Sunday, September 21, 2014

#180 September 21, 2014- Organizing for Social Justice

Social Justice, There's Power in the Union. . .
Public educators and their unions have taken a lot of heat in recent years. Bashing educators has become a good way to score political points in certain circles.  We have seen a large number of political candidates take advantage of the climate that exists around public education to promote an agenda that attacks, vilifies and degrades public educators.  Evidence of this reality can be found on a daily basis in the media, and more importantly is impacting the efforts of educators in schools across Wisconsin.  The motivations, dedication and competence of our educators is being questioned on a regular basis. 

Hinsdale Township High School District 86 has launched an investigation into 17 teachers who liked a Facebook post linked to a story about teacher contract...|By Chicago Tribune

A new book by Dana Goldstein offers powerful, historical perspective on our penchant for attacking teachers.

Yet, the issues raised and the "solutions" offered in political circles really aren't about improving our schools or about making our public education system more equitable or closing existing Achievement Gaps.  Instead they are barely disguised efforts to gain political and economic advantages for political leaders, their financiers, and educational profiteers.  The so called "reformers" attack public schools on issues like Achievement Gaps and the supposed wasting of taxpayer money, while at the same time weakening the ability of public educators to address educational inequities and cutting funding for our public schools.     

There continues to be much bluster out there in ed reformy land that money really isn’t all that important – especially for traditional public school districts. That...

» Yet another study finds Wisconsin school-funding system hurts kids and communities | Research...|By skrashen

"Reformers" have created systems that evaluate schools and educators unfairly, and force educators to choose between continued employment and their ethical beliefs about education and social justice.  The emphasis on basics or "Core" instruction puts significant strains on educational resources and limits choices for students in our most at-risk demographics and communities. 

Click on each school name below to download that...

Art and music convey important skills that often are overlooked. Researchers have long touted their positive effects on student brain growth and development, but...

Two early childhood experts argue that the Common Core Standards ignore research on child development.

One of the cornerstones of these "reform" efforts is the attempt to destroy the power of public educator unions.  It is here that a strange coalition of fiscal conservatives, Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and even some grassroots community leaders has formed around the misguided beliefs that educators and their unions have created the problems that exist in our schools.  The idea that eliminating unions and privatizing schools will improve educational outcomes for all students is fomented by a few extreme examples and willful ignoring of the social and economic conditions that fuel our educational Achievement Gaps.  The result is a climate that is anti-public education, anti-public educator and harmful to many of our students and families.      

Is the legacy of Act 10 teachers as free agents? No, the real legacy is teachers jumping ship.|By Lee Enterprises

I have a question for you... Can you use your finger and identify Chile on a map? I only ask because there are lots of ideas and theories in the US educational...

There are many mis-perceptions about what education "reform" truly is as it is represented in public forums.  Many of these "reformers" claim to be crusaders who are looking out for students, families and communities.  Yet, their efforts often undermine efforts to increase equity for those that they claim to want to help.  In pushing for "reforms" they actually divide communities and weaken the standing of public schools which are often centerpieces of communities.  They drive wedges between different sub-groupings of educators and cause divisions where unity is needed (and should be highly sought after).      

As we go back to school this fall, parents will naturally be fretting about teachers—mainly, did their kids get the best ones? But what if, in the interest of...

With all of the conflict and anxiety around our public schools it is too easy to forget that there are opportunities to build consensus and coalitions around our schools, students and communities.  Despite the imagined differences, the underlying goals and beliefs around public education can be powerful unifiers.  These goals and beliefs are centered around a sense of equity and social justice along with a strong desire to see each child succeed at the highest level possible.  It is in the best interest of every person in society that ALL of our children are provided with the most opportunities possible.  There is no way to predict where our next great leader, scientist, inventor, artist, etc. will come from, and to shortchange any student is to weaken the fabric of our entire nation.  We also can't forget that a democracy is equal to the sum of its parts and every citizen, no matter their status or position, is of significant value. 

This way of thinking is causing many advocates for public schools to ask why we are creating an environment where our students and schools need to struggle so much in order to get the resources that they need in order to have the best opportunities for success?  Why are we eliminating supports and opportunities for those who are in greatest need?  Why aren't we seeing more outrage and action in defense of these students and the schools that provide them with what is one of their best opportunities to create a positive future?  Why have so many citizens accepted the propaganda that paints educators and public education as the enemy of the state?    

American teachers work hard. Like, really hard. This year's education report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development outlines the stat...

The simple answer is that our discourse around education is too focused on an elusive and ill defined "bottom line."  So much of the conversation about our schools is based on a fear that somehow we are not competitive with the rest of the world, or that our own children are somehow being shortchanged in their education.  Fear rarely breeds positive responses, and in the case of public education this is clearly true.  Instead of looking at the bigger picture, putting resources where they are most needed, and supporting those who work and learn in our schools we see the exact opposite happening.  Our public discourse is based on "improving" our schools, and we measure this "improvement" through standardized test scores.  On a more personal level, we see those who have the most power in society use this power to make sure that their communities receive the most and best of what our school systems can provide.  Combine this with the push to make a profit from education and the effects are not surprising. 

What this means is that those of us who have access to political power must work to wield it for the good of our students, our families and our public schools.  Here in Wisconsin our public educators still retain some of the clout, although our power is weakened, that we have built over the years.  Unfortunately, we are often too hesitant to use this, despite the realization that those who oppose us are more than willing to use any and all of their power to destroy what we believe in.  Even after Act 10, the recalls and the protests many of us are still working quietly in our classrooms and schools, somehow hoping that politics and economics will pass us by and let us teach and work in peace.

The daily work that educators do continues to be vital for our students and our society.  We need educators who are dedicated and focused on the students and families they work with.  At the same time, the work that we do is a political and social statement.  How we teach, what we teach and the system that we are a part of are at the core of our society and are the activities that build the future for all of us.  With all the conflict and confusion around public education this means that our work is no longer being done "under the radar" or in a safe, protected zone.  The curriculum that we use, the testing that we do, and the way we deliver educational experiences to our students is now a part of a bitter public debate.

Given that reality, it is time for educators to lead the charge towards a more socially just society.  We need to be a part of the efforts to defend voting rights, promote increasing the minimum wage, and many of the other efforts to defend the rights and privileges of our fellow citizens.  These efforts will improve our communities, help our students succeed and help educators build a coalition that will advance the causes of all of us.  If educators and their unions are a visible presence then we will gain the trust and support of our fellow citizens and weaken the efforts to divide the citizenry of our state and nation. 

This seems to be easier said than done.  After all, unions exist primarily to promote and protect the interests of their membership.  Yet, if we allow our focus to be narrowed to the workplace, wages and benefits, then we open the door for our opponents to exploit the differences between different sectors of the workforce.  The emphasis that Walker and his supporters put on the "Cadillac benefits," high pay and easy jobs that unionized workers hold is a clear example of how our contractual benefits can be used against us.  If union members are out in the community, building alliances and fighting alongside our fellow citizens, then these attacks lose their strength.  Make no mistake, unions still need to fight for their members, but they also can make sure that members' efforts in the struggle for social justice are supported. 

There are many ways that this is already happening, and opportunities for even more in the future.  One way that unions help in the fight for social justice is simply by providing employment protections for their members.  Without "Just Cause" in collective bargaining agreements, educators put their own livelihoods on the line whenever they speak out against a "reform" or unjust policy.  We are also seeing unions and union members becoming more active in movements that support our students, families and community.          

United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We...

A group of teachers at a progressive public school in Néw York City have formed "Teachers of Conscience" and written the Chancellor of the school system to say that they could no longer...

It is also possible for educators to organize outside of their profession and union colleagues.  In fact, it is crucial that we build connections between the many different organizations, groups and leaders who are too often working individually, when collective action could be much more powerful.  If we have learned anything from our experiences in 2011 it should be that there is power in solidarity, but that this joining of interests takes organization and effort.  It must be sustainable, flexible and communication of ideas and actions is vital.     

I am currently part of a group that is seeking to make these connections around issues involving our public schools.  Families, educators and community members have formed an organization called SCAPE (School Community Alliance for Public Education) that is working to bring issues of social justice and educational policies to the attention of the community.  We are looking to join forces with other groups in order to increase the diversity of voices heard in discussions about Madison's public schools.  This effort is in its infancy, but is an example of the ways that we can begin to "think outside of the box" and work to make a difference in our community and our world.  While we are working on getting our website up and running, here is a link to the notes from our most recent meeting which gives an idea of what we are up to.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . While we know that there is a lot of work to do if we are going to make Madison one of the best places for ALL citizens to live, at the same time it is good to know that we have a strong base to build from.  A lot of work is being done to understand and address the inequities that exist in our community.

2015 Top 100 Best Places to Live Our second-annual ranking of the best small to mid-sized cities in the U.S.As Livability’s editors and writers crisscross the U.S in search of great stories, we find that time and again, the best tales are told in the...
Here's a message that needs to be heard more widely.

We've all been told the workforce is partly to blame for the decline in manufacturing. New research says that idea needs to die.

The only poll that matters is the one we take on November 4th.  However, this data gives us hope as we continue to fight for Wisconsin's future.

For the fourth straight poll, GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are locked in a neck-and-neck race.|By Lee Enterprises

More and more people are finally paying attention to the student loan debt crisis that exists in this nation. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promised this morning to keep pushing for her student loan refinancing bill, but again left it to Republicans to come up with a compromise that can satisfy both parties in the Senate.“The next step,” she said...|By Allie Grasgreen

The Bad . . . More evidence that the current administration isn't fulfilling the promises they have made to the people of Wisconsin.  Although, to be fair, they have been doing a good job of keeping the promises they made to those who contributed big money to their campaigns.

Also, a voucher advocate rebrands itself and a chance to see former Gov. Tommy Thompson talk...|By Lee Enterprises

In Scott Walker’s latest ad he is seen standing in a big hole. What some people might not realize is the unsafe example Walker is setting for workers who work...

Laying out his vision for a second term, the Republican governor is also pledging to freeze technical college tuition and cut income taxes.|By Jason Stein

Even as its unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since 2008, the state lost 4,300 private-sector jobs in preliminary estimates.|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . The policies that have been promoted by Republicans in Wisconsin only serve to expand the "wealth gaps" that exist.  This creates a spiral of effects that only serve to widen these gaps and harm those who are not part of the economic elite. 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

Trying to steal an election by any means necessary.

An appellate court panel has added confusion to the state’s midterm elections by permitting officials to enforce a controversial voter ID law.|By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

We need to make sure that everyone is able to vote in November. . . 

UW students without an acceptable form of identification to vote this fall may soon have a new option.|By Channel 3000

Those who want to promote democracy in Wisconsin should focus on voter registration and turnout.|By Lee Enterprises

Even in the face of intimidation and confrontational tactics that seem straight out of our nation's less than admirable past, or taken from the playbook of extremists around the world that our Conservative comrades claim to abhor. 

Tax delinquents, people with warrants are on the group's "watch lists" in cities like Milwaukee, Racine and Beloit, according to posts on its Facebook page.|By Lee Enterprises

No comments:

Post a Comment