Thursday, May 26, 2016

Diane Ravitch Brings Sanity to the Clinton vs. Sanders Debate

If you care about education, you should vote for the Democratic nominee. If you care about the future of the United States, you should vote for the Democratic nominee. If you care about children, income inequality, the environment, the rights of women and LGBT people, sensible gun control, Roe v. Wade, expanded health care, keeping nuclear weapons out of North Korea and other nations, and other issues issues that have moved this country forward, you should vote for the Democratic nominee.

If you care about unions, including your own, you should vote for the Democratic nominee. If you have any doubt that Trump will eviscerate unions, just remember his call to eliminate the federal minimum wage.

I have said numerous times on this blog that I support Clinton, but should Bernie win, I will support him.

Unfortunately, there are few vocal Bernie supporters who feel the same way (I speak here only about the most vocal--already, 72% of Bernie supporters say they will vote for Clinton. That will increase should she win the nomination, just as Hillary supporters moved to Obama in 2008).

Look at the list of Supreme Court nominees that Trump has put forth. Nan Aron, of the Alliance for Justice Action Council, said: “Their opinions demonstrate open hostility to Americans’ rights and liberties, including reproductive justice and environmental, consumer and worker protections. They have ruled consistently in favor of the powerful over everyone else. They would move the needle even further to the right on the Supreme Court.”

Is there any doubt they would destroy unions and teaching as we know it?

Diane Ravitch has emerged as a voice of reason in this debate. She has questions about both candidates and their positions on education, but she clearly understands what is at stake here. While refusing to endorse either candidate, she said:

The overwhelming majority of denunciations are directed at Hillary. Some of our readers are as vicious towards her as Donald Trump is. If you read the comments, you would think that Donald Trump is much to be preferred over Hillary because she is allegedly dishonest, corrupt, a war-monger, a tool of Wall Street, etc. The demonization of Hillary is often times over-the-top, angry, and hateful.  
This internecine warfare is not admirable. It should stop. It helps Trump. One candidate will emerge from the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. It will be the candidate who gets the requisite number of delegates. It will be either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. When the convention chooses the candidate, I will support that candidate.
Amen to that. Neither candidate is perfect, but either is far, far preferable to Trump, on virtually every issue important to the 99%. 
Sure, you can vote for whomever you please. Or you can choose not to vote at all. That is your right. But the reality is that there will be only two nominees with a chance to in the presidency. Voting third party, sitting out the election, or voting for Trump as some kind of twisted "protest" vote will only decrease the mandate of the Democratic candidate should he or she win. 
This isn't about voting for "the lesser or two evils". It is about voting for the candidate who will better defend the rights we have struggled for over the last 50 years. That this will be the Democratic nominee should be without question for anyone who values liberal ideals.
This isn't about "ideological purity". There's nothing pure or noble in refusing to vote for the nominee who best represents progressive ideals and has a realistic shot at the presidency.
Diane Ravitch gets it. I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

As Bernie's Ship Sinks, Please Don't Pull the Rest of Us Down With You

Let's face facts: The primaries are all over but the shouting. In dark corners of the internet, you can still find, even after Clinton has pulled ahead by some 302 pledged delegates, some diehard Bernie supporters who think they can win the remaining states by the 65% or so they will need to pull ahead in pledged delegates. Some are even hoping for an indictment over Hillary's emails so that Sanders can win. That is so wrong-headed that I won't even address it, but for some Bernie supporters, it is their last hope on a sinking ship.

This post is not intended to drag down Bernie. I won't play those kind of political games. As I previously posted, I was "feeling the Bern" early on in the primaries. But I felt Bernie was far too light on foreign policy, and had no specifics on how he would implement his policies, especially in the face of a hostile, dug-in House. Even so, if he somehow got the nomination, I would most certainly vote for him. He is infinitely better than Trump or any other potential Republican nominee.

And so is Hillary. Whatever anyone feels about her, she would be infinitely better than Trump, who just last night said that if Hillary was a man, she'd have less than 5% of the vote. If you want a sexist pig in the White House, the surest way is not to vote for Hillary.

Since this is primarily an education blog, allow me to discuss that first. The main kick against her is that she allegedly said she would close half of all public schools, which was taken out of context. She specifically said that this is a state's issue, and she's not closing any schools. Furthermore, she lays out a fairly comprehensive K-12 education plan that supports and protects teachers. She also wants to implement a comprehensive pre-K program--something that would have a direct positive effect on all children, but especially disadvantaged children. As far as I can tell from his website, Bernie has no specific policies to help teachers or children.  He wants to provide free college for all, but has no plan to get students there.

And then, there's the Supreme Court. If Trump wins, you can expect at least 2-3 Republican justices, which will result in the elimination of tenure, the demolition of unions, and likely a return to an NCLB-like environment.

Speaking of the Court, you can also expect an elimination of women's and LGBT rights, right-to-work states nationwide, a reversal of Roe v. Wade, and a continuation of Citizens United, which is a core plank in Bernie's platform.

What else can you expect from a Trump presidency? Let's start with an elimination of the minimum wage, the deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants, women thrown in jail for having abortions, allowing countries such as Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons, tens of millions losing their insurance, a destruction of Social Security through privatization, and a tax policy that will punish the poor. And that's for starters.

Of course, you may vote for anyone you wish. But don't kid yourself; voting for anyone but Hillary is a vote for Trump. If you believe that you are in a blue state (as most of the readers of this blog are) so voting third party or writing in Bernie won't matter, you are simply wrong. First of all, it is not a given that the Democrat will always win blue states. In addition, it is incredibly important that we get a Democrat in the White House with an overwhelming mandate from the electorate, along with a Congress that will support that person. That is true whether Clinton or Sanders wins.

I understand the disappointment that Sanders' supporters feel. I've been there with candidates myself. But even if you believe Sanders to be superior to Clinton, it would be wise to heed Voltaire who famously said, "Perfect is the enemy of good".

As Bernie's ship sinks, don't forget the millions of people drowning in the Republican waters. The millions of immigrants, women, LBGT people, and union workers need you to throw them a life-saver. To deny it to them in the name of philosophical purity is to doom them to the fate Trump envisions for them.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Yes, I'm Voting for Hillary. And No, I'm Not Sorry.

First let me say this: I love Bernie Sanders. I love his whole crotchety-grandpa-who's-gonna-yell-until-you-listen vibe. I love his politics--I am a democratic socialist at heart.

But I am still voting for Hillary. I think you should, too.

I have to admit--I was caught in the whole "feel the Bern" movement. Damn, it felt GOOD to have a guy who was saying "screw you" to Wall Street, the insurance companies, and the 1%. I've listened to him many times as he raked the rich over the coals, and deservedly so. Who wouldn't be drawn in by his fervor, dedication, and charm?

But a funny thing happened as I listened to all the debates (and yes, I saw every one). It became clear to me that Bernie was mostly repeating talking points. Yes, most politicians do this (I'm looking at you, Marco Rubio), but Bernie's talking points are almost all about domestic policy. If you don't believe me, take a look at his Twitter feed, @berniesanders. I spent the last ten minutes scrolling down his feed looking for a tweet on foreign policy, and I could not find one. Not ONE.

In short, if you were to ask me what Bernie Sanders' foreign policy is, I'd have to say I don't know. And I have seen every debate, I follow him on Twitter, and I am a news junkie. Even if you go to this website and look at where he stands on the issues, there is almost nothing about his foreign policy. There are 22 talking points, and 20 of them relate to domestic policy.

Bernie and Hillary agree on most domestic issues. Where they differ is a matter of degree, usually. For example, Hillary wants to expand the ACA, while Bernie wants single payer. For the record, I also want single payer, but it is not going to happen. Obama could not make it happen, and he had both houses of congress on his side. And let's not forget that Hillary fought for universal health care way back in 1993, so it's not as if she's new to the game. She spearheaded the CHIP program that insures millions of kids to this day.

She's fearless on foreign policy, and frankly, no one knows more about the issues than she does. That's not a knock on Bernie or anyone else. It's just that Hillary's voluminous knowledge and experience give her a wide edge over any other candidate in the race.

To this day, I recall her speech in Beijing called "Women's Rights are Human Rights". I used to teach it along with speeches by MLK and JFK as shining examples of American rhetoric. It took tremendous courage for her to make that speech in the People's Republic of China, and before delegates from over 180 countries, most of which practice systematic repression of women. That speech alone told me all I need to know about her commitment to human rights and her willingness to confront those who would take away those rights. She is fearless.

And while no one really likes to talk about it, there is the issue of electability. If Bernie is nominated, there's little doubt that he will be painted as a free spending socialist who will run the deficit beyond anyone's worst nightmare. In my view, that will be enough to turn those purple states red. Furthermore, a Sanders nomination will almost certainly lead to a third party candidacy by Michael Bloomberg, and frankly, I'd vote for Trump before I'd vote for Mikey. Or Satan. Finally, if Sanders can't be elected, it will obviously change the make-up of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

Before someone accuses me of voting from fear, let me say that I would have voted for Hillary anyway. In my view, she is the stronger candidate and the one who actually has a real chance of getting her ideas to come to fruition. That being said, if Bernie is nominated, I will back him wholeheartedly.

I know my education blogger buddies mostly disagree with me. They see Hillary as a hindrance to education, but I see her as a strong supporter of unions and an ally of public education. For those who claim she wants to close half of all schools, that remark was taken entirely out of context. Clinton further went on to make it clear that she would not meddle in closing schools at all, as this is a state and local issue, not a federal one.

So yes, I'm with Her. And no, I'm not sorry. She is the smartest, most experienced, and most accomplished of all the candidates.

Plus, she has Bill. Damn it, I LOVE Bill!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Some Thoughts on Friedrichs

I am not going to explain all the nuances in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, because frankly, I don't know them all myself. What I do know is that a group of ten teachers in California is arguing before the Supreme Court that they should not have to pay any union dues at all, even though they benefit from collective bargaining. Their rationale is that because public unions negotiate with the government, they are inherently political organizations, and therefore impinge on the free speech of members who don't agree with them.

I'm not a lawyer, because if I was I'd have a better car, but I see a lot of flaws in this argument. For example, one would have to say that political campaigns are inherently political, as well, yet this same Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that it was perfectly OK for billionaires to spend as much as they want to elect officials who will do their bidding. This effectively drowns out the free speech of people like myself, who don't have the funds to compete with the Koch brothers. So it appears that the Roberts' court believes the First Amendment is absolute, as long as you have lots and lots of cash, or you are a puppet of those who do, like the teachers in the Friedrichs case.

The teachers in Friedrichs are arguing that since the union is political and represents them, they shouldn't have to pay anything because they disagree with their union's politics. This seems like a perfect argument as to why the Supreme Court should strike down the income tax. Obviously, everything the government does is inherently political. I pay plenty of taxes to reap the benefits of this society, but I totally disagree with a lot of the things that the government does. Why should I pay for the illegal wars of the Bush family, or for a ridiculously large military when I am a pacifist? Taxes are the price I pay to be a part of this greater Union of the United States, but if Friedrichs prevails, why should anyone pay?

You might argue that I am free to leave the country, or to vote in new leaders who better represent my views. But that's exactly what the teachers in the Friedrichs case could do, as well. If you don't want to teach in a unionized school, don't do it. Leave. Go teach in a private or parochial school. Half the states are "right to work" states where there are no unions (and lower pay and fewer benefits). And as for voting, union members can vote in new leaders who better represent their own views if they choose to. None of their rights will be abridged.

Now to some practical matters. What happens when teachers are allowed to opt out of union dues? Exactly what contract will they be bound by? Will they be entitled to the same pay and benefits of those of us who pay our dues? By what authority? And what happens when their contractual rights are violated? Will the union be forced to defend people who aren't supporting the union?

Will non-members be allowed to "buy-in" to the union when they need it--like when a rogue principal or AP goes after them? That would be akin to allowing someone to buy health care after they get sick, while the rest of us pay in sickness and in health.

I've been a pretty harsh critic of the UFT at times, but I know that without them, I would likely be unemployed rather than retired in relative comfort. I was targeted by one the worst, and frankly stupidest, principals I have ever met because of my union activities. I testified against him at a fellow teacher's 3020a hearing. Had it not been for my union, I'd have been fired on the spot. Now that I am collecting my pension, my dues seem like a pretty good investment.

Of course, the teachers in the Friedrichs case think they are the best teachers ever, so nothing like that could ever happen to them. They are so wonderful that they don't need a union. They will just burst into the DOE, and by virtue of their glowing excellence, demand better pay and working conditions than the union could ever get them. And the DOE will give them what they want, because they are such outstandingly wonderful educators that one day they will vanish in flash of light and end up teaching Danielson high atop a mountain in the Himalayas.

If Friedrichs prevails, I am hoping that every teacher gives the ruling a big middle finger and continues to pay dues. But what of those who decide they'd rather keep the ten Bennies a year rather then support their fellows?

If it were me, I would not even talk to such a person. They are the moral equivalent of scabs, and should be treated as such. If they leave us to pay dues while they take a free ride, why should we help them out in the least? I wouldn't share a lesson plan, a crumbling piece of chalk, or even a glance with such a person.

That should be the UFT's position should Friedrichs come to pass. You're either a dues payer, or you aren't. If you are, you're entitled to everything the union has to offer. If not, you're on your own.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Les Miserables---On Going Back to Work

Nothing for me to say here. Just watch. (if you can't stand the blather, skip to the 1:20 mark).




Friday, August 14, 2015

The Worst Person on the Planet

Arne Duncan was the first to say it. He said that Hurricane Katrina was the "best thing that happened" to education in New Orleans. So what, he seemed to be implying, if a bunch of people died? They were mostly poor black people, and it's important to implement your charter school wet dreams no matter what. If some minorities have to drown, well, that's the price ol' Arne was willing to pay.

You'd think everyone would have learned that it isn't a good idea to root for death and destruction in order to implement your "reform" plans. And you'd really think that no one would be stupid enough to echo Arne Duncan's idiocy on the tenth anniversary of Katrina.

Enter Kristen McQueary of the Chicago Tribune, with her knuckles dragging. She wrote an Op Ed for the Tribune that looked wistfully back at Katrina, and wished a similar fate on the residents of Chicago. Here's part of what she said:

I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops...That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.

Nice, huh? And she tips her hand in the next paragraph (italics mine):

An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation's first free-market education system.

Yep. That's the giveaway. Katrina was fine--as long as it did away with those nasty teachers' unions and put the "free market" (i.e., hedge fund billionaires) in command.

This is why our unions should not be dealing--ever--with the proponents of "reform", like Duncan, Gates, Eva Moskowitz, or Campbell Brown. They don't give a damn what happens to people, including the kids they claim to be "saving". To them, anything goes as long as they can break the back of the unions and scoop up the lion's share of educational dollars for themselves.

Kristen McQueary offered a non-apology for her tirade, claiming that she was engaging in "metaphor and hyperbole", and basically that the great unwashed really didn't understand the point she was making or how she was making it.

No, Ms. McQueary, we know exactly what you were doing. And the reason you didn't offer an apology for your reprehensible words was that you are not sorry you said them.

That makes you the worst person in the world.