Archive for October, 2011

Occupy the Department of Education: Walcott Takes it On the Hop

October 26, 2011

Officially it was billed as the Chancellor’s Conversation On Raising Standards In the Classroom and Chancellor Dennis Walcott was to welcome the audience and Common Core Standards presenter and co–author David Coleman at the stroke at 6:00  PM at Seward Park High School in the Lower East Side.  Unofficially it was the first (of doubtless many) manifestations of Occupy the DOE.   By the time I arrived in the delightful company of  my unjustly fired former colleague  Jafar Smith and his son at about 6:15, neither Walcott nor Coleman were anywhere to be seen.  They and their entourage had already fled the auditorium leaving in their wake what struck me as a perfect image of their essence: a silent, empty stage surrounded by the police.

You know you have reached a strange moment in your history when someone bearing the title of   chancellor of education needs police protection.

The auditorium, on the other hand, remained packed with passionate, articulate and very, very angry parents and teachers who made no mystery of their disgust and fury at Bloomberg’s ever deepening corporate education reform blitzkrieg, its ever-deepening failures, and what these failures  are doing to their children, their children’s teachers and their communities.

Using the “people’s mic” made famous by the folks down the street a bit at Zuccotti Park, one speaker after another told all too familiar stories of their children being tossed out of charter schools because they were “too difficult, of ballooning class sizes, of having no books or supplies, of having to subject their students to constant test prep, of psycho or clueless administrators and of an overall degeneration of anything resembling a humane and serious education.

I can’t say I blame Walcott for fleeing. Herein was an audience that was going to demand that something billed as a “conversation” was, indeed, going to be a conversation and not the contemptuous ( if ever so civil ) monologue Walcott was doubtless meaning to present.  He would have been eaten alive and he knew it.    So too David Coleman, yet another shameless operative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose latest creation, the Common Core standards, are being rammed down teachers’ throats across the country without having any say whatsoever in the matter.   Why not?  He’s Bill Gates, after all.

People are no longer afraid.  They will no longer tolerate insanity in silence.  Not on Wall Street and not in their schools. Not with their future and not with their children.  Rest assured this Occupy the DOE was the first of many such gatherings.  As many, that is, as are needed to set things straight. As many, that is, that is takes to make the public schools truly schools and truly public.

Occupying Wall Street in Times Square

October 16, 2011

For all my adult life I’ve read about a philosophical or spiritual concept called either  the Zeitgeist or the Spiritus Mundi or the hand of God.  By whatever name, it is meant to move the world, at times against the world’s will, in the direction the world need go.

That direction is always and ever to greater and greater dignity and greater and greater freedom.  This evening in Times Square this philosophical and spiritual concept felt as palpable and present as my own flesh or the flesh and  presence of the thousands and thousands of souls there gathered  to demand their  dignity and demand their freedom.


Sunday at Occupying Wall Street

October 10, 2011

I went downtown to hear Chris Hedges speak and to continue my support for the unprecedented gathering of every conceivable type of folk that makes up Occupying Wall Street. Hedges was as brilliant and passionate as always and attracted a good-sized crowd who asked good questions.  He implored his listeners to stick with their ideals and reminded them all that no one predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall until the hideous  thing was almost falling.

This was followed by a virtual united front of religious leaders and clerics from Judaism, Christianity and Islam who joined together around a paper machete Golden Calf  — the Biblical symbol of idolatry  — to conduct an interfaith prayer session on the steps of the park.

It was very beautiful.

There were also Teamsters, a near naked women being painted red  and a fellow who suggested Mayor Mike Bloomberg be tarred and feathered — a notion certainly no worse than that of allowing the little multi-billionaire to overthrow term limits and reign like a sovereign.

As I was wandering around I met a women from Philly who was mourning the pointless loss of her son in a Baghdad invaded because of a   mountain of official lies to which no one has been held accountable.

As I was leaving, walking my daughter down Broadway to Battery Park I ran into three retirees from Rhode Island who had traveled hours to participate. All three carried placards.  One quoted General Smedley Butler who called himself a “Gangster for Capitalism” and famously said “War is a Racket.”  Another suggested that the proper price for a pill was one penny.  I have no argument. The third advertised for National Move Your Money Day to take place on November Fifth.  Move it where, I asked.  Move it from a mega bank like Chase or Citibank to a local  credit  union, she replied.  An excellent idea which I intend to take up and hope many others will as well.

A month ago I could not imagine such an encounter.

There is something that feels almost miraculous happening and it is happening right in front of our eyes.  May we have the strength and faith to see it and to follow it out to where it needs to go.

Occupying Wall Street: A March of All Americans

October 7, 2011

And so they came, all races, all ages, all trades and all creeds, all manner of Americans pushed too far for too long, all united in some variation of one major impossible-to- ignore-anymore theme:  something has gone terribly, terribly wrong in and with America and something must be made right and made right starting right now.

Never in a lifetime of protests have I witnessed a march as diverse and representative of this country as the one I saw yesterday afternoon march from Foley Square to  “Liberty Square.” The only group missing were   farmers but maybe I just didn’t see them.

Something is at last beginning to awaken in America and it feels good, so good  to see it.