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Free IFC Memberships for Teachers

August 24, 2016 am31 8:22 am

Reduces ticket prices $5, from $15 to $10 for most movies. (And no service charge for on-line ticketing)  Click for form for free educator membership.

Free previews and special members-only screenings.

IFC New York is in the old Waverly Theater, Sixth Avenue at 3rd Street, across from the basketball courts.

They show an eclectic mix of documentary, independent and foreign stuff.  And classics. They are one of the hosts of the Doc NYC Festival.

Disclaimer: I’ve had a membership for a few years, and sometimes wander in to see offbeat stuff.

Yesterday, when I noticed the “free for k-12 teachers” in the previews, I was seeing Miss Sharon Jones. Apparently I’ve been enjoying Sharon Jones and the Dap-kings for quite a while, without knowing anything about them.

A fan page on MySpace (remember MySpace?) says: “By the sound of them, you would think Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings started making funk-threaded soul music together in the 1960s.”

100 Days and 100 Nights

might be the catchiest. I’m Still Here

is autobiographical. But they do This Land Is Your Land

that is funked out, and totally enjoyable.


A rectangle question

August 22, 2016 am31 4:20 am

If you take any rectangle, and take the midpoint of each side, and connect them in order, the result is a rhombus (quadrilateral with four equal sides). Cool, and pretty easy to show. (Lots of options – maybe the most accessible is to use the Pythagorean Theorem, since we have right angles, four times, and get four equal hypotenuses)

But what if someone gave you a rhombus, and told you that they formed the rhombus by connecting the four midpoints of some quadrilateral, BUT ONE THAT IS NOT A RECTANGLE. Could they be correct?

(Inspired by Patrick Honner’s cool post on proving the Varignon Theorem, with details that were new to me, including the name of the theorem!)

Below, precinct house around the corner from me. The boxes below the windows show the midpoints of rectangles forming rhombuses.

_MG_1649_02 (1)

_MG_1649_02 (2)


Jagged arc of lights

August 19, 2016 pm31 2:35 pm

Did you know what an ocular migraine is?

I went to a colleague’s birthday party last month. I don’t know why I wore my back-up glasses, but I did. And standing out in her yard I saw a little distortion in the right corner of my field of vision. Damned progressive lenses. I took them off to look at them. But the distortion was still there. Not floaters. A few zigzagging parallel lines, translucent, they didn’t obscure my vision. And they went away in a few minutes, and I forgot about them.

Two weeks later they reappeared, on the right, but closer to the center of my field of vision, and with light and color on the edges. More angular, and brighter. They faded as they got bigger, moved to the right periphery of my vision, and disappeared. Took maybe 20 minutes.

I mentioned it to a friend, who said I needed to go to an ophthalmologist. This could be the beginning of something serious. By the way, did you know there were 2 Ls in ophthalmologist? And 2 Hs. Freaky. But not as freaky as getting a random electric light show.

I meant to go. I did. But it wasn’t until the third episode this week that I jumped up and took care of it. Twenty minutes again. Started right center and grew and faded.

I called the ophthalmologist the next day (but I think I called him an opthamologist because I hadn’t learned to spell it yet), and he took me later that day. Dilated the eyes. Found I see 20/20, with my current correction. Checked the field of vision for blind spots. None. Checked peripheral vision. Good. Imaged the blood vessels and the optic nerves. Good and good.

Was I the only one who didn’t know there are “optical migraines”? This, apparently, is what I have. It’s in my brain, not my eyes. And it’s weird.

My last two were sort of halfway between these two images I found on
the internet.


It’s time to push Fariña on unfair funding, bad principals

August 18, 2016 pm31 12:43 pm

There are a ton of major issues to push with the NYC Department of Education. But my gut says these two should be priority. What do you think?

Unfair Funding Formula

The unfair funding formulas pressure principals to discriminate against experienced teachers. This hurts teachers, schools, kids, and, well, principals. There is no benefit to the schools, and no benefit to the system. Every teacher should be charged the same amount against every school’s budget (or we should use units).

A teacher who is not hired under the current system, they are already in the system, there is no actual cost savings. And a lower cost, brand new teacher? That’s someone who was not already on the books. That brand new teacher costs the system extra.

By linking teachers’ actual salaries to the individual school “budget” (really paper internal accounting, not an actual budget) Bloomberg and Klein created a system where schools, principals, kids, and teachers all lose. We should end this.

The UFT Unity leadership agrees. And Fariña will not take action. She needs to feel pressure. Getting the UFT to apply this pressure should be a priority. This should be the last year of this unfair system.

Incompetent Administrators; Abusive Administrators

We have always had a mix of good and bad principals. But post-Bloomberg our system is littered with administrators who are incompetent, abusive, or both. Many have had inadequate experience. Some never taught, or only spent a year or two in the classroom. Some had poor training. In the last 20 years we have moved away from a system where an administrator would work under an experienced principal for years before taking the reins him or herself. Instead, beginning teachers did a one year boot camp to get ready. The “Leadership Academy” took candidates with zero pedagogical background.

The abuse often follows the incompetence. A principal who does not know what to do may feel threatened by subordinates who do, and last out. The abuse sometimes follows insecurity. If the position was not earned through years of hard work, but rather handed to someone with little experience, that person may treat their authority as a gift, and not something that was earned, and see almost any assertive act as a threat to that (arbitrarily granted, now arbitrarily exercised) authority. And some administrators just don’t have the kind of temperament we would expect from someone supervising adults and children.

Whatever the cause, incompetents and abusive administrators should not be in the those positions (or, in some cases, might be retrained). In theory our union leadership agrees, but is frustratingly unwilling to press the issue. Certainly Fariña has not challenged the Bloomberg/Klein ethos that the judgment of a principal cannot be challenged (despite case after case affirming that we have people with bad judgment, poor tempers, and lack of necessary knowledge and/or experience running our schools). She needs to feel pressure to act correctly.

Push Fariña? We need to motivate our leadership

Both of these issues can be addressed, immediately. Neither is part of contract negotiations. Both would help many, many teachers, and many many schools. And our union leadership is not opposed, in theory, to addressing either issue. They have been, however, bizarrely reluctant to press either issue with the Chancellor.

Yesterday our allies in MORE met and set priorities for the coming year. Likely these two were highly ranked on their list.

There are other issues of importance to the members of our union. But in theory these two would be 1) relatively easy to make progress on and 2) would impact a great number of members, and 3) would shift the “tone” of the current administration. They seem to be good places to begin the new school year. What do you think?



Xenophobia and Cowardice

July 25, 2016 pm31 12:34 pm

In the context of race I recently advised someone:

  1. Speak the Truth
  2. Work for Change
  3. It’s not about you

I need to heed my own words. Primarily about race. But about other forms of discrimination as well. Given the current political climate, how could I see xenophobia and anti-immigrant propaganda, from allies, and not speak?

A week ago there was a coup-attempt in Turkey. And a counter-coup by the government, clearing opponents out of the armed forces, the judiciary, higher education, and schools. And the government named the supporters of Fethullah Gülen as being behind the coup, and demanded his extradition from the US.

Now, Gülen runs charter schools in the US. Many of us oppose charter schools – White Hat, Success, Democracy Prep, etc, etc. No issue so far.

But when public education advocates don’t write “There should not be charter schools” and instead write “Fethullah Gülen should not be operating American charter schools” – I need to call that out. Anti-immigrant appeals are fashionable in some places. NOT HERE.

The link is to Mercedes Schneider, but there has been much more of this on Twitter and Facebook and listserves and I assume just about everywhere. And it should stop.

AFT Convention 2016 – Wrap Up

July 24, 2016 pm31 3:00 pm

AFT Convention 2016. Ended three days ago. What do I take away from Minneapolis?

This was a better convention then my two previous. It was very different from my two previous, 2010 and 2014.

  • There was a presidential endorsement. Which meant a lot of supporting speakers, the usual cast of politicians, plus the candidate. That was different, neither better nor worse, just what the AFT does. But it ran through the convention, from the first day to the last, with regular digs at the RNC in Cleveland.
  • Social Justice. Fairness. Equality. Fight back against hospital consolidation (and conglomeration). ¡Si se puede! Remove block on funding for research on gun violence. Support work of the AFT Racial Equity Task Force. No more Flints. Stand with Planned Parenthood. Girls and Young women’s education. And a special order of for safe communities and racial justice (these should have been separate resolutions. I mentioned in a previous post that the motivation for this was the most electric speech of the convention).
  • Economic Justice. Against income inequality. Oppose the TPP. Crackdown on offshore tax havens. End out-of-control drug prices. Rein in abusive medical billing and crippling debt. Overturn Citizens United. Fight against student loan debt. Ending garnishing social security to pay student debt.  Planning for the wave of state and local public employee retirements. Paid sick days. More accurate COLA for Social Security. Protect and expand the Social Security Safety net. Full funding.
  • Fighting in education and nursing. Fight against unfair employment practices in higher education. Sepsis awareness. Professional standards for healthcare workers. Support, respect PSRPs. Summer nutrition programs. Safe schools for all. Organizing (three resolutions)
  • No hot K-12 issues. My previous two conventions were dominated by the ruling caucus from the UFT, Unity, introducing and fighting for pro-reform k-12 resolutions. Last convention Michael Mulgrew threatened to punch anyone who tried to take away “Common Core.” This time? Nothing like that. The ESSA resolution was positive/neutral. And the CTE resolution was positive. And the AROS resolution got a lot of attention from progressive unionists.

ESSA Resolution Highlights:  Fight for Neighborhood Schools (what a change that would be for NYC), elevate teacher voice, framework of indicators broader than test scores, better and fewer tests, better teacher evaluation / multiple measures / no value added (still not good enough, but a huge step back from a few years ago), good PD (ugh)…

What is AROS? Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. It coordinates union/community action in support of public schools, and has organized two major national “walk-ins” (not walk-outs). The resolution promises support for local action, and builds for coordinated local action involving at least 1000 schools in October.

An equivocal charter resolution did not come to the floor. The AFT leadership is not ready yet to oppose charters (or oppose high stakes testing). But they did have the sense not to push their unpopular positions forward and disrupt the proceedings.

Reasonable resolutions are one thing, undoing the damage the AFT contributed to by trying to compromise with the reformers over the last decade is another. We are not there yet.

  • More negotiating in committee, or outside of committee, less yelling on the convention floor. More talking and testifying on the floor. That’s just what happens when there’s fewer hot issues. People got up and spoke to resolutions that might not have been paid much attention – and explained why they were important. It meant we heard from a lot of regular delegates, from all over the country. That was good, very good. There was only one, marginal caucus in opposition. Their procedural arguing got tiresome, but not disruptive.
  • No pro-war resolutions. We had a resolution against the global privatization of education and public services, and an anti-Islamaphobia resolution. What a nice change from previous years when we had to listen to official speakers channel the war criminal Dr. Kissinger. Unfortunately, the resolution to support academics in Turkey did not make it to the floor. And as the convention opened, Turkey’s government was stretching their counter-coup into the schools and universities. That being said, the resolution would have done little more than raise awareness.

Summary:  The AFT was consumed by the presidential endorsement, and kept the rest calm. The convention did a solid job on social justice, racial justice, and economic justice. The AFT is not yet ready to reverse course on the bad compromises they made with anti-public education reformers in the last decade plus, but they are slowly backing away.

Here is a link to many of the resolutions.

Here’s my tweets from the convention:  @jd2718x

Here’s my blog posts:

There’s one more post coming – about visiting Minneapolis, about meeting people, about sightseeing, about food, about conversations (don’t worry, if you are reading this, I’m not writing about that conversation)… but this is it on the big issue politics.




AFT Convention 2016 – Days 3 and 4

July 22, 2016 am31 11:10 am

AFT Convention 2016 wrapped up in Minneapolis yesterday. Here’s a little about the last day and a half.

A pattern began to develop. Each resolution was followed by a little positive discussion, perhaps an attempt at an amendment, and the question was quickly called. This was both good, ok, and not so good.

It was good because these were, on the whole, solid resolutions. Attack Economic Inequality. Oppose TPP. Crackdown on Offshore Tax Havens. Against out of control Prescription Drug Prices. Rein in abusive medical billing and crippling debt. Fight back against consolidation in health care. ¡Si Se Puede! Remove the Block on Funding for Gun Violence Research. Overturn Citizens United. The Fight Against Student Loan Debt. Legislative Initiative to Rectify Unfair and Detrimental Employment Practices in Higher Education. End the Garnishment of Social Security to pay Student Loan Debt (this really happens? outrageous!) Defeating the Global Movement to Privatize Education and Public Services. Immigration and Islamaphobia. Hand in Hand (about an integrated Israeli school).

This was also good because much compromise was reached in advance, in committee. But there’s an aspect to this that’s just ok – those compromises did not get reported out, and it meant that delegates got a slightly incomplete picture.

Calling the question fast was not so good. While it was a forgone conclusion that each resolution would pass, it was important for delegates to hear WHY the resolutions mattered – and delegates often rose to passionately explain exactly that. Cutting off discussion early stopped people from sharing what mattered to them. Also, there were amendments, and while some were off-base, several were not, and calling the question early not only prevented them being discussed, it also prevented some of them from being heard. On several occasions Randi Weingarten intervened to rescue a discussion that was being cut short, but she was left in the awkward position of violating the rules of order to do so. Finally, there was one AFT VP who consistently called the question early, and while much of the audience consistently cheered him, the whole act, both calling and cheering, seemed more like a joke and less like what we expect from thoughtful representatives.

There were special orders of business. A Special Order of Business to support Mexican Teachers’ Rights passed, but with passionate opposition from a delegate who objected to calling on the SNTE and CNTE to collaborate. SNTE, she alleged, collaborated with the government against the CNTE, the dissident union which is being repressed. And EON/BAMN tried to introduce several Special orders of business, none added to the agenda, as their speakers began to frustrate many of the delegates with their tactics.

And then there was the “Fighting for Safe Communities and Racial Justice for our Citizens and our First Responders” special order. LeRoy Barr gave the best speech of the entire convention. First, the issue, at least in my mind, overrode much of the others that were being discussed, maybe all of the others. This country has “made much progress” but still fails miserably here. Further, LeRoy spoke powerfully, and you felt the room move. His timing kept the delegates attention riveted. His volume, loud here, quiet as he read names, and names, and names, added to the effect. We will remember that speech for a long, long time. (I’m inquiring to see if there is video)

Beatrice Lumpkin, a veteran of … I missed it … 60 years? More?  About 90 years old?  Gave a talk that started me thinking “that’s sweet” and then wowed me with her radical unionism and commitment to justice. I liked her talking about Hunter College and CIO organizing, but I liked it even more when she talked about Black Lives Matter.

Michael Mulgrew got called up to speak about organizing – although I’m not sure he addressed that topic. He did ask delegates to tweet out the hashtag #ApologizetoMyLittlePony for Trump accusing Michelle Obama of plagiarizing (I did tweet it), and then led the delegates in singing happy birthday to Karen Lewis, President of Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local 1 (but she was not there to hear it.)

Day 3 ended with AFT elections – the room was cleared, and only delegates could return. Arthur Goldstein and I wandered upstairs and found a nice vacant glass-domed vestibule that gave a view into downtown.

Day 4 was rapid-fire. Election results (Randi Weingarten reelected with 98%) A few speakers, including Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers. Six committees. Eighteen resolutions. And then Solidarity Forever, and we were done.

I tweeted a bunch. You can find them here.

Many of the resolutions were published. You can find them here.

And I will do a wrap-up in a day or so. And maybe a travelogue. Maybe not, since I didn’t do much.