The Diane Ravitch Contradiction: Educators Should Rebel, but Be Nice When Addressing Oppressive Union Leaderships

[Editor's Note: The following commentary on the contradictions in recent Diane Ravitch blog postings went up at midnight and we thought should be shared before this afternoon's CORE meeting in Chicago. Those who wish to read more of Norm Scott's commentaries and reports can find them at Ed Notes. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance].

Chicago Teachers Union delegate (and CORE co-chair) Sarah Chambers was sandwiched between two UFT speakers during the battles for the microphones at the July 2014 convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Chambers and others helped organize and lead the floor fight against the Common Core during the convention. Chicago's resolution against Common Core lost the debate, but won the convention. After the vote in favor of an AFT "national office" resolution to fix "standards", dozens of New York delegates came up to Chicago delegates and said they supported what Chicago had proposed and defended -- BUT... Photo by Norm Scott.The Diane Ravitch Contradiction: Educators Should Rebel, but Be Nice When Addressing Oppressive Union Leaderships

" want the workers to be rebellious, not docile. There is a time for collaboration and a time to stand up and fight... " Ravitch on the film "Metropolis."

"I grow frustrated when union members attack their unions. Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions. But when they begin hurling insults and invective at their allies, they do the work of their common foe...." Diane Ravitch comment on -- Lisa Graves: Will the Koch Brothers Buy American Politics?

There is such irony in these two Ravitch blogs just hours apart when our union leaders's aim is to keep workers from being rebellious. I have been a big defender of Diane Ravitch, but I grow frustrated when she urges restraint when we attack undemocratic, mislabeled as progressive, union leaders and call them out for what they are. And then qualifies it with "Of course, they should fight to win democratic control of their unions." Of course, of course. But let's set ground rules for those doing the fighting, but no ground rules for the people in power.

The major factor in the rise of ed deform over the past two-plus decades has been the capitulation and cooperation of undemocratically run teacher unions. When does Diane Ravitch call for the democratic reform of teacher unions instead of asking those fighting for these reforms to "play nice"? When militants attack the union leadership does the right/ALEC cheer? Or do they fear more Chicago's coming? If MORE and its allies were ever to challenge the Unity/NYSUT/AFT leadership in a serious way, ALEC would not be happy -- better the good Maria/Randi than the bad.....

Read the full Ravitch comment on the Fritz Lang film shown last night on TCM.

Sarah Chambers between 2 Unity Caucus members at mic at AFT convention

"Knowing what was going to happen to Germany, I found myself siding with the �bad� Maria who wanted the workers to turn against the machines to which they were psychically chained, not the �good� Maria, who wanted the workers to wait, wait, wait, and be peaceful. If you think about the movie in relation to German history and the monster who would plunge the world into war just a few years later, you want the workers to be rebellious, not docile. There is a time for collaboration and a time to stand up and fight..." Ravitch on film "Metropolis" (Last Thoughts of the Night).

In the other - Lisa Graves: Will the Koch Brothers Buy American Politics? - post Ravitch and Graves gang up on the band of resisters in the teacher unions who are fighting a 2-front war against ed deform and their own union leaders who don't exactly play "nice." (SEE NYSUT AND AFT CONVENTIONS).

Does Diane get it? That Randi Weingarten is the "good Maria" who wants workers to wait, wait, wait and be peaceful. And that Diane and Lisa Graves are also playing the role of the "good Maria" in giving Randi cover and accusing union dissidents, who are often left without any voice in the union, of helping the Koch brothers when they attack their union leaders as being undemocratic and repressive?

In essence, Ravitch and Graves are also playing the role of the "good Maria" in urging restraint on unionists who are forced into the public forum to reach the membership because all internal forums are severely limited. (Unity has access to every single teacher mail box by using its district reps and enormous numbers of chapter leaders.)

Diane Ravitch has said her decade of mistakes in supporting ed deform was due to viewing things from 20,000 feet. Well when it comes to her views on internal union issues she is still viewing from 20,000 feet and she is as wrong on that as she was on ed deform.

What she doesn't get is that until the unions are reformed there can be no effective fight against ed deform. There is no better example than that of the Chicago Teacher Union resistance and the UFT decades-long capitulation in the face of ed deform, much of it under the leadership of Randi Weingarten. And fighting the Unity Caucus machine that controls NYC, NY State, the AFT is not a gentleman's game.

These two posts by Diane Ravitch were just hours apart and they can't be more contradictory in their message to those forces battling against undemocratic structures in their unions. So lets forget-about-it when UFT/Unity's Leroy Barr pushes Chicago's Sarah Chambers out of the way at the committee debate on common core at the AFT convention so that Mulgrew could get the microphone. See AFT Convention Update: Chicago CC Reso Goes Down

Also see a few of my other reports from the AFT - all on the sidebar but these are relevant to this blog post.

#AFT14 Report: When Will the UFT/AFT Reclaim the Promise of a Democratic Union?

#AFT14 Report - Tidbits

#AFT14 Report - Common Core Debate - Epic Battle B...

I find the Ravitch posts ironic in that I know the respect Diane has for Arthur Goldstein (NYC Educator) who has been on a tear in exposing and assaulting the UFT/NYSUT/AFT leaders over their fundamental violations of democracy. His latest is: NYSYUT President Karen Mageee Explains How Common Core Enables Life, the Universe, and Everything

I have to compile a list of his fabulous blog posts over the past few months - MORE could use them as a campaign statement. Is Diane and Lisa Graves saying Arthur us helping the Koch brothers? Am I to stop calling Washington Sanchez or Stuart Kaplan "slugs?" (Hey Leroy, you are now officially on slug probation.)

Let's parse Lisa Graves:

�The American Federation of Teachers has been rock solid in the fight against ALEC, consistently devoting staff time week in and week out for three years to expose ALEC, due to her personal commitment. The ongoing public campaign on ALEC would not have had the success it has had without AFT�s work and her leadership, and without the work of many devoted colleagues across the country, including the National Education Association and other organizations, bloggers, and concerned citizens nationwide�.."

To Lisa the fight is about the AFT staff, not involving the 1.6 million members because to get them involved they actually need a stake in a union that would be run bottom-up not top-down. In fact, if militants had controlled the AFT that fight would have begun a decade ago, not yesterday as the good Randi plays nice.

I know we need a more progressive America.

�And progressives need to get better at using their power to persuade each other and to win better policies. But attacking genuine progressives for banding together to take on the Kochs or for not being pure enough is foolish sport. And the right loves it when progressives fight. It makes their effort to tear down the left so much easier. So, let�s get real. Because there�s a real-world war going on to kill our public schools, outsource our public institutions to private companies not accountable to us, and destroy key government constraints on corporate power�.."

This is the kind of comment that makes me want to rend my garments. Is someone who runs an oppressive and undemocratic union a "true progressive?" Is she actually trying to say Randi is "left" when in fact one of her major aims has been to keep any voice of the real left out of union power?

And how foolish to think that the Koch brothers and ALEC just loved it when CORE Caucus in Chicago tossed out the old Unity-like leadership and turned that union into one capable of getting over 90% support for a strike?

As I said in a comment Diane's blog. If MORE and its allies were ever to challenge the Unity/NYSUT/AFT leadership in a serious way, the right and ALEC would not be happy -- for them, better the good Maria/Randi than the bad.


July 30, 2014 at 11:33 PM

By: norm scott

Links in my article

Thanks George for posting. The links to the supplements I included are not active.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 3 =