AHEM. *leans on doorway* I would like to know about that time you led a strike in preschool.
Okay, storytime. Both of my parents worked full time, and the woman who ran the family daycare across the street “went away for her health”- a charming euphemism for her family having her institutionalised because they couldn’t cope with her schizophrenia, but that’s another story for another time- so I went to preschool for two years. The preschool I went to was a good one. Still is, actually. My brother and his wife have their little sprout on the waiting list already, and he’s not two yet. It’s built onto the side of an ex-church, and it has great play areas, a sandpit, ducks, the works. Nice. We did all the usual preschool stuff; craft activities, storytime, naptime, playing with toys. To help us learn to be responsible and cooperative human beings, we were expected to clean up after ourselves, and put things away when we were done with them. Being small children, this had mixed results, so at the end of every day, there’d be a big group cleanup, where we went through and picked all the toys and books up off the floor of the main room and put everything in order.
All very nice, right? Trouble was, about half of the kids got picked up at 5, 5:30ish, and the other half, whose parents worked later hours, would be there till 6 or 6:30. The cleanup usually happened around 6, so the kids whose parents could pick them up early never had to clean up, and I noticed pretty quickly that the kids who never had to clean up at the end of the day didn’t seem to pick up after themselves during the day, either. They knew they wouldn’t have to deal with it, so they didn’t care.
I feel I should mention that my mother was, at the time, the secretary of a large public sector union. She’d been a unionist for some time (we’ve got a great picture somewhere of baby me on her lap at a Women In Leadership conference) and sometimes she had people over for dinner, and they’d talk about union business. I knew what was going on, here. This was a discriminatory practice. It targeted kids whose parents couldn’t afford for one of them to stay home with the kids. It encouraged unfair behaviour in the kids who didn’t have to clean up. This had to stop.
I went to the staff first. Mostly they laughed at me- in their defense, please picture a tiny blonde four-year-old in a princess dress squaring up to you about “dithcriminatory practitheth”- and told me I should set an example for the other kids by being tidy. Well. That wasn’t going to change anything. Having been knocked back by the administration, I took the struggle to the people. While we were cleaning up, I talked to the other kids who had to stay late, and we came to a consensus that things had to change. Look, to be honest, I don’t remember this happening with any kind of clarity. I was very small. Mum has told this story with great pride for some years, though, and most of the details come from her retelling. I don’t know if it was me who first suggested strike action, but I know it was me who led the sit-in protests; I’m told it was me who made an inspiring speech about fairness and division of labour, and it was definitely me whose parents got called.
Upshot was, we went over to a system of shorter clean-up sessions throughout the day- one before lunch, one after naptime, and one at the end of the day- and my mother has never let me forget that four-year-old me was a rabble-rousing monster child.
Have you ever been tempted to move out of the cps school district and teach in a private/catholic or charter school?
You want my honest answer? No, never.
Basically, I believe in public education. I think schools should be open to everyone and do the most good for the most students it can. Since I started my career, I knew I wanted to work in Chicago Public Schools, and that opinion has never changed.
I don’t view other schools (private, charter, religious) as “us vs. them.” I just wish that public institutions would receive as much support and maintain the same cachet as the others. It’s not a perfect district, but it has committed to protect undocumented students, as well as those students in the LGBT community. I plan to work for CPS for as long as I am a teacher, and I am proud of that fact.
Feel free to message me or send me another ask if there’s anything else you need.
Don’t reblog this, because I’m not in the mood to get in the 43,000th identical argument about my views today.
I’m gonna answer these questions together.
I try to avoid explicitly attaching myself to an ideology right now, because I draw influence from a lot of different strains of political thought and thus have a position that is often pretty idiosyncratic. However, if asked to label it using popular terms, my views are closest to those of social democrats and democratic socialists.
In the immediate term, I’m an advocate of reformist efforts in favor of a mixed market economy with a strong redistributive welfare state, political and economic democracy, anti-racism, feminism, internationalist anti-interventionism, labor rights, environmentalism, and civil liberties. I hope such reforms can the be built on to achieve more transformative change over the longer-term: the permanent democratization and decentralization of political and economic power, a form of democratic, liberal, market socialism. I’ve hinted at my thoughts about what exactly that looks like (cooperative businesses, democratizing political reforms, public utilities, credit unions and public banks, housing co-ops, etc.) but I’ve yet to go into detail about it.
To help provide context, I draw theoretical influence from Eduard Bernstein, John Rawls, Leonard Hobhouse, Amartya Sen, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Michael Harrington, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Paine, Gar Alperovitz, and countless others.
As such, I find myself in a very weird place in political circles. There’s surprisingly little going on that’s left of Bernie Sanders but right of Socialist Alternative. I feel very much the same way you do, second anon- far too anti-authoritarian for Leninists, too reformist and focused on feasibility for anarchists, and constantly frustrated with the shallowness and insufficiency of mainstream left-liberalism.
When it comes to action, my idea is to support whoever’s ideologically close to me doing serious work right now. If I’m being honest, I’m not doing nearly as much activism work as I should be right now, but I’d like to support the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, support progressives running for office and keep pressure on the Democratic Party, join protests and campaigns that local progressive organizations are holding (NAACP, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.), and continue educating myself and others.
Whatever happens do not break ranks! Only if you stay together can you help each other! Understand: you have been betrayed by all your public spokesmen and your unions, which are bought. Listen to no one, believe nothing but test every proposal that leads to real change. And above all learn: It will only work by force and if you do it yourselves.
Bertolt Brecht, Saint Joan of the Stockyards (1931)