By Jerry Waxman
As submitted to The Huffington Post
Public education in Florida is about to be tested to its very core. The Florida Legislature has come up with some Machiavellian legislation (SB 6 HB 7189) which will start chasing the most qualified teachers out of either the profession, the state or both. If that happens the void will be filled by people much less qualified who will teach to arbitrary tests rather than educating our kids properly. We will raise a generation of Pavlovian robots rather than thinking, reasoning adults. The full floor vote is April 7. At the moment there are a few Republicans ready to vote no, but probably not enough to defeat passage. Fortunately, this legislation does not take effect for a few years, which is good for legal challenges and the other strategies that can be applied
We can fight back effectively and we have a lot of tools at hand to do so. So far, the letter writing and e-mailing and local press coverage has had little effect on the Republican controlled legislature and our feckless imitation of a governor. We need to continue that pressure and I’ll continue to advocate on my blog and the Huffington Post, but even more is needed. Here’s my plan:
- Take every opportunity to mock and embarrass the Republicans on a national scale. Contact the President, Registrar, Admissions Office, Board of Trustees, Director of PR and Alumni Association of every College or University outside the state and alert them of the impending legislation. Get the Alumni lists. Urge them all to not accept any Florida public school graduates because they will have received (in your opinion) a substandard education and detail the legislation along with your refutations. If you are an alumnus of that school, be prepared to either donate or withhold depending upon which works best and urge other alumni to do the same. After all, no institution wants its reputation sullied by accepting (non-legacy) unprepared students.
It makes no sense to write to Florida State colleges as they are part of the system, however, enough educators on those campuses will get the message and perhaps join in. Private Colleges in Florida should be urged to join in, and for heaven’s sake why hasn’t anyone gotten Donna Shalala involved in this? Also, contact every parent of every child in your classes and passionately give them truthful, rational reasons why this legislation must be defeated.
- Go Global. It’s obvious that the American mainstream media will not cover this adequately unless forced or embarrassed into it. Through my writings I have been invited to be interviewed on an internet talk show from Paris, France. The show’s host is Max Keiser and you can access his page maxkeiser.com anytime. I‘ll be interviewed on April 12 at 9:30 AM. If any of us can get on shows like Amy Goodman, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann it can’t hurt. I’ve already suggested to my editors at Huffington to add an Education page to their ever expanding list. Go on the blogs like Firedog Lake, Daily Kos, Alternet, etc. Contact Media Matters. Get our issues in the foreign press so relentlessly that the mainstream media can’t ignore us.
- Get involved in your local political campaigns. Volunteer for your local state senate and house candidates (and school board candidates) that share your beliefs. Start canvassing, phone banking, fund raising and anything else you can do to change Tallahassee. When you canvass neighborhoods and talk to people they listen.
- Game the system. Every chamber of commerce has a membership list that they will gladly give you. Local businesses depend on your support. With 175000 public school teachers in this state (and untold thousands of others involved in education at every level) that has a lot of economic impact. Letting every one of these businesses know how you feel and what you are prepared to do is a very powerful tool, but don’t merely threaten; be prepared to follow through. If any of these businesses are publicly held corporations, buy a couple of shares of their stock. They have a list of shareholders. Access that list and ask these people if they would assign you their proxies. This is an extremely effective tool that has worked successfully in the past.
These are but a few of the strategies we have at our disposal, and they work. The missing ingredient is your willingness to be more involved than just writing on Facebook. We all need to be willing to sacrifice watching 24 or Dancing with the Stars and take to the streets. We need to inspire legions of others (friends, neighbors, etc.) to get involved. This really is a war. This war needs to be won.