When I was a public school teacher I never belonged to the AFT, one of the two largest teachers’ unions in the United States. I paid union dues to REA/CTA/NEA—the other, larger teachers’ union.
So when I received one of AFT’s regular e-mails signed by Randi Weingarten, the AFT president, that said, “I remember my heart pounding as I walked into Clara Barton High School my first day as a teacher. Will I be able to do it? Do I have what it takes to connect and teach and make a difference in the lives of these kids?”
As I read her e-mail welcoming teachers back to a new school year, I thought where are her words of support for the teachers, parents and children who are fighting to save our democratic, transparent, nonprofit public schools from the fraudulent, greedy corporate vultures—supported by a neo-liberal President of the United States—who are circling the carcass of public education.
Nowhere in that e-mail did Weingarten mention the war being waged on public education and how the Common Core Crap and high stakes standardized testing are being deliberately used by hucksters and charlatans to destroy the lives of teachers, and crush parents and children.
I didn’t expect anyone to read my reply but I replied anyway, “This does not make you a veteran teacher, I wrote. “Try teaching at least ten years or more to earn that title.”
Why did I say Weingarten wasn’t a veteran teacher?
“From 1991 until 1997 Randi Weingarten taught at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The classes she taught included Law, Ethical Issues in Medicine, AP Political Science, and US History and Government. Her political science students competed in the We the People civics competition, winning the state championship in 1993-94 and 1994–95 and placing fourth in the national championship in 1994-95. In 1995, Weingarten was elected Assistant Secretary of the UFT. She continued teaching per diem from 1995 to 1997.”
Go back and click on the link for Clara Barton High School to discover an elite school and not one that teaches impoverished, at-risk children—children who are difficult to teach—like the ones I taught for thirty years.
Randi Weingarten might have been a full time classroom teacher for four years and a per diem teacher for another two years ( I wonder how many of those per diem days she worked), but her resume doesn’t reveal that she taught the most at-risk children like I did for thirty years. I don’t think she understands the challenges that teachers face who teach classrooms filled with the most difficult children to reach who live in poverty in dangerous communities where street crime is the norm to them.
That’s why Randi Weingarten will have to publicly stands up to the corporate education reform movement and condemn Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad, a flock of Hedge Fund vultures, the Common Core Crap and the results of high stakes student tests being used to judge teachers, fire them and close public schools, and then maybe she will earn some respect from this retired teacher who spent 30 years in the classroom teaching in schools where the childhood poverty rate was more than 70%, and violent adolescent street gangs were an ever present danger. I know from firsthand experience what it’s like to work with both highly motivated students who learned even if their teachers were brain dead, and teaching children to learn, who are at risk—the gulf between these two extremes is vast and what teachers experience working with at risk children is not the same as what Weingarten’s resume reveals from her limited teaching experience.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).
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