UPDATE: Jason Smith, whose call-to-action is featured in this blog post, appears on the cover of the May/June 2014 edition of NYSUT United in a photo taken at the Picket in the Pines event.
If you’re tired of for-profit companies making money off of testing students and generating anxiety as they generate cash; if you are frustrated by students losing librarians and social workers, along with art, theater, music, language and sports; if you are exhausted by teaching to the test — then you might want to change your plans this Sunday. You might want to come to Picket in the Pines in Lake Placid. It’s a starting place to take your power back.
It’s time to bring the hedge-fund managers to task as they meet in the pines this coming weekend.
And, if you’ve never picketed before or never considered yourself a union activist, well, here again, you might want to change your plans — and your ideas about what an activist is.
It’s what makes you decide you’ve had enough, and decide to take action about it, says Jason Smith, a teacher with the Saranac Lake Teachers Association.
“Not too long ago, I had very little interest in the union and what the union did. I paid my dues and figured that someone else would do whatever it was that had to be done. I was definitely an observer, a witness, a minimal participant. Well, a lot has changed in not a lot of time. After grading the horror show of an ELA test created by a for-profit company, by for-profit people, for a not-for-profit entity (it’s a PUBLIC SCHOOL, for the love of Pete) my wheels started turning, and turning, and turning.
“‘How did it come to this?’ I asked myself that over and over while grading a test to clearly designed to show failure … They would like the public, living in a crappy economy… to swallow the rhetoric of how teachers are failing students, how unions are the problem, how if only there were better teachers then the kids would perform better on the tests made by corporations who want the public to embrace their message of blame and accountability. It’s sickening. It’s wretched, cruel and so nefariously designed that only a comic book story writer could identify with it.”
“So I have turned the corner and am excited to become a voice in this choir of voices. There is a clear message where once was a cloudy one. For me, I am appalled and disgusted by how this state, this governor and this country treats its children.We have stooped so low as to now allow corporate America to rob these beautiful young people of real creative flow (Cut art! Cut music! Cut sports!) We are allowing corporations to take the tax dollars of hard-working parents (and grandparents, and friends of parents, and aunts, uncles, etc) and squander it on corrupted, convoluted testing materials and centers. Worse, we allowing these beasts of greed to use CHILDREN as a means to make money, in the only last vestige of hope that they have … school.”
School, Smith concluded, is not supposed to be a place that can be invaded by “corruptive and manipulative companies using any means they can to rob these kids of forming their real and true identities.”
Want to come meet Jason Smith? Do you want to hold a sign up for your students? Do you want to take your power back?
Start here. Picket in the Pines begins at the Comfort Inn in Lake Placid, where you can have lunch from 1-2; hear a presentation by Sabrina Stevens of Integrity in Education from 2-3:30; and make picket signs from 3-4.
Or you can just come to the rally, which is from 4-5 at Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid. This is where a group of so-called reformers are meeting. Education Reform Now, which is run by Wall Street hedge fund managers, is hosting its Political Action Committee — Democrats for Education Reform. They promote non-union charter schools, overreliance on standardized tests and Common Core, students-data collection, vouchers, merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, privatization, and removing unions from almost any role in shaping curriculum or determining working conditions.
You can register here. We’ll see you in the pines.