"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
View Kathy Emery, PhD's LinkedIn profileView Kathy Emery, PhD's profile

Friday, September 21, 2012

What A Chicago Teacher Learned from the Strike

Pretty Interesting!

Teaching for Social Justice Weekend Conference in SF

Teaching Toward Justice: A Weekend of Building Solidarity and Strengthening a Movement
Events surrounding the Teaching for Social Justice annual educator's conference on Oct 6 in San Francisco, CA
Tough Times, Resistance and Real Talk: Into the Political Economy of Race, Place & School with David Stovall
Friday Oct 5, 7:30pm at I-SEEED (Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational and Environmental Design), 1625 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94612
David Stovall, Ph.D.  is Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  His scholarship investigates four areas 1) Critical Race Theory, 2) concepts of social justice in education, 3) the relationship between housing and education, and 4) the relationship between schools and community stakeholders. In the attempt to bring theory to action, he has spent the last ten years working with community organizations and schools to develop curriculum that address issues of social justice. 
Sponsors: Urban Education & Social Justice (UESJ)  & the International and Multicultural Education (IME) Department at the University of San Francisco, California NAME, Center for Urban Schools and Partnerships (CUSP), Teachers 4 Social Justice & the People’s Education Movement
This event is free and open to the public, donations will be accepted for the Raza Defense Fund

Teaching for Social Justice: Acts of Courage and Resistance
Saturday, October 6th, 2012 at Mission High School, 9am-5pm, 3750 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Register at:
Each year hundreds of educators both locally and nationally gather to network, explore empowering learning environments and develop a professional learning community.  We are excited to celebrate 12 years of building grassroots, peer-led professional development opportunities!
Keynote Speaker: Sean Arce, former director of Tuscon Unified’s Mexican-American Studies Program and Dr. Sonia Nieto, author of The Light In Their Eyes, Creating Multicultural Learning Communities.

Precious Knowledge: film on the struggle for Ethnic Studies in Arizona, with Sean Arce and Curtis Acosta as special guests
Saturday, October 6th, 2012 7pm-9pm 
Presentation Theater, Education Building, University of San Francisco
2350 Turk Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118
Sponsored by the Urban Ed and Social Justice Cohort at University of San Francisco
Arizona lawmakers believe Tucson High School teachers are teaching victimization, racism, and revolution in their Ethnic Studies classes. Meanwhile Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Department have data showing that almost 93% of their students, on average, graduate from high school and 82% attend college.
PRECIOUS KNOWLEDGE, the movie, illustrates an epic civil rights battle as brave students and teachers battle with lawmakers and public opinion in an effort to keep their classes alive.

Ethnic Studies People’s Movement Assembly
Sunday, October 7th, 2012 9:30am-12:30pm
SF Community School - 125 Excelsior Street, San Francisco, CA 94112
It is time for action! As recent events in Tucson have proven, the struggle for Ethnic Studies is alive throughout the nation. This assembly will be a collaborative and democratic process that will be used to create a plan of action, culminating in a national assembly at Free Minds, Free People 2013. It is time to develop a regional and national strategy for K-12 Ethnic Studies nationwide together. All levels of experience and expertise are welcome!
Assembly Co-sponsors
Association of Raza Educators
Association of Mexican American Educators
Napa Valley Ethnic Studies Advocates
Pico Youth and Family Center
Raza Studies Now
Rethinking Schools
Save Ethnic Studies
Teachers 4 Social Justice
Tucson Freedom National Network

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicago Teachers' Strike Redux - lessons to be learned (hopefully)

The Chicago Teachers Delegate Assembly has called off the strike (the members still have to vote on it but that seems to be pro forma). The deal that was struck was, not surprisingly, a compromise. The deal, if accepted will
give annual raises to teachers, lengthen the school day and allow teachers to be evaluated, in part, with student test scores. The school system would also aim to guide laid-off teachers with strong ratings into at least half of any new job openings in the schools. NYTIMES
Teachers, by law, have been allowed to organize collectively only around economic issues.  That legal requirement has made it very difficult for teachers to oppose the implementation of high stakes testing (high stakes attached to a standardized test score) that began in the 1990's.  For the last twenty years, students have been suffering under the onslaught of state standards, state tests and sanctions (especially the high school exit exams which have dramatically increased drop outs.)  Teachers are now the DIRECT targets of the corporate business agenda (hence the bipartisan nature of the use of standardized tests to impose educational reform) in that CEO's want to attach test scores to teacher evaluation.  Most district unions have caved in to the pressure of money power (it's ability to use the media and foundation money to put teachers on the defensive).

The Chicago teachers tried to draw a line in the sand but are still divided amongst themselves and have yet to build a solid coalition with parents.
Pressure mounted in recent days as union leaders grappled with a complicated equation: how to find agreement among hundreds of delegates with vastly different views and concerns, while balancing the risk of losing public support as the strike stretched on.
By Tuesday, there were signs that union leaders realized they needed to move quickly. The union issued a leaflet aimed at maintaining patience from Chicagoans, which read, in part, “We would like to express our profound gratitude for your support in our fight for quality public education and a fair contract.” (same NYTimes article as above).
Until local teacher leaders can forge a consensus around issues that they have in common with the parents of their students, money power will prevail.  Mike Miller (a civil rights veteran among other credentials) has written a very good article explaining the importance of organizing around "lowest common denominator issues."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jail no Bail -- the pros and cons of the tactic

From India/Real Time

Although the Bombay High Court granted him bail Tuesday, Mr. Trivedi refused to exit prison demanding that sedition charges against him be dropped, according to Alok Dixit, a close aide and business partner of the free speech activist.

From India/RealTime (A WSJ publication?)

Mr. Trivedi’s detention sparked outrage among many in India. Markandey Katju, head of the Press Council of India, the country’s main media self-regulatory body, spoke out strongly against Mr. Trivedi’s detention, arguing it is illegal.

One of the most important strategic developments during the Southern Freedom Movement was the idea of "jail not bail."  As Bruce Hartford explains on the Timeline:

At the October 1960 SNCC strategy conference in Atlanta, some activists argue for "Jail-No-Bail" tactics. They take a Gandhian position that paying bail or fines indicates acceptance of an immoral system and validates their own arrests. And by serving their sentences, they dramatize the injustice, intensify the struggle, and gain additional media coverage. There is also a practical component to "Jail-No-Bail." The Movement has little money and most southern Blacks are poor. It is hard to scrape up bail money, and sit-in struggles are faltering — not from lack of volunteers to risk arrest — but from lack of money to bail them out. Moreover, paying fines provides the cops with financial resources that are then used to continue suppressing the freedom struggle. By refusing bail, they render meaningless the no-money-for-bail barrier and by serving time they put financial pressure on local authorities who have to pay the costs of incarcerating them. . . .

. . The "Jail-No-Bail" tactic re-energizes the Rock Hill movement, 300 Blacks attend a mass meeting, and picket lines grow to over 100 protesters. The media resumes covering the demonstrations, including full-page spreads in the Baltimore Afro-American. More SNCC reinforcements arrive from Nashville on February 12 for a weekend of direct action culminating in a Sunday motorcade of 600 people to York County Prison Farm. [BUT] . . . it is not enough to force Rock Hill to desegregate. As exhaustion begins to sap the Rock Hill protests, Gaither proposes a new idea to push the struggle forward — a Freedom Ride through Rock Hill and other states of the Deep South. . . .
There are a number of reasons for "Jail-No-Bail" becoming the strategy of last resort [in the Southern Freedom Movement]: .........
  • ....Drama and media coverage become less important than broad participation and stubborn, long-haul determination.
  • ....organizers and community leaders have to be out in the community organizing and leading — not sitting in jail.
  • ....Mass movements have to include adults as well as students. But adults have jobs to keep and children to care for, so they cannot afford to remain in jail
  • ....[When the movement enters the Deep South,] It is simply too risky to leave anyone in jail if there is any way to get them out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicago Teachers' Strike

In reading the New York Times' editorial and articles on the Chicago Teacher's strike, I was particularly struck by the following contradiction:
  • The lead editorial argued: "What stands out about this strike, however, is that the differences between the two sides were not particularly vast, which means that this strike was unnecessary."
  • The article analysing the dispute, however, had the following as it's second paragraph: " At stake are profound policy questions about how teachers should be granted tenure, promoted or fired, as well as the place standardized tests will have in the lives of elementary and high school students."
Either the editors don't read the articles in their own paper or don't believe that "vast" and "profound" are synonyms.

The NYT Editors argue that since "half the states" already require teachers to be evaluated (to varying degrees) by standardized test scores, the Chicago teachers are fighting against the historical trend.  In other words, this kind of evaluation is foretold -- it is written, so stop fighting against it UNNECESSARILY!

It is this very argument that bothers the likes of Civil Rights Veterans like Bruce Hartford.  One of Bruce's favorite quotations is from Bayard Rustin to whom Bruce attributes the following: "History is not an accident, it is a choice."  In a short essay, A Hundred Years of Nonviolent, Bruce provides evidence to support Rustin's claim.

Rustin was expressing a sentiment that has long been understood by all those who fight against tyranny.  For example, Frederick Douglass' famously argued that "If there is no struggle there is no progress....Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
“Let me give you a word on the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to — and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
—Frederick Douglass, “The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies”
(August 3, 1857)
Employers and school districts have been using standardized tests to sort the pool of workers for over a hundred years.  Only since 1989, however, have business leaders wanted to attach "high stakes" to these scores.  Teachers conceded to focusing their teaching to the tests during the last 20 years.  When I was trying to organize teachers, parents and students against the implementation of High Stakes Testing in 2000, the vast majority of teachers didn't feel they could stop the implementation of that policy and gave in.  Now, they are upset that the test scores are being applied to them and "half the states" have forced concessions from teachers.  Chicago teachers have decided to draw a line in the sand saying enough is enough.  This may inspire teachers in other cities to join in pushing back.  But this will only happen successfully if teachers can form coalitions with parents by agreeing to a new vision of what the public schools should be all about.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Sex Strike in order to distinguish between Togo and the Congo!

 Togo's opposition coalition is having trouble gaining the sympathy and support of the outside world, which apparently is needed to overthrow their dictator.  Note the conclusion of the article below: "... this time, nobody mistook Togo for Congo."

Note also the classic escalation of tactics: negotiations, demonstrations, more negotiations, fasting and prayer, no more negotiations, sex strike.  The last finally garnering the attention of the international media.  But, can the Women's Collective leverage the sympathy of the world, or perhaps merely its current curiosity into real pressure on the dictator?  Is it the right historical moment?  The next few months will reveal whether that will happen or not.

Published in the Guardian by the Let's Save Togo Women's Collective:
Women's collective leader Isabelle Ameganvi
Togo is a republic only by name. It has been ruled with an iron fist by the Gnassingbé family since 1963 following the assassination of Sylvanus Olympio, the father of Togo's independence. The regime has been supported by the army ever since and in violation of constitutional provisions, Faure Gnassingbé was installed in power by army generals after his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, died in February 2005 after 38 years in power. . . . [T]he approach of parliamentary elections next October [and] the government's delaying tactics to evade pro-democratic reforms have exacerbated a protest movement countrywide...

...This is why Let's Save Togo's women's collective have called for the women of Togo to go on a week-long sex strike in order to press for Gnassingbe's resignation.

.....What are our demands? We asked for the release of those who have been arbitrarily arrested and held in appalling conditions in overcrowded prisons following peaceful demonstrations organised by our Collective. We also want to awaken the national and international community to our plight – too often, they pretend not to see Togo's inexorable descent into hell. And since negotiations are impossible at this point, we demand Gnassingbé's departure.

How will a sex strike help? We have chosen this weapon after exhausting all imaginable peaceful remedies. The Collective has consistently hit a wall and a regime that did not let go. We called for abstinence after having called for fasting and prayer because it was clear that our mobilisation was soon to take a decisive turn. And at this stage, we can modestly give thanks to God, for divine providence is already at work. Last week men of goodwill, including clergymen, woke up and assured us that they would get involved to search for a solution to the current political crisis. Their involvement led to the release of all those arrested.

While it is true that a "week of abstinence, fasting and prayer" would not have had the same media impact as our sex strike, the worldwide echo that the initiative sparked was totally unexpected. Suddenly, all newspapers from Greenland to Australia, Japan and Senegal, wanted to know about Togo's plight: it must have been bad, they wondered, for women to be driven to that extreme. Believe us, this time, nobody mistook Togo for Congo.