It is not possible to yank one away from the other. As a general guide, we have answers that the struggles of our ancestors have left to us: Democracy and Equality-as a lighthouse.
With that, the question of what to do centers on organizing, building resistance while at the same time building caring communities. The Rouge Forum and the Whole Schooling Consortium, for the last six years, have taken the lead in that struggle in schools. RF and WSC initiated the first forums, the first boycotts, the first written analyses, the first teach-ins on the current tests, and warned of the next moves of elites-school takeovers and vouchers. While understanding that An Injury to One only goes before An Injury to All, the groups recognize the central role of social class in this fight, and the need for class-based unity, and class based opposition. In other words, they know that we must take sides. Notions of full inclusion, of democracy, of resistance and overcoming, of creating caring communities in the midst of battle, that all sets those groups apart--as does the guide of Democracy and Equality. Nobody else does this, tho a few say it.
Within that, what is to be done depends a lot on local circumstances and the particular people involved. Clearly there is a big gap between where we are today, to getting rid of the Big Tests, and to getting rid of capitalism; but each of these things are pieces of a puzzle, not isolated.
Those who are interested in Issue Organizing, along the lines described by both Paulo Freire and Saul Alinsky, might want to look at this outline: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/ISSUORG.html
Here are some guideline ideas:
One key action is to contribute written analysis and descriptions of local activities to the top national organs of resistance. There are at least three: "The Rouge Forum News," " Substance News," in Chicago (only available in hard copy), and Fairtest's "Examiner." The social and educational crisis has no boundaries. A newsletter reflecting the widest possible experience is vital. We need to recapture our voices, our creativity, our ability to define; and we need to be able to see in concrete ways that the crisis in schools in Texas is much like the crisis in Florida, New York, Michigan--and South Africa and Haiti.
Every action should seek to recognize that we must build our power, build an organized base. Hence, for example, the point of a demonstration is not primarily to "show" the other side anything, it is to test the strength of our side, to deepen our commitment and understanding.
Everyone should operate at the maximum, but that will vary for everyone, from time to time, situation to situation, and a caring community understands that.
For people in schools without tenure, and student teachers; those folks are in high risk positions. They can be fired and blacklisted in minutes. Their key role is to stay in the schools, to fight harder later. That does not mean there is nothing they can do. They can write articles exposing the conditions of their schools and communities, under pen names if necessary. They can ask good questions at staff meetings. They can refer people to resources, like the Rouge Forum www site. They can talk to other people in the same boat, and build the muttering. They can teach well, in interesting inquiry-based ways, building a base of power among parents and students that will make it hard to discipline them. They can quietly leave leaflets in staff lounges, and leave computer rooms screened to special web sites. We should all remember that most bosses are secretly more afraid of us than we know.
Teachers with tenure can do a lot. As noted above, open communists operate within urban schools, so many of the limits on teacher freedom are self-established. Teachers can say NO to the day to day idiocy of much of school life. They can refuse to 'level' textbooks, refuse to grade retain kids, refuse to see kids as the enemy (there are 56,000 workplace deaths a year in the US, most of them caused by and absence of inspectors to enforce existing government regulations--children are NOT that scary and are NOT the enemy.) They can refuse to give kids bad grades (what kind of caring community would do that, bad grades are like calling the cops). They can insist that students in their classes be offered a 'why' to learn, one that demonstrates that what they do counts, in understanding and changing the world.
Teachers can become a part of their school communities by moving into those communities, and conducting community-education projects, from weekend soccer teams to research projects to community gardening to walking seniors to shopping areas. Inequality cannot tolerate real friendship. We should make as many friends as we can. That is not done quickly, not done by taking ads in papers. It is accomplished by being with people, in solidarity, over time.
Teachers can organize test boycotts, and urge that the bribe money offered to mostly suburbanites be used to build the boycotts and expose the exams. They can cross the bridges of city-suburb, of Michigan-Canada, or California-Mexico, and seek to build an international movement, against the grain of capital's bogus nationalism.
Tenured teachers can disrupt staff meetings, refuse to assist in the adoption of textbooks, disrupt textbook committees, circulate petitions, inform parents that no child has to take a high-stakes test, demonstrate in front of the schools, strike (about books, supplies, lower class size, about the crooked tax system that allows corporate profits to go untaxed, about the conditions of poor communities--about anything that links the interests of teachers and kids) , seize school buildings in 'work-in' actions, lead teach-ins, encourage civil uprisings, make school ungovernable.
Making some schools ungovernable is a worthy goal. Some, indeed many, schools are apartheid schools. They teach kids lies using methods that tell kids that the lies don't matter anyway. They isolate kids with disabilities and treat them like zoo animals. In those cases, closed schools are better than open schools--if they are coupled with the kinds of Freedom Schooling that was done in South Africa and in the US South.
Tenured and untenured teachers can leaflet in parking lots, near bus stations, places where students or parents or other school workers might gather. They can do research on their schools and communities and write up their findings. They can go to meetings of professional organizations and agitate for social change, and an end to the tests. Tenured teachers can go to school board meetings, and like the board meeting in Detroit in July 2000, chant and shout and assail the board so it cannot meet, has to run away. Or they can go to the board meeting and ask questions, or take notes, or research the backgrounds of people on the board. They can research the home addresses of people who push the tests, and publish them. They can picket their homes, disrupt the church services they attend, attack their lives in creative ways, demonstrating that child abusers do not get off easy from our community.
They can seize the school buildings and conduct real schools over the weekend, or just seize them and shut them down as Tijuana teachers did in April 2001. In each instance, they can combine learning and resistance, and some fun.
They can struggle in the unions--to do what? The key to working in the unions is to get people in harmony with the social situation, beyond divisive unionism. While the unions still attract many honest people, they cannot answer the problems we have now, and they surely will not be able to answer them in the future. Their only relevance is that many people are still in them, and some of those people believe in them.
It is good to struggle for the unions to take action but there is no reason to wait for them to do it. It is good to get unions to adopt positions like those in California opposing testing, but it is silly to think that the union leadership has any intention of doing anything serious about it, and doubly naive to believe that union is going to reform. There is no reforming the Vatican. The NEA bosses are beginning to hedge their bets on testing, making statements that they support standards and tests, but not high stakes tests. This is disingenuous piffle. They are the people who wrote the standards, knowing full well that high-stakes exams would necessarily follow. The union leaders are in a bit of a bind. They must offer social control to elites in order to retain the support of the elites, yet they must guarantee dues income to protect their lavish salaries. So they waffle. At issue is what they do, not what they say they will do.
Even so, in local unions, action is possible. And when it is not possible because undemocratic structures block the way, there is no reason to bow to those structures. If it is simply not possible to cast a vote, or to un-elect a lifetime union hack., it is quite possible to go to a meeting, taking friends, and throw them out the door.
Students and parents and teachers and other school workers can start in home, off campus social events, watching movies or sharing books. They can raise money for 'real' off campus libraries. They can start alternative schools, from charter schools to weekend academies. They can join together in inclusive sporting events and picnics. They can hang out with one another, find new friends. They can cross the borders that capital wants them to believe are natural to their lives.
Teachers of all stripes can teach well. They can leave students, not so much with good answers, but with good questions for criticism--of anything. Here is a list: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/QUESTCRI.html
They can teach by making connections (like the connection between the tests and social inequality). They can point to the central issues of life, Labor and Production, the Struggle for Knowledge, and Sexuality or Love, and make those pivotal explanatory issues in classes.
This is the book that I give students on teaching well. It is free. http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/Methods.htm
One last thing: The Whole Language Umbrella, the Rouge Forum, and the Whole Schooling Consortium have organized the Second Annual International Education Summit In Chicago in July 2001. There is a link on my www page. Be there or be square.
All the best, r
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