As the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Though the CCSS have grown more toxic than Chernobyl on a windy day, the adopted AFT resolution describes the "potential and promise" of standards that are threatened by, among other things, a "political agenda to privatize education." The union acknowledges the existence of an insidious agenda to privatize public education, an agenda which paradoxically must be stopped before we can fix the CCSS. That's like saying we need to breakup monopolies before we can turn Walmart back into a mom and pop store. They are one and the same. Whether teachers love them or hate them, the Common Core brand has so polluted the air of meaningful progress in education that an exorcism may be necessary before AFT members can start distributing those "resource kits" meant to strengthen the standards and their twisted tests.
Yes, standards must be embraced, improved and utilized, but only at the most local of levels with experienced administrators and teachers monitoring their fruition throughout daily activities with students. And no, we don't need another brand name that polls better than the Common Core; standards should always begin with a lower case "s" and be incorporated into the curriculum based on how the professionals see fit. The AFT and others must stop propping up corporate brands like the Common Core; even Arne Duncan doesn't refer to them by their proper name anymore.
What reads like a warrant for Duncan's arrest is merely another lame attempt to keep the AFT's seat at the kiddies table in the White House, at once seeking to placate and punish Obama. The only way Duncan's first five years could have been more disastrous is if he had also taught a class or two along the way. Unions should call for nothing less than the immediate resignation of this "promoter of privatization" and organize daily rallies outside his office until he leaves with his bag of basketballs bouncing on his back. If the AFT wants the president and politicians of all parties to take them seriously, they must unequivocally hold political leaders accountable by standing in solidarity with the NEA instead of passing toothless resolutions that at most will make the president's press secretary chuckle at the reporters who remember to even ask about education.
Messages to leaders can and should assume many mediums, but as the AFT emphasizes in writing, there is an overt and covert attempt to undermine teachers unions in the United States today, and big money has a comfortable seat at the table. Duncan, Obama, Cuomo, Walker, and Christie are just some of the leaders who've pushed in its chair. Unions must shout louder than big money if they expect to be heard. Tongue-in-cheek jabs at Duncan's due process only muddy the issues even more. The AFT holds its convention every two years anyway, so if and when Duncan's SIP is up for review, he'll already be weighing job offers from charter schools with the scales tipping further in favor of privatization.
As Duncan observed, unions have their own politics. Just like Obama, union presidents have voters to answer to. However, part of the problem is that not enough members are engaged in political action both outside and within their unions, with many teachers ignoring politics at all costs under the assumption that someone else will fight for them. These teachers may continue ignoring politics, however, as long as they proceed as follows:
-Ignore NYSUT President Karen Magee's fear of the New York press; you are the best and loudest messengers for students. (And feel free to scream your hatred of the Common Core, since a looming loss of due process rights could soon make this impossible anyway.)
-Ignore AFT President Randi Weingarten when she stands with the likes of Duncan and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy; you don't need a seat at their table to be heard.
-And to teachers in New York, ignore all of the above leaders as they push a Cuomo endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial election; you should vote for Zephyr Teachout or Howie Hawkins anyway.
Ignore your union leaders and follow what you believe is the best course for the profession. After all, your leaders are doing a splendid job ignoring you.