In my Octobeer 14 column (Occupy Everything), about three weeks into Occupy Wall Street, I wrote linking OWS and the growing resistance to the way public education has been occupied by the faux education corporate reformers over the past decade. I said:
“We’ve seen almost every aspect of our lives occupied by the policies of people who control this society – (the ‘1%’ – rest of us the ‘99%’). The corporate free enterprisers (Bill Gates/Eli Broad) led by hedge fund operators – have occupied our public schools with charters and consultants looking to make a buck off the backs of our children.
The 1% have occupied our classrooms with untested “solutions” that end up being destructive ... They have occupied every single urban household with children in public schools with their threats to destroy their neighborhood schools (see Beach Channel and Far Rockaway HS) if the children don’t perform on standardized tests.
The 1% has occupied the minds of 3rd graders driven to tears over the pressure. And they are expanding their occupation to the minds of 4-year-olds ....[T]eachers, principals – in fact everyone involved in education – have been occupied as thoroughly as the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Success is measured not in the way a child grows in so many ways but in a data point .... Data munching zombies stalk the halls of almost every public school in America.
Of course, the 1% that can afford progressive private schools has made sure the occupation doesn’t touch their own children or the schools they attend.”
A few days later, a group of teachers who had been holding Sunday grade-ins (where teachers gather in a public space on weekends or after school to demonstrate the work they do on their off time) under the big red cube across the street from OWS at Liberty Square, the epicenter of what has become an international movement, started to talk about how to create the idea of Occupy Public Education.
A meeting was called for a few days later, which I attended with about 40 people from many of the education activist organizations battling to save public education from being dismembered.
The decision was made to focus an action on a meeting Chancellor Dennis Walcott was going to hold on October 25 in what was billed as a dialogue with parents to explain the next big scam – the forcing down the throats of national common core standards (looks like a good idea on paper, but wait ‘till you see the costs and which companies are making loads of big bucks).
In reality, as usual, there was no intention of a dialogue on the part of the DOE - questions were to be written on index cards.
Now if you’ve been to PEP meetings you know how they control things through the use of the microphone by shutting people off even in mid-word - and then ignoring the hundreds of pleas to keep a school open or stop a charter from invading a public school building. But this group, now calling itself “Occupy the DOE”, had a new weapon – the people’s mic.
With the call of “Mic check” the word goes out for everyone to be silent. One person talks in short bursts and everyone repeats like the old game of telephone.
If you have enough people, you can take over any meeting by drowning out the sound system.
And that is exactly what happened on the night of October 25, as for the first time, Bloomberg’s appointed lackeys had to run upstairs for cover as 200 people took over the space and held a democratic meeting for the first time since Bloomberg absconded with our public school system.
Naturally, the bully pro-Bloomberg press called the takeover hooliganism, ignoring the real hooligans who have shut out the voice of the public for a decade.
One 4th year teacher activist commented, “Tonight was the best PEP ever. The best meeting ever. It was amazing! I have no words.
We shut it down, everyone got to talk, voices were heard, the people’s mic worked like a charm, basically we rocked it.
The doe is definitely going to spin it but there were literally few people there who weren’t there for the occupy the doe action. And we really made something incredible happen.
The press was there in mass and everyone who spoke on the mic was truly amazing. I was so deeply happy. There are no words.”
The movement continued on October 30 when a different group of parents took over a meeting being held by charter school queen bee Eva Moskowitz in a library in Cobble Hill where she is intending to install another one of her charter schools by drawing white middle class parents away from an area with the most highly successful public schools in the city.
The ODOE crowd returned on November 7witha2hourGeneralAssembly on the steps of Tweed - a real people’s meeting - that attracted a couple of hundred people. They voted to meet every Sunday at noon at the atrium at 60 Wall Street to plan further actions. To be continued.
Read daily accounts, with links to videos, of these events on Norm’s blog: ednotesonline.blogspot.com