Friday, May 1, 2015

Building the Fort (Organizing Against the Colonization of Public Education)

By:  Larry Proffitt, TN BAT Admin and BAT Leadership Team Member
Originally posted on his blog:
TN BATs give an amazing presentation on charters at NPE!

To build a fort became a necessity for defense in the growth of this country. They dotted the frontier as protective settlements established by pioneers, adventurers, and trailblazers. In the midst of the chaos of today’s education environment, the construction of a different “fort” has begun. It is built in defense of public education. This “fort” is rising up at a time when all seems to be headed for disaster, but the builders of this fort say, “NO!” This “fort” is called the Network for Public Education. This past weekend education advocacy leaders gathered in a venue all to fitting, Chicago. Chicago, with its new and fresh union leadership organizing and fighting from under the oppression of a corporate puppet, hosted this band of advocates from all corners of the nation.
The energy was explosive as groups gathered representing all affected by today’s attempt at the privatization of our public schools, or as Brother Jitu Brown said, “… is an attempt at colonizing!” The conference opened with a bang and continued to build through each event and speaker at the podium. A “fort” indeed was coming together. Parents, students, educators, and union leaders were present. There were Momma Bears prowling; TREEs withstood the brisk winds; union leaders observed and gave input; the power of the pen arrived with the foremost ed-bloggers in today’s media; filmmakers previewed documentaries full of emotion evoking testimony and research; Save Our Schools members joined; the Newark Student Union amazed with maturity beyond their years, and one by one, those fearless Badass Teachers flew in from all parts of the nation! What an ensemble of freedom fighters gathered to glean, share, encourage, and plan for the protection of the foundation of this nation’s democracy.
Thanks should be given to the hosts of this event for creating an opportunity for a gathering of this magnitude. Sessions addressed all aspects of the education spectrum today. Michelle Gunderson and a panel of CORE members explained the need for social justice unionism and its power to unite the entire working force across all lines in support of each other as brothers and sisters. The Badass Teachers presented panel discussions on the state of Special Education under the current policy makers’ watch, social and cultural relevance among our school populations and how to change attitudes through perspective, and one state’s battles and successes among the invasion of Tennessee through charters, voucher bills, and poor policies which echoed from around the nation. Problems weren’t just brought forth and listed at this conference, but possible solutions and actions were offered up for a brighter future. Bloggers shared insight and skills with those admiring the constant flow of informative writings by noted personalities, Peter Greene, Russ Walsh, Jose Vilson and Jennifer Berkshire, among others. Noted author, professor of education, and advocate, Yong Zhao, entertained and informed the audience with research mixed with timely euphemisms and analogies. Nancy Carllson-Paige, known to many as the mother of Matt Damon, presented on early childhood education and gleaned from other sessions as well.
The climax of the conference would include a fireside chat involving Ravitch, Lily Eskelson and Randi Weingarten, followed by an appearance by the charismatic Karen Lewis. Questions of interest to the attendees were put in front of NEA and AFT presidents, Lily Eskelson and Randi Weingarten, by president of NPE, Dr. Diane Ravitch. The audience of advocates made their reactions known through varied outbursts and social media outlets Twitter and Facebook. Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis, inspired the crowd with an appearance and words of advice to those in the battle. Dr. Ravitch and Lewis exchanged stories of admiration during their chat. Lewis also gave a shout out to the Twitter Bats of the Badass Teachers Association for defending her at times on Twitter attacks. Dr. Ravitch closed the conference with thanks and words of encouragement for those in attendance. As quickly as they came, they went, back to their homes, communities, and schools. They carried with them tools for the continued building of a massive much needed “fort”, or network, to defend the colonization of our public education system. Many of the same advocates will join once again this summer in the nation’s capital to take the struggle forward at the BATs’ Teacher Congress in July. You are invited to join also. It will take many to complete the task at hand. Solidarity!

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