Wanted to share Chris Thinnes blog about the Network for Public Education conference held in Chicago this past weekend. I was unable to attend but did hear some of the speeches streamed online, especially the final with Karen Jennings Lewis.
I admit I am no fan of Diane Ravitch, Randy Weingarten or even the beautiful Lily Eskelsen Garcia who is trying to be progressive but just can't give up the need for 'standards' - that obviously fake structure that was started by publishing companies and President Bush the second (and before). I wouldn't have gone to NPE for that reason - I would prefer if people had gone to various states to support grassroots organizing efforts. You can hear some of the speeches and panels here at Schoolhouse Live.
Karen Lewis however seems to understand the importance of organizing and democracy. While the strike in Chicago was not what she wanted, it was what her membership wanted. She sees this as a long term struggle, not just a battle against CCSS and high-stakes testing. Even if those two go away we will be left with thousands of our students in private charters that are bleeding our public schools dry. Listening to her on Sunday one can see the difference between a leader who is there for the publicity versus one who understands the need for deep organizing. I hope some of our local leaders will listen to this - and see that they need to listen to their membership as well as being in the struggle for the long haul.
Chris Thinnes blog ("If These Two Movements Found Common Cause") was helpful to me because he pointed out one of the best speakers in our struggle - Jesse Hagopian. I had heard Jesse Hagopian speak at a wonderful conference in San Diego -- the Association of Raza Educators.
Jesse is the first educator I have heard make the links to the need to change the system. Not that others don't believe this, but I haven't heard any of the national leaders make the connections until I heard him speak. Jesse is not afraid to make the connections. In addition, of course, he has been in the forefront of the struggle for public education. So he is not just theoretically in tune, but practically on the ground a great organizer. He also said he had been in Zanzibar last year, but I didn't get to ask him about it. Wish I had. Zanzibar deserves another post.
This from Diane Ravitch about Jesse Hagopian's talk: "Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist roots of standardized testing. Jesse was accompanied by Seattle’s education director for the NAACP, which issued a protest against standardized testing."
I wrote this for Chris Thinnes' blog but didn't post it: "Thank you Chris. Your piece is wonderful. I think back to the movements for social justice that began in the tens, 20s, 30s with socialists and yes, communists, that made equal rights and social justice the frontline of the struggle for working class rights. And because that was a powerful unity, the social justice activists were attacked, marginalized, and often made to starve (as in the case of my family and others like us). And I believe this is the reason why we don't have the leadership we need in the unions. But we will if what you are saying is implemented because it is critical to our winning the battle against deform and privatization. I fear that it is going to be a bloody battle. But I thank you for clarifying the issues that will make or break us."
So if somehow we can get beyond our sophomoric pleas for goodness from the 1% and can galvanize people to fight in ever greater numbers for combined social justice issues, we just might win. Remember #BlackLivesMatter and #OptOutNow and #defendchildren are not separate issues. They will only be won when we unite.
P.S. Don't miss this great group of 20 new classic books for children. Included is The Dot by Peter Reynolds, my favorite artist for non-artists.