I’ve been off-line for the past few days, a power outage having blown up my Fios service, something that system is prone to, this being my second such occurrence. Anyway, here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about with the extra time I’ve had during my digital media blackout.
I learned that the superintendent in my home district sent an email to the staff ordering them not to talk about the Trump inauguration. I hope most of the teachers ignored her command, but it irks me no end to see an educational institution bar its doors to discussion of contemporary events, no matter how controversial. How different from the beginning of my career when we routinely had high school presentations on the war in Viet Nam, the issue of the late 60s and early 70s. When a Viet Nam War moratorium demonstration was planned for Bryant Park in Manhattan, a number of our faculty wrote to the superintendent informing him that we are taking a personal day to attend, fully expecting that he wouldn’t grant us the day and would dock us our salaries for the absence. To our surprise, the day was granted. Can anyone imaging that happening today? Our schools then, fostered an open exchange of ideas. Faculty members at my high school often debated each other at assembly programs before students who were fascinated to listen to their teachers battle over an issue. I vividly recall one such contest between two colleagues, one a born again Christian who debated an inveterate atheist. Try to put that program on in most of today’s high schools. In so many ways, the culture of our schools has been debased by waves of ill-educated, gutless administrators whose fear of controversy is matched only by their predatory pedantry.
On the union front, we learned that our state organization, NYSUT, is to again have contested officer elections. While I will have much to say about this upcoming election in future posts, for now a few comments will suffice.
One of the candidates for NYSUT President is Andy Pallotta, currently the Executive Vice-President in charge of the organization’s political operation. Pallotta comes from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), our New York City affiliate, representing approximately one third of NYSUT’s membership. The size of the UFT gave it the power from the organization’s inception to decide who would be its president. It very wisely chose to exert its power through other means. Pallotta’s candidacy is an abrupt break with that tradition. It will further inflame those from suburban districts who have long resented the UFT’s power in NYSUT.
As I write this morning, Billionaire Betsy DeVos is but one Republican vote away from seeing her nomination to be Secretary of Education go up in smoke. Republican Senators Collins and Murkowski deserve our admiration for bucking their newly elected president and voting their consciences. It’s interesting that the two Republican no votes thus far are from women senators. Could it be that women are more attuned to the damage posed by an incompetent twit like DeVos?