SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Apathy And Ignorance At The DOE

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Apathy And Ignorance At The DOE

Many years ago I traveled to Albany to hand in paper work at the state ed. department. This was back in the day when the offices were in the same building as the New York State Museum. With such important paper work I felt that it was better to hand it off to a person and it also expedited the time it got filed. I still do it if I have to, and besides I look for any excuse to go to Albany.

So this one time, in fact my first time there, a gentleman came out to greet me. He was a grumpy, cranky man. In all probability he was sitting behind a desk for too many years with too big a case load and no appreciation. As I handed him my paperwork he noticed something amiss. He explained what I needed to do and I promptly rectified it. As I re-handed him back my paperwork he proclaimed, "Teachers are the stupidest people out there." Being that I wanted him on my side and to do what I needed of him I agreed with him.

Which brings me to 2010. I was having a conversation with a teacher last week inquiring if this teacher still reads my blog. The teacher told me that she no longer reads it because it has gone all "political." I guess the drama of when I was reporting about the goings on in my school was the only thing palatable to her, but to each their own.

I started to explain of the seismic shift going on, that she does need to keep up with the political stuff. If not here on my blog, but other blogs, the newspapers, or forms of media. "What is happening out there can happen to you," I told her. The answer I received from her was, "What do you mean?"

What do I mean? I explained that someone with bug up their ying yang can come in to our school one day and close it down, put in a charter school, do whatever. I explained to her that in an instant she, through no fault of her own can become an ATR (Absent Teacher Reserve). "Oh no way, it won't happen. I'm too good of a teacher." I explained that means jack diddly. I pointed out to her that she has almost fifteen years in the system and is approaching forty years of age. That her salary is reaching the upper echelons of the scale and that those three factors alone will hinder her, if God forbid, she was to be put into ATR status.

"Well, anyway, I know a lot of people. I can go out and get a position with them, at their schools," she explained to me. At that point I gave up trying to explain the realities of what is out there. Yes, it sure does help to know someone. But if the someone you know doesn't have a position, or the money to create a position what good does it do to know that person?

And this goes to what I discussed with Karen Lewis on my radio show back on November 23. It all begins at the school level. Yes, we can kvetch and whine all we want about the UFT, but why should the UFT fight when there are teachers who won't fight back and just lay down like lambs?

Apathy and ignorance of what is going on with education today will ultimately be our undoing. I understand that a teacher has a zillion things going on at once and it is difficult to add more things to worry about. But without knowledge, without caring, without being proactive we are just allowing the deformers, the billionaires, the hedge fund managers, and yes, the UFT to walk all over us, to take us for granted and be able to claim they don't hear us.

Any teacher out there can be the "next one" to be screwed. Apathy and ignorance are what is fueling the beasts. It is time to start starving the beast. It is time to look out and around and stop having our eyes wide shut.


Anonymous said...

On target...and yeah, my colleagues choose to hide their heads and ignore it all! When people were excessed last spring they ran to the rep. and announced they couldn't be excessed. They were special!!! Well, several were very close friends of certain admins who discarded them like toilet tissue...the rest of them in the building still don't get it, no matter how hard the rep. tries...

Unknown said...

This apathy and ignorance is what the "reformers" are counting on. Just like in the political process, if people are too "busy" to get informed,we end up with con-men who offer cliches and false hopes to the masses while giving power to the wealthy few. In fact, I think the focus on testing and evaluations serves the double purpose of distracting teachers from the larger issues while destroying their influence and voice. As long as teachers focus just on trying to do their job and do not organize, its like lambs to the slaughter.

Sabrina said...

Agree with all that's been said. I often wonder how bad things need to get before people wake up and defend themselves..."It won't happen to me. I'm too good..." Famous last words! I suppose this person is just unfamiliar with the concept of injustice. If you don't get to craft the official/legal definition of "good," you ought to be incredibly interested in who does.

ed notes online said...

Looking at Chicago, it might take breaking the ATR agreement and the end of LIFO and in effect tenure to shake that tree here in NYC.

Meanwhile, it is incumbent for the activist teachers who are getting the info to keep working the people in their schools and on their contact lists even if people aren't paying attention now. I keep meeting people who start to wake up the minute their schools are hit by closing or reorg or charter co-locations. So it is important to keep connecting the dots.

Anonymous said...

Most people are near sighted or short sighted, teachers as a group are still in the bubble of false sense of security as nothing really bad happens to more than a few percent of the teachers. Well, they are going to pay dearly for their ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance.