Monday, July 27, 2015

I'm Not Grateful for Compromise

But I am grateful for every activist out there who is pushing hard - in their own way - to save our public schools. Truly I am grateful for that and I want to make that clear before I jump into this blog.

This is my first blog of the summer.  I couldn't blog due to fatigue and I wouldn't let myself blog because I knew that the demands of activism take their toll - and the reformers would like that to happen - they would like me to be tired. Instead, I spent the summer thinking, resting, and simply enjoying being home with my boys. Activism honestly made my stomach churn in June.  I guarded my time like a hawk. I said "no" many many times  - sometimes we have to do that in this world of activism where we work - for free - simply to do the right thing, nothing more. In July, I began to feel myself come out of the fog of fatigue.

But then something interesting happened in July as I sat and watched the days go by. I saw compromise and co-optation occurring within this revolution currently afoot. This revolution has the potential to tear down the test and punish system. It has the potential to demand and get equitable funding for fully resourced schools - as well as social policies set in place to protect children and communities from poverty while lifting them up. This revolution is powerful. It is dangerous. Attempts to redirect the revolution or shut it down will continue to come forward and smack us in the face - but we have to be ready to shake it off with a clear head -  void of compromise and negotiation.

Compromise could potentially kill this revolution.  The energy and time it takes to negotiate a compromise deprives activists of the time and energy needed to push forward a revolution.
Compromise also does something to the soul I think. It changes it. It creates a false sense of peace and success and it's very seductive - if I allowed it in, I could sit back and say, well - we did get that.

And for that we should be grateful.


I'm not grateful.  I'm not grateful that folks pushed hard to get ECAA through with a few bells and whistles that are supposed to make me jump for joy.

And sadly, many pushing it forward and telling me how pleased  I should be are union leaders and activists - many with great power - many who have never taught in a public school.

So let me talk a bit about my school and how ECAA will help us.

I work in a high poverty district with a diverse group of children - at one point we counted over 40 languages represented in our school.

ECAA  - if it goes through as is - has handed over to the states the power to manage and determine how testing will impact our school communities. Nothing new. States already had  been seduced into taking this power thanks to NCLB and RTTT. Colorado loves it - they drool over ways to punish students, teachers and communities as they hand down ALEC legislation and force feed it to our schools.

Next - now that the states have this so-called "new" power to alleviate us from the test/punish system  - they also have - within ECAA - a big new push for charters that our state can use when they decide to finally shut down these turnaround schools, such as mine.

Next, we keep testing. Forever testing. Forever updating infrastructure to support the testing and forever upholding the LIE that the test/punish system keeps schools accountable. They say that there is now an opt out provision in both the house and senate version. True, but what it really means is that the bluff (lie) about losing federal funding can no longer be used. So, it's like saying the bullying tactic that the federal and state departments of education used  - which was already a lie - no longer can be used. Okay.  Perhaps that makes some folks happy.  A bone.

ECAA won't protect my students from poverty. There will no food, books, or healthcare support via ECAA. There will be no librarians, counselors, nurses added to our staff. There will be no small class size, no additional support for our children who suffer from emotional, mental health issues and special learning needs.

ECAA won't help the parents at my school who work hard, sometimes two and three jobs, to provide for their families. It won't provide any additional services to support them in making a living wage. They will continue to work hours upon hours, just to get by and hope that something better awaits their children in the future.

To be honest, to be able to support and analyze ECAA is a privilege.  This is not a slam to anyone, but truly, if we have time to analyze ECAA, watch the senate debate on livestream, and discuss it via social media, we obviously have time and the resources to do so.  I myself watched the senate from my cozy kitchen table while sipping coffee and posting updates on my FB page.   It's a privilege to be able to watch and support getting only "a little" for our children.

However, many of us who push for revolution via Opt Out have a perspective that those senators debating ECAA don't have.  We suffer at the hands of the test/punish system that inflicts pain and harm on all who step in the doors of a public school. We feel it very acutely as we know clearly where it's headed; every month there is an additional layer of compliance and punitive measures that somehow find their way into our schools. Those of us who see it clearly find it more difficult every day to come up for air as we are the ones who are forced to navigate this horrific system that continues to survive and be treated as "credible".  I can't support something that only gets a little for our children - this does nothing to help me in 2015-2016. It does nothing for our students.  ECAA is a recipe for destroying the community I work in - it's only a matter of time. So, to watch people support it, knowing the depth of the nightmare I'm headed into in about a week, is not only difficult, I'd say it's rather enraging. It's enraging to watch children get a little - and then watch folks applaud it -  when I know they deserve it all. It's enraging when I know how easily we could destroy the test/punish system and demand all for all children. Once revolution takes hold, their system will unravel very quickly. We can indeed get all for all children - if we funnel our energy carefully.

Politicians, activists, and citizens who push forward compromise are truly making it more difficult for us in the test/punish system to breathe - especially those of us - who wish for revolution .  When you wish for revolution it's because you know what's possible - and you believe it with every bone in your body. It makes it difficult to sit by with patience. It's like being a wild horse forced into a small fenced area where the owner watches it daily in attempts to tame it and figure out what makes the horse "tick". We revolutionaries cannot be tamed no matter what methods are used in an attempt to tame us. And we know we are watched carefully in an effort to find our trigger - our breaking point. But we cannot be broken - it's just not possible - as long as we are very careful in funneling our energy with our end goal always ever present in our mind.

Those who compromise may have good intentions.  However, I fear some do not - there is much money, ego, and status to be gained by supporting ECAA.  Those of us who have wished for revolution have been silenced in many ways this summer.  Revolution can be squelched simply by ignoring us. Why do they ignore us? Because we are dangerous. They know we will break free and we will be heard again.

Revolutionaries know what is possible.  We would never settle for less for our children because we know they deserve it all.  We see the crimes against childhood, public education, our communities, our learners, and our democracy everywhere we look. ECAA is one more such crime. It's inhumane. It's educational malpractice. It does nothing to create equity and everything to support corporate gain and status for many as they privatize our public schools and destroy the teaching profession and the lives of children.

My focus, as a revolutionary, is very clear. It's never faltered and I'm ready to move forward again this fall. And I am stating that I am a revolutionary simply to make it clear where I stand. The Opt Out Revolution is where the power is to be found. Period.

I go back to school next week. A beautiful school with children who deserve it all - a school with amazing teachers - where we will be drowned once again in corporate reform with additional layers set in place this year to further our goal to raise test scores in an attempt not to "fail". It's all lies. And ECAA is just one more lie that supports failing my school and our children.

What will I do? I'll continue to push forward the revolution. I'll continue to push Opt Out. I'll continue to attempt to balance work, activism, and my family while ignoring the many distractions of compromise that are set in place to keep us off the mark - to keep us away from the big win - the absolute destruction of the test/punish system that will make obsolete many corporate and government entities who are feeding off the public schools. The big win will also take down many political and corporate careers as well as those with aspirations for those careers. The big win will truly place fear in the hearts (if they had a heart) of those who ignored us, laughed at us, and fought us. Who will be slaughtered?  Who will win? We'll see. But I can tell you right now that throwing bones to me and other revolutionaries will never be good enough - and I won't sit back and be grateful. I'll continue to work for free - as an activist (those who profit from activism often lose their way - pay attention to this).

If anything, our work this year will become more targeted and more strategic in this next round of taking down the corporate machine.  The end goal is to make the rich panic, as Chris Hedges says. We've only scratched the surface and it didn't hurt too badly -  but it did cause them to look up and pay attention. It did cause everyone to rally and consider where Opt Out will lead us.  This question can only be answered by the people - will we allow our message to get co-opted or redirected? Or - will we develop a thick skin and slap away the nay sayers and those who ignore us? Will we push for revolution - the absolute decimation of the test/punish system and the demand for democratic equitable public schools and social policies to support communities?   Remember, they ignore us because we have the power.  I know where I stand. I'm not swaying.  I'm simply planning my strategic moments to come up for air.