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By Anthony Cody.

Last week I shared the views of eleven different education activists, who reflected on the choices we face in the current presidential election. Several additional perspectives came in after I had posted, so I am sharing them here, to continue the discussion. Please join in the comments.

The questions I posed were these:

What should we do as activists beyond the vote? 

What should we do about the Democratic party? 

Who will get your vote in November?

Here are some fresh responses:

LoisLois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University, where she heads the Urban Education and Teacher Unionism Policy Project.

Thanks to Anthony Cody for using his blog to encourage this essential conversation.

Sanders’ challenge has shown that many people, especially the young, want a radical break from the GOP and Democratic Party’s collusion with wealthy and powerful elites who insist there are no alternatives to policies that are sowing despair, bigotry, and violence.

What next? We teach in the country that is spearheading the global educational project that put profits over kids. Our actions have great international urgency.

We need a new political party, one that fights for progressive ideals and is controlled by those who vote for it. At the same time, an electoral vehicle is only as strong as the movements that support it. I see this as a challenge social movements and teachers unions globally are grappling with, and we need to learn from them.

I won’t vote for Clinton or, of course, Trump, but I think who we vote for is less important than how we regard the election. If past history is a guide, during this election AFT and NEA will demand locals and state unions use all of their resources to elect Clinton. The national unions will stop organizing on everything else. This is a terribly wrong strategy because no matter who is elected, the power we’ll have will depend on our organization in the schools and alliances with parents and students. We need to continue that work, now more than ever.

Sherick Hughes, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.sherick2

What should we do as activists beyond the vote?

We should remain steadfast in public, collective critical inquiry. Our U.S. history of marginalization within and through schooling provides evidence of the necessity of public, collective critical inquiry as an action and as a prerequisite toward more critically informed, sustainable activism to support optimal public education. We should consider negative contexts where schooling reflects a marginalizing machine, as well as positive contexts where schooling reflects a site of liberation from which to learn and grow. Given these two polar contexts of schooling, we should encourage collective and public questioning, revisiting, rethinking, and challenging of the dominant discourses that may threaten its liberation potential. Our U.S. history of marginalization also suggests that we all lose, when the disorganized, silent, and/or what Dr. Joyce Kings calls dysconscious dominant narrative (i.e., uncritical support of the existing inequitable social order) wins with its deficit model ideology about public schooling its support of privatization and deregulation. Anthony Cody, what you are doing with this blog today is offering essentially a worked-example of one promising possibility for what we all should do to disrupt dominant deficit narratives, as activists beyond the vote. We must continue such efforts until the children of those who police the margins are no longer privileged and the children of the marginalized are no longer oppressed by schooling, but blessed by an education.

What should we do about the Democratic Party?

We should find local, state and national leaders of the Democratic Party that share our key points on education. We should then inform and advise them through a national, grassroots multicultural, multi-media campaign. That campaign should center: (1) public fact-checking of the daily the myths and misleading metaphors of schooling, and (2) engage what Dr. Todd Lewis calls, charismatic variables or strategies to advance our campaign through concerted, critical charismatic messages that provide our intended public audiences with: (a) a critical perspective on the defined crisis, (b) a simplified message about the defined crisis expressed in a linguistic style that is relatively easy to understand, (c) repeated iterations of the simplified message, (d) a revolutionary tone that offers a clear alternative to the defined crisis, (e) clarification of good actions vs. bad actions (us vs. them) in relation to the defined crisis, and (f) a plausible/probable scenario with historical and contemporary evidence to support impending doom, if we don’t act now. We should find ways and means to engage these strategies en route to reclaiming public education as a civil right. These moves would position us in a dual role that tends to trouble us and yet most of us already play it—the role of working within and working without party politics. Our opposition seems well-versed in these rhetorical strategies when conveying their public messages, and thus, it is past time that we should contemplate the development of stronger, more consistent, critical and collective rhetorical counter-strategies for the public to weigh and consider. We have already found another worked example of organizing across traditional social boundaries to engage public, collective critical inquiry (e.g., Save Our Schools). Perhaps, a concerted effort to implement the charismatic strategies described here goes against the default mode of operation (for many, if not most of the readers of this blog), however, such strategies may be tantamount to engaging more critically informed and sustainable activism to support public education in the current political climate.

Who will get your vote in November?

Officially, I am an “unaffiliated” Black male U.S. citizen that tends to vote for Democrats, but I have also voted in the past for Green Party and Republican candidates with more progressive and plausible platforms. This November, I plan to vote for Clinton. Why? Imagine that the U.S. President’s job was transformed into a standard Human Resources (HR) position description. Also, imagine that candidates would complete blinded applications for that position. Those blinded applications would be reviewed by a neutral audience of seasoned HR experts with a track record of excellence and equity with regard to matching applicants to positions. I have little doubt that Clinton would stand out above Trump as the person most qualified for the position. While, it is frustrating that Clinton seems to offer an education platform that is more likely to continue business as usual, I find myself feeling more hopeful about the potential of our campaign in support of public schools with Clinton as President and more hopeless about its potential when daring to imagine a Trump Administration.

melMel Katz, Student, The College of New Jersey. Integrated Bachelor’s and Master of Arts in Teaching in Urban Elementary Education with a double major in Women’s and Gender Studies

 What should we do as activists beyond the vote?

While I truly believe that all time is a good time for reflection, I think especially now, during an election cycle, we as activists and organizers can take the opportunity to reflect on our own beliefs, practices, and strategies. Before getting involved to the degree I am now, when I initially heard the word “vote,” what immediately came to mind? The presidential election. But what I have come to realize over the years, especially as young person, is the power of local and state politics. Before continuing, I think it is important to explicitly state that voting is one piece in a larger “toolbox” (as overused as that term is) of organizing. I respect people who choose to vote, as I respect people who choose not to vote – it is wrong to assume that they are not voting because of laziness, or not caring, etc. – many times the choice not to vote is a very well-thought out, educated choice as an act of resistance (and we must also collectively recognize the attack on voting rights across the country). Back to local and state politics: as others have said, holding local and state politicians accountable once they are voted in is key, and if anything, the really hard work starts once they have been sworn in to office. Although I don’t in any way believe that true democracy will be achieved through our politicians, they are again one route to work with beyond the vote. In New Jersey, there has been a big push for teachers and community members to run for local positions within their municipalities, especially their boards of education. On other issues, such as the pension, our education association (the New Jersey Education Association or NJEA) has created a summer fellowship program to work on the pension crisis in New Jersey. This is a summer fellowship that trains members on organizing tactics for addressing the pension crisis, which is a huge step forward by recognizing that the power lies with the members to advocate and organize for change within the system. The skills learned in the fellowship will transfer over to many other organizing ventures for the activists involved, which only benefits the education association, the communities we work and live in, and education as a whole. Whatever individual activists and activist groups decide to do beyond the vote, it is important to recognize that everyone in the community plays an important role, just as not everyone is going to be able to take on certain roles; those people are just as important, valued, and loved as everyone else, because their humanity and what they *can* offer is enough.

A key aspect of the work as activists and organizers beyond the vote is education, which many of us know as educators in many forms. When I first became involved in my local school district at the age of 18, I knew very little. Luckily, I had both parents and teachers in town as well as local and statewide advocacy groups to help me access resources to learn how all of the different processes work, how school board meetings ran, the legislative process, etc. We must continue to share this knowledge and make it easily available as opposed to (1) assuming someone doesn’t know something in regard to organizing tools and tactics because they’re not interested [this is an easy trap to fall into when you’re organizing, like me, from a place of identity privilege] or (2) that they automatically have and *should* have certain knowledge in the first place. At one time or another, I’m guessing that all of us have been in spaces where it was assumed that we knew the lingo being used or the process or tactics being discussed; and those of us who have can remember how terrible it felt. For me, I’ve come to learn that reframing a question matters – instead of “why don’t you know this?” I ask “what can I do to work in solidarity and help you with the issue at hand?” This could be anything from simply providing a good book title or online link that helps explain terms or processes to sitting in a meeting with someone as backup and support.

In any of this, it is crucial, as mentioned above, to recognize the role that identity, and therefore power and privilege, play in organizing beyond the vote – and yes, I’m taking to my white fellows out there. Because we live in a white supremacist society, whiteness easily can and does invade organizing spaces. If you’re a white person, as yourself – who is centered in the process? Who is making decisions, especially if they are in a community with predominantly people of color? Whose voices are valued, and who is spending the most time at the mic? How many community members are included in the process? These are not things I learned by waking up one day and saying, “Wow, I’m privileged both systemically and institutionally based on historical constructs of race!” Rather, it took attending undoing racism trainings (note the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond), using resources from groups like Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), and reading as many books or articles on race/whiteness/historical and contemporary racism as possible. Of course, this example only touches upon race, which is one aspect of our intersectional identities. It is crucial that those of us organizing beyond the vote place great emphasis on the work of intersectional organizing.

What should we do about the Democratic party?

In education circles, we always hear about the importance of critical thinking. I think we should be applying the same to the Democratic Party. Many in education are quick to assume that Democrats are our friends, yet in many cases, we’ve seen that sometimes they are our worse enemies *because* we think they are our friends. Rather, I think it is time to start exploring paths outside of the two-party systems that more often than not leaves people feeling like they’re only voting for the lesser of two evils.

 Who will get your vote in November?

I have not decided who I will vote for or if I will vote. I am leaning towards Jill Stein of the Green Party. I do not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Robert Cotto, member of the Hartford, Connecticut, Board of Education. robert

What should we do as activists beyond the vote?

Make sure you understand who you love, what you value, and where you want to see this country in five, ten, and twenty years. Fight for that vision regardless of who is running for and eventually wins the election for President of the United States. That fight could be a more important and valuable use of time than trying to get this or that candidate elected as President. Local elections might matter more, but let’s not fetishize elections.

What should we do about the Democratic party?

In 2009, I won a seat on a Hartford Board of Education as a member of the Working Families Party, a labor-activist party that has made local and state gains throughout the country. Although Hartford and Connecticut tend to vote heavily Democrat, that election, and later developments, were a sign for me that people were increasingly suspicious of that party’s values and priorities. So what should we do? I’m an advocate of building third parties or alternate coalitions that can push and pull Democrats and/or Republicans on issues that matter.

Who will get your vote in November?

The conventional liberal wisdom is that Hillary Clinton is a better choice than Donald Trump. But I disagree with that assessment. The terrible things, we are told, that Trump will do have already happened under both Clinton’s leadership. Under the Obama administration, with Clinton as the Secretary of State sidekick, we’ve seen mass deportations of Black and Latino peoples, persecution of Muslims here and abroad, privatization of Black and Latino schools, invasion of Libya, support for a coup d’etat in Honduras, predation of Puerto Rico and Haiti, and the list goes on. Under the first Clinton administration, Hillary played sidekick to Bill’s changes in welfare and criminal justice policies that brutalized low-income people and marginalized groups across the country, as well as economic policies such as NAFTA that have exacerbated inequality. Because Donald Trump is an unrepentant and relentless bigot, we are told that the racialized policies implemented by Democrats should be forgiven or forgotten. Fear is a powerful emotion. For women and other marginalized groups in regressive states, losing the limited freedoms they have might be a compelling reason to vote for Clinton over Trump. I get it. But even two terms of President Obama hasn’t been sufficient to stop the most egregious offenses and violations of human rights in this country. It’s taken monumental activism by Black Lives Matter, for example, to change the politics around police brutality, not necessarily different politicians in charge. (Although, a lot of these folks need to go…)

In the end, I will probably not vote for Hillary Clinton, and I will most certainly not vote for Donald Trump. I’m not alone. I read a poll recently that showed that the major-party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are the most disliked Presidential candidates ever! Bernie Sanders had a good run talking about economic inequality. But the Democrat machine wasn’t going to let him win and he didn’t get the votes he needed in the primary. So his name won’t be on the ballot. To me, the Green Party’s Jill Stein looks better for everyday people on economic policy, women’s and human rights, public education, healthcare, and the environment. I will likely cast a write-in vote for Stein. But remember what I told you! I won’t be spending too much time on this Presidential election since I’ll be spending my time with the people I love, working on the things I value, and fighting for the things I want to see in the coming years.

Tonya Bah, Philadelphia.tonya

What should we do as activists beyond the vote?

Be what others are not..

BE TRANSPARENT

when Clarifying and sharing our pressing issues like

*Public Education
*Equality for everyone
*Climate, clean energy
*Affordable housing
*Community control over our Economy

What should we do about the Democratic party?
Share information broadly, regularly and consistently

Remove opportunity for Special Interest to exploit, endanger, isolate, degrade, BLAME or ignore our viable solutions

Solutions that do not negatively impact our land, our sources of income, our quality of life and or our most vulnerable. Be Transparent.

What do YOU think? 

What should we do as activists beyond the vote? 

What should we do about the Democratic party? 

Who will get your vote in November?

Author

Anthony Cody
Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.

Comments

  1. Kimberly Kunst Domangue    

    Have read Lois Weiner’s, “The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice” (Haymarket, Chicago). Her views are … so “common-sensical”. She reminds readers, “You ARE the union!” So, I would remind her of this very same affirmation she issued to combat malaise and learned helplessness in a service-based model of unionism. The NEA DOES NOT and CAN NOT direct for whom locals or states for that matter support for an election. Leadership can strongly “encourage”; however, the courage to stand for what one believes is best found and nurtured internally.

    Is Sec Clinton the perfect candidate? No, not by my way of thinking. Would I have preferred to feel the Bern? Blank-straight. Problem is he lost the primaries – a sufficient number to hand over the win to HRC.

    So, I work to make change where I can, recognizing that we still have the imperfect ESSA and its period of public comment through August 1 about which to get our collective educational undies in a knot. Barring an act of political anarchy, we got what we got for this moment of snowballs thrown at the leader (Hail to the Chief).

    Thanks for interesting reporting. Remember to keep your biases in check, do as to still have influence over those who have come to respect your journalistic endeavors.

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