[ProgressiveEd] NYTimes.com Article: The 'Zero Dropout' Miracle: Alas! Al...

Carol Foresta [email protected]
Thu, 21 Aug 2003 07:21:07 -0700 (PDT)

Dear Peter,
I'm interested. It sounds like fertile ground. Do all
the small schools have UFT chapters that meet as
chapters? In the past the union has been so
reactionary I believe a lot of small schools didn't
bother to really work within this framework. You're
right that we have put our energy in other places,
neglecting our own constituency. These are challenging
times. One of the issues I think teachers face is the
way we perceive ourselves. Are we workers? Or, are we
"professionals?" What does it mean to be a
"professional?" How do we reestablish ourselves as
members of the most powerful class in history? How do
we then understand that we are connected to the
students we teach and the parents we work with? It
seems obvious but unfortunately I think the Union has
managed to obscure our vital connections to each
other. Carol
--- [email protected] wrote:
> In a message dated 8/16/2003 11:35:35 AM Eastern
> Daylight Time, 
> [email protected] writes:
> > Thank you Steve for sending us that article. It is
> an
> > important one. We all recognize the scenario from
> > Texas as one that was recently exposed in New York
> as
> > well. We have a dysfuntional educational system.
> The
> > standardized testing industry is pushing it to a
> > higher level of dysfunction. The question becomes,
> how
> > do we as progressive educators push back? For
> example,
> > I wonder if any of us are union activists? Can we
> > begin to work within the union so that it actually
> > takes stands that support alternative forms of
> > assessment? Can we push the union to support
> > progressive teachers, if not can we expose them
> for
> > their lack of support? Carol
> > 
> > 
> Dear Carol and others,
> Please excuse my late reply to Carol's suggestion
> (and the answers from Steve 
> and Ann), but I actually took two days vacation!
> Carol raises a critical question for the future of
> progressive education in 
> New York City (and elsewhere).  Although some of us
> have been active within the 
> union on an individual basis and as representatives
> of our individual  
> schools, progressive educators largely have ceded
> control of the teacher's union 
> during the past 50 years to other forces.  We have
> all been enormously busy 
> building our schools and communities.  Teachers who
> spend incredible hours working 
> after school with young people have had little time
> for regular attendance at 
> Delegate Assemblies or meetings of chapter leaders. 
> The result has been that 
> often it is the more reactionary elements of union
> leadership and membership 
> who control policy in critical areas.  Our attitude
> often has been that if the 
> powers-that-be simply leave us alone we will be
> ahead of the game.  Clearly, 
> those days are gone forever and we have to adjust or
> we will allow ourselves to 
> be destroyed.
> There is now an enormous potential for "progressive"
> educators to exercise 
> influence within the union -- one that has not
> existed before.  The union 
> structure itself gives more (and undemocratic)
> influence to individual schools than 
> it does to membership numbers -- much like the
> Senate versus the House of 
> Reps.  We now have a great many small schools in
> this city.  During the past two 
> years in Bronx high schools alone, we have opened
> some 31 new small schools.  
> We expect that many "programs" which have existed
> officially as part of other 
> schools will soon have an independent existence.  If
> the UFT representatives 
> from these schools were to establish a bloc and
> attend union meetings with some 
> regularity, they would exercise a disproportionate
> influence.
> Make no mistake -- the UFT (with all its difficulty
> re the current mayor) is 
> the single most powerful union and, indeed,
> political organization in this 
> city and state.  If we want to effect changes in
> city and state policy, the union 
> could be an incredibly powerful ally.  We would have
> to work hard to make it 
> so.
> This is not to suggest that a dual policy -- helping
> to build powerful parent 
> political power as well as seeking to influence
> union policy -- would not be 
> wise.  Both clearly are necessary and are vital.  It
> is to say that if we 
> blind ourselves to the new realities within the
> school system and the structure of 
> the union, and if we do not seek to use effectively
> existing political power, 
> we will be doing a serious disservice to all our
> schools, students, and 
> communities.  Many of us, at one time or another,
> have had difficult experiences 
> with or within the UFT.  This is the time to put
> those aside and to work hard to 
> have the union represent all that is good in a
> couple of hundred wonderful 
> school communities which we have helped to create.
> Best,
> Peter Steinberg

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