Don’t Mourn, Organize

Dear readers,

I’m riveted to my TV screen watching the action on the streets of Cairo. I’m filled with painful memories of past hopes: Hungary in 1956 and Tiananmen Square in 1989. What gives them such courage? As I cheer them on from the safety of my home I feel renewed hope but also shame. I “watched” the tragic and bloody end of those events and imagine how easily the same could happen in Cairo. But our protest over the hypocritical attack on teachers, public employees and all other unionized employees, our public school system, not to mention American mothers faces nothing so risky, but perhaps something just as powerful and relentless.

I do “feel” there’s a swelling of opposition to and concern about the Duncan/Rhee/Klein et al agenda. But in the absence of the kind of organizational wherewithal it’s hard to see how it can overcome the extraordinary efforts of Very Important People with more cash on hand (not to mention “connections?) that most of us have ever dreamed of being able to exert about a singe “narrow” issue. Either they believe their own propaganda (that America’s future is at stake) or they smell big money in it or they just have so much these days that they can afford to focus everywhere at once.

But you and I?

Still it’s nice to be joined by unexpected allies. For example, how nice to see the New Republic running an article by Samuel Abrams about the importance of….PLAY!  (see The Children at Play, The New Republic January 28th).

Another cheery note: The announcement by a crew of “nobodies” that they are organizing an event July 3lst in D.C. on behalf of saving public education. (Everyone: put this down right now on your calendar; rearrange your holidays; let’s make this a unified event.) Save Our Schools site.

Then too. The NY Times reports that Duncan has come out against Duncan—claiming that NCLB (I just noticed how close this is to the National Labor Board—is it still around to protect labor?) is wrong in its focus on a punitive agenda. Of course, his solution is more of the same.

I also enjoyed this little bit in the Jan 3lst NY Times Magazine, taken from Barbara Solomon’s interview with Goldman Sachs partner Abby Joseph Cohen.

Solomon: “Do you feel any responsibility for the economic meltdown…?”
Cohen: That’s an odd question…
Solomon. “We’re talking about your life; there was a big meltdown in 2008. …
Cohen: I would say that the causes of the meltdown were multiple, and it s a mistake to point a finger at any one entity…..

Does that include not blaming our public school system.? Or its teachers? Or unions? Is that in keeping with Abby Joseph Cohen’s argument?

Should teachers be fired, take pay cuts, an lose pensions because they failed to save America, while the board of Morgan Stanley awards its chief with stock valued at $7.4 million, with a cash bonus to come? Or Blankfein of Abby Cohen’s own Goldman Sachs who was caught in a fraud that cost them $550 million, but got a raise for his work. (Data from from TeacherKen column ).

We used to brag, in the old days, about America’s trade unions as bulwarks of democracy—why weren’t there any free trade unions in Communist nations?? Because they weren’t democratic, we were told. But now I read that the real problem with the American auto industry was…. Guess? Yes, the United Automobile workers.

And our severe state of debt is caused be….? You’ve got it. Greedy public employee pensions gained by union bosses. The propaganda lines goes, it’s time they took their lumps for having driven up American wages and working conditions. Like teachers, poor families were destroyed by a too generous welfare system and mothers to blame for not being as tough as Chinese mothers etc. I wonder if the children of the rich have suffered from the indulgent welfare plans their parents created for them thus securing for them a worry-free financial future. And last year they wouldn’t even have had to pay a “death” tax but could inherit their well-earned estates tax free, or starting soon at historically low rates of taxation.

So, it is time to turn our anger by doing something about it. That’s my optimism—I see lots of folks out there finally “doing”. (They don’t face the threats facing the Egyptians in Liberation Square, but..) It’s time to take the relentless campaign away from never stop rants against public employees. Don’t mourn, but organize some labor unionist once said. I agree. There are many ways to do it, besides being sure you’ve contributed to the Coalition of Essential Schools. Get in touch with the local activists in your community and save July 3lst.


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