Randi Weingarten, It’s Our Leaders Failing America

It’s Not the Citizens, It’s Our Leaders

Muncie, Indiana NEWS– I’ve never followed Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers – a labor union representing teachers within our public sector. With private sector unions taking a beating over the past several decades, the public sector has been the last bastion of hope. Education reform is now embraced by both political parties, but for different reasons. As we’ve witnessed in Indiana, Governor Pence planned to implement ALECs reforms of more charters, or privatization. This was a continuation of Tony Bennett’s agenda, but Mike soon realized he was quickly losing political capital by attacking Glenda Ritz, so he acquiesced. Just this week, he signed a new bill eliminating the widely unpopular, ISTEP tests.

While scanning Twitter, I was drawn to one of her articles published in the Huffington Post, and thought I’d check it out. Maybe it was the deep sounding title, “A Fight for the Soul of Our Country”. I was intrigued.

She caught me off guard by reciting a story about her teaching days – its well-known that Randi has less than a year of teaching experience. She didn’t rise up through the ranks as a teacher, she was appointed to the position by another administrator.

Nevertheless, I read on. Then she dropped this paragraph:

We need to send young people into adulthood knowing their rights, responsibilities and power as citizens. They need to have a sense of agency in their lives, to realize that they can be change agents in their own communities and neighborhoods, and that they are the “people” in “we the people.” The most important role in a democracy is not president or prime minister, but citizen.

This is a rather rich statement coming from a labor union who issued the first endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President back in July, 2015 – an endorsement made after conferring with her board. They didn’t collect a democratic tally from teacher/members. I doubt most teachers had ever heard of Bernie Sanders last June/July. Nevertheless, Randi and her board chose to endorse Hillary. In response, one of her local leaders made this statement:

“To rush a nomination like that before anyone else in labor — before the AFL-CIO — was unnecessary,” said Jim Miller of AFT Local 1931. “They pretty much ran an inside game with that nomination process. It wasn’t a rank-and-file game by any stretch of the imagination.”

This came from an article in the Intercept, which highlighted nearly all Hillary Clinton’s endorsements came at the board level without an internal vote. Whereas, Bernie Sanders’ endorsements  have been a result of group members voting. Even the Congressional Black Caucus claimed to represent all their members when they endorsed Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, but it was only their executive board who advocated for Hillary.

This top-down paternal/corporate hierarchy has dominated the scene for generations, and is standard practice by BOTH political parties. Where it’s most disappointing is within the “party of the people”. Before primary votes were started, Hillary had a commanding lead in the race because of super-delegates.

Don’t forget, Randi is the head of a powerful teachers union. She represents teachers who are educating our young minds. In my humble opinion, if this is their role model, both the teaching profession and our kids are in big trouble. She is either clueless, or a complete sell out. Take your pick. I’ve said it a million times already, you’re either speaking the truth or spouting propaganda.

Here is her closing statement:

An hour watching cable news, a scan of my Twitter feed or a day talking with people (outside of Washington, D.C.) makes it clear that we are engaged in a fight for the very soul of our country. People are angry — with good reason. They are anxious about the changing economy and their ability to get by, much less get ahead. And they don’t think their representatives in Congress are doing anything to make things better. But rather than stoking fears and frustrations and turning people against each other, we need to acknowledge that anger and the unrealized aspirations underneath it. Educating people about what citizens can do in a democracy can help move their anger to action.

I think most of us understand what it means to be an informed citizen. However, we live in a country controlled by .1% of the population who uses their economic clout to acquire our press, our universities, our government and our institutions. We are being manipulated from the top down making it almost impossible to make informed decisions. Both right and left claim the other is misinformed. How can that be possible?

Simple. If it isn’t the truth, it’s propaganda. There is no possible way the truth can be so broadly misinterpreted by so many people. This is where leadership kicks in…listen closely to what Bernie is saying. Not what the news is saying about Bernie. He’s a true leader. The rest of the field are opportunists preying on the misinformed telling them what they want to hear. They aren’t helping the people because they’ve joined those doing the manipulation.

Instead of educating our citizens, Randi, why not use your powerful voice to tell the people the truth. I’m guessing you don’t want to lose your lofty six figure salary and comfy home in the Hamptons.

Randi, tell us why you’re scared to let your members vote on who AFT should endorse for president. Why don’t call out the leaders of the press? Why not explain to your members the real reasons they’ve taken a beating from both sides of the aisle? Why do you think Americans should support unions when those unions don’t support Americans?

Tell us why you endorsed Hillary over a candidate who wants to tax Wall Street so all kids can attend college without the burden of debt. Don’t advocate for democracy when you refuse to practice it yourself.

What about the working class who no longer are represented by a union and barely make enough money to survive, yet pay taxes to support higher wages for teachers. What about the students graduating from college with $30,000 in student loans who can’t afford to buy a car or house.

Without going into the negative qualities of the candidate she’s endorsed for the democratic nominee, let’s focus on the frustration and anger mounting in this country. The people are mad because they’re being ignored…their voices aren’t being heard. Our country was founded on democratic principles, but our so-called leaders don’t adhere to these principles. Both political parties exert negative influence over democracy. Instead of making things easier to vote, they suppress our votes by presenting obstacles. Instead of expanding the two-party system to reflect our changing country, they resist. Instead of online voting by each citizen, they keep in place rules and guidelines implemented decades ago.

The people are angry because they know our country refuses to change while income and wealth is being extracted from communities. In theory, our country was designed to help “we the people”, instead of a few powerful interests.

In theory, the press serves the people by holding the powerful accountable. In theory, our public servants fulfill their promises made to voters, not the donor class. In theory, our economic system creates shared wealth for both owners and workers versus creating a system of winners and losers.

The problem is all these theories arent matching our reality. As a result, the people are angry, and they have every right to be upset. The clear goal of our institutional leaders are to misdirect our anger toward each other so we won’t look at them. Americans are waking up, slowly… but they are waking up. When everyone gets on the same page, those leaders who’ve chosen the wrong side will have to answer to the masses.

I leave you with two quotes from Paulo Freire’s, Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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