American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten

Pattsi Petrie led me to a C-SPAN video of Randi Weingarten of the AFT speaking to folks at the Christian Science Monitor on the topic of education. She also suggested I post my response to the video, so here you go.

I was surprised that they spent so much time talking about pension issues. But it makes a lot of sense. I was also surprised that Ms. Weingarten has such broad familiarity with issues in different states across the nation, and in particular Detroit and Illinois. She strikes me as an affable, intelligent, down-to-earth-but-aiming-for-the-clouds kind of forward thinker.

I disagree with her apparent focus on the middle-class, but I think I kind of understand it. She makes the strong argument about how the trickle-down theory has failed to trickle down (I thought of a big fat pool where just a little bit of water leaks out), and how this obviously plays into the pension issue as more and more people are being pushed downwards. She speaks to the satirical nature of the American Dream. I appreciate that she sees the need to not only acknowledge but also embrace the glaring inequities in income and achievement.

While I found her quite inspirational, in retrospect I cannot think of any action steps I can take away from the session (hmm… inspired? but inspired to do what?). They made a big deal of this so-called national action day next Monday, but …. what action? Even the website is embarrassingly devoid of action steps. I have asked our local CFT about it and have not heard anything (who knows, maybe they are waiting to tell me later *grin*).

Her point about how the schools (not just the physical individual buildings, but the atmosphere) needs to recognized as a “safe environment” is spot on. As little as I know, it seems like our teachers do indeed need more autonomy. Her point about how teachers are being asked to do a million things (on top of teaching) resonates with what I hear from teachers personally. Especially in regards to Common Core; there seems to be an expectation that administrators can simply tell teachers what to do and they will miraculously be able to do it (and even more grotesquely, that they will want to do it).

In the end, she says all the right things but I do not have a clear idea of what I am supposed to do about it. There is no call for systemic change, much less a roadmap on how to get there. So, in her own words, we are going to just keep doing what we have been doing.