Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stunned Silence

This document makes radical demands.  One can go through it and nod one's head and say OK, the union needs to do this, check, and ED has to do that, no problem....OMG they want me to do WHAT?  That's where the stunned silence kicks in. It reads like a package deal.  True, the document can be "otherwise manipulated"  or cherry picked so as to leave the "OMG" out.  We're all reformers as long as its the other guy doing the reforming.
For example a board member on the negotiating team distrusts teachers' self evaluation.  She thinks we're very self serving.  PARS?  That would blow her mind - giving up control.  But she'd have no problem with the union giving up security in the ways suggested by "Transforming Teaching."
There is a worry that some folks are planning to take what the CETT has put forward and claim it as their own.  I'm not sure I see a problem here.  I get mentoring from time to time by a brilliant Marxist labor organizer who always reminds me that it is the cause that matters in organizing, not my individual ego.  This thing she taught me allows me to be a lot more effective.  So if one's ideas get stolen en masse and actually implemented, I'd count it as a success - as long as they are not too cherry picked or "otherwise manipulated."
The thing I worry about is that all this stunned silence will make this initiative go the way of Bob Chase's "New Unionism."  In a 1997 NEA Higher Education Journal interview, Chase said:
"New Unionism means being as strong an advocate for the professional side of the education equation as we have been for the economic and social well-being of our membership, the other side of the equation.
I’m not saying that we should, in any way, back away from the moral responsibilities as a union to provide for the economic well-being of our members. But I am saying that there is another whole area of our members’ well-being—the professional side—that we must be involved in.
If we take the best from traditional industrial unionism and the best from traditional craft unionism, as well as the best from organizational management gurus, and meld all these into a philosophical underpinning for what our union should be, I think that we would be stepping forward and moving in a direction that is absolutely essential if we are to remain relevant. 
This means that those of us who have held beliefs that are more in line with traditional unionism must rethink some of that and broaden our scope and vision about the work of the NEA.
This is tough work, and there’s no blueprint for how we go about doing this. But unless we can make inroads here—whether it’s K-12 or higher education—our importance to the future of education will be minimal, and the needs of our members, or potential members, will go unmet."
That was 15 years ago.  The more things change the more things remain the same.  Well now there is a blueprint in a sense.  The big question is will it make any difference.  The reason I keep writing about “Transforming Teaching” (like a damn fool) and trying to keep it alive is my hope that educators will emerge from their stunned silence and start talking about this thing.

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