Thursday, June 12, 2014

Are Reformsters Under Attack?

I have generally avoided picking on quotes from That Woman that appear in her joint blogventure with Jack Schneider, mostly because I think it's a worthy experiment that deserves some place to breathe. But recently she dropped an extraordinary quote that I can't let pass. It happened in a discussion of unions, specifically discussing the need for bridge-building if any collaboration is going to occur.

You say that would require a cease-fire against the unions; but I'd say that the cease-fire needs to be mutual. Reformers are under attack every day from unions as well.

This is a false equivalency of the rankest kind. Let us look, for instance, at my state of Pennsylvania.

Currently I, as a teacher, am under attack by StudentsFirst. Their national Let's Trash Tenure & FILO tour has been here for a few months, complete with slick advertising, video clips, and well-heeled lobbying.

As a teacher with thirty-some years of experience, I am directly in the cross-hairs of this campaign. StudentsFirst asserts that I need to live with the constant threat of being fired or else I will just default to Lazy Slacker status. They would like career status to be based on PA's version of VAM which includes the results of a bad test and, among other things, points for the number of AP courses my school pays the College Board to teach.

I, on the other hand, have a blog. 

So let's look at the fire that needs to be mutually ceased.

Attacks against me from StudentsFirst:
          1) Undermine my professional reputation by suggesting I must be lazy, cause I'm old.
          2) Threaten me with ending my career at will.
          3) Using both 1 and 2 to undermine my co-workers and destabilize my workplace
          4) Thereby threatening the educational well-being of the students that I am pledged to serve

Attacks against StudentFirst (and That Woman) from me:

         1) Sophomoric mockery

Shall we count my union's actions? Let's stick to the state, because to say that the NEA has attacked reformsters is ludicrous; they have been cheerful collaborators. But PSEA? Perhaps a bit more feisty, but have they done anything that would threaten, say, the continued existence of StudentsFirst, or That Woman's ability to make a living in her chosen profession?

There is a name for this technique in contract negotiations-- it's called stripping, and it consists of answering a proposal with a full-out attack (that simply takes things away that were already there), and then pretending that moderating that attack is "meeting you half way."

Union: We'd like to see a $1/hour raise and the addition of some flex time.

Management: We are going to cut off all workers' arms and legs.

Union: What the hell?!

Management: All right. We'll just cut off the legs. Now we've given something; you have to give, too.

The teachers whose careers have been damaged, whose job protections have been stripped, whose employment and wages are being made contingent on damaging junk science, and the manner in which all teachers are working in an environment that is being made increasingly hostile to us-- that's all the work of reformsters and their huge bankrolls and their connections to power.

How have reformsters been hurt? Which thinky tank consultants have had their jobs put in jeopardy? Which astro-turf group operators have had to worry about feeding their children? Which reformers have been forced to listen to teachers telling them how to do their jobs?

Reformsters and teachers are not locked in some struggle between equally powerful opponents who chose to attack each other. This is a battle between rich and powerful people who are being surprised that the less powerful, less rich, less important people they attacked are trying to fight back. No teacher-- certainly no teachers' union-- started any part of this fight, any more than the defense team at the Vergara trial initiated that bogus case.

Yes, reformsters' characters are being impugned. They should stop making it so easy to do that. And they should stop being surprised that when you attack peoples' lives, professions, the very work by which they support and define themselves, those people will not just roll over and play dead. It's flattering that, for just a moment, a reformster would pretend that what we teachers are doing in our own defense is hurting her somehow. But for more than just that moment, I don't believe it. And if I struggle while your foot is on my neck, I'm not sure less struggling from me is the solution to our problem.

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