No, YOU Keep The Promises

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Protesting UnAmerican

Last week, I was one of the 10,000+ participants at last week’s City Hall “Keep the Promises” protest, an event literally downcast by the rain, but nonetheless very well attended. I saw students, teachers, administrators, and other politicos swarm into one side of City Hall Park while person after person gave us a speech about how New York State needs to keep its promises insofar as the budget for the city’s educational needs are concerned. While the rain drenched on the rest of us, the line of speeches came. While my 1-cent UFT cap started wrinkling, the line of speeches came. While my “Keep the Promises” sign almost disintegrated in my hands, the speeches kept coming.Over all the scaffolded umbrellas and on the Jumbotron, I saw cumulus clouds continue us to envelop us in rain. Little did I know that amongst the cheers of “Si Se Puede” and “Keep the Promises,” we were being sent a message from the heavens to cleanse ourselves of this facade of unity. No, really, put the signs down, stop handing out the flyers, and let’s talk for a bit. For all the posturing and puff we got at that rally, I wonder if we will ever continue with the energy of that protest. I love a good protest as much as the next person, but let’s delve.

Not to highlight the divisions amongst the educational ranks, but it’s ugly out there. Our industry’s become so cutthroat, it’s no wonder Bloomberg has no problem corporatizing public education. Just within the teaching corps, there are issues of ageism (veteran teachers vs. younger teachers), racism (“the young white teachers” vs. “the older Black / Latino teachers”), elitism (Teach for America / NYC Teaching Fellows / alternative programs vs. regular route), and even in subject areas, where the degree of importance for any one subject depends on who’s in charge of it, what standardized test is next, and who’s coming to visit the school.

Then there are battles between teachers, administrators, support staff, 3rd party educational programs, mentors, advisers, educational coaches, parents, and … oh yeah, the students. The students are what really matter, despite what other battles persist. And we need to come to some common ground on these battles, just like we’d expect the kids to do whenever we see them getting into fights. Let’s have honest dialogue about the prejudices we hold against each other. Let’s acknowledge how younger teachers and veteran teachers can learn a lot from each other, no matter what walk of life. Let’s look at each other as teachers, understanding each other’s backgrounds, but helping each other understand how large this world is. I mean, we have to draw the line somewhere. We need to personally keep our promises.

And I’m not advocating this “personal responsibility” business, because that usually turns into an argument that veers away from the obvious and negligent powers that be, the ones that would rather fund bombs than schools and private no-bid contracts instead of good neighborhoods. What I am saying, though, is that we need to not only stand up, but also walk. Yes, do the research and find out what you like before you stand up, but once you know, walk. As in act upon the very ideals which you hold so tightly. Of course, we know there’s tons of research which suggests that humans’ thought and behavior are clearly independent, but fuck it. Let’s do something.

If we can stand there and scream about how improperly our state officials have distributed our monies, then let’s also complain to the city for their mistreatment of the public school system. If we’re going to complain about terrible principals in our system, let’s also complain about terrible teachers who make our corp weaker. If we’re going to tell off some of these visitors who’ve never been in a classroom, we better hold our union reps and union administration accountable as well for the way they represented us, or don’t for that matter. I’m not calling out for full on revolution, because I know the temerity of the American people for real change, but it’s the little things that separate us from understanding the common enemy and thus becoming the true advocates for our children and their futures.

Then again, I must not know very much since I wasn’t up there on the mic. Meanwhile, I heard things like “Oh no, he’s not talking about the war is he?” from educators and “Our schools are improving …” from politicians. And so the struggle continues. But for my edubloggers, nota bene, it’s time to keep your promises, too. Word is bond.

jose, who appreciates the field negro’s shout-out on his blog thoroughly …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 3

  1. Taylor

    I’d like to hear more about this part: “But for my edubloggers, nota bene, it’s time to keep your promises, too. Word is bond.”

    Love your blog. You inspire me, saying “fuck” and all under your real name. That, and standing up for what is right.

    Way cool.

  2. Frumteacher

    I agree with all Taylor writes! ;-)

    Sounds like a special rally. I agree with the need for all of us to unite and fight for a common cause. As you can read in today’s post, my administration is taking some decisions that are very wrong, both from the student and the teacher’s point of view. Strange how more and more, teaching doesn’t seem to be about giving children an education anymore :-(

  3. Cristina

    We’re having these EXACT issues here in CA. I think that our educational system is in just as much hell as the rest of the economy.
    Yo–what about the young/old white teachers vs. the young/old Black/Latino teachers?! :) lol

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