Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Tyranny Of The Feels: How The Democratic Process is Stifled By Personal Attacks and Threats

As Oklahoma approaches the THIRD day of teacher walkouts across the state, many citizens are finding it’s not so much the actual walkout – although this itself is hard on parents and students so close to the end of the year – it’s the behavior of some of the participants that’s most distressing.
This morning I talked to a legislative assistant I know. I asked her how things were going for her at the Capitol and she told me that her legislator’s office was constantly packed with people and that the noise in the halls was deafening. She said her time was often interrupted by chanting breaking out in the hall.

“A group of teachers came into the office behind a group who was being loud and obnoxious,” she said. “As they walked in, a woman from the group behind leaned over and whispered to me, “We’re not with them”.
I feel for the teachers who don’t really want to be at the capitol – or who want to be there to learn – or because they feel it’s their duty to support their school. It has to be more than a bit frustrating to be lumped together with people for whom the whole experience is an activism exercise.   
Threats Don’t Win People Over
As a former public school teacher, I believe that if you sign a contract, you honor the contract you signed, so I personally have never supported this walkout. In my opinion, there are numerous other ways pay raises could have been accomplished before – or instead of – instituting a walk out and I’ve said as much on our ROPE Facebook page.

Though I’m not alone, the conversations had in this little corner of the social media world have been tremendously enlightening, and I must say, concerning. I’ve truly begun to realize how cruel, mean and rude, people proclaiming themselves to be champions of education can be and I shudder to consider how many of these take up residence in the classroom.
Just recently, I was sent a letter by a self-identified teacher, disgruntled because I blocked him/her from our Facebook page for not playing well with others. Here are the last few paragraphs of this letter:
Good luck with your mission of destruction. I think that you are on the wrong side, and that you will continue losing battles. In the meantime, I will continue advocate for that in which I believe…which is that ALL children deserve access to a rich and vibrant education, regardless of situation. Equal opportunity, you see.
Oh, I also need to educate myself on the municipal election cycle in XXXXX*. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t more than a few people knocking doors for your opponent next time around.
You have the opportunity to convince me that I am wrong about you.

I’m still not sure whether to find this amusing (we had an open seat on our town board recently to which we had trouble appointing someone, so I’m not sure how many people actually want a job with no pay that requires many hours of study, communication and meetings), be flattered that this person chose to Google me and hunt down my personal profile, or be appalled that a teacher would write a letter to threaten me in some way because he/she didn’t agree with my position on issues surrounding public education.
Interestingly, I showed this letter to a friend, who did a court search on the writer and found several court documents regarding traffic violations and debt issues. Now I’m just sad to think this person is in a classroom teaching somebody’s children.

Making A Stink In The Capitol Building Tends To Get You Thrown Out
In a scene reminiscent of the Wisconsin teacher rallies in their capitol building, apparently a full gallery of teachers in the House, created a stir when a bill not on the Floor Calendar was attempted during session on Tuesday. According to the report, the disturbance was so loud and disrespectful, the gallery was cleared. This is fascinating in part because, when we lobbied against Common Core, we were told we would have to get rid of yellow, 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper simply saying, “Hear The Bills”, or leave the building, yet pictures have been splashed all over the news media of teachers with poster board signs in the rotunda. Of course, anyone with a green Common Core Is Not OK t-shirt was chastised for even whispering in the gallery during session, but I guess we’ve devolved since 2014.

For years I had spoken with legislators who, though they would never comment on the record for an article or a blog, had stories to tell about being threatened or yelled at, or spoken to disrespectfully by public education advocates entering their office or sending emails or via phone calls.
Yesterday, in fact, there were numerous legislators commenting on the ruckus at the capitol. One, Representative Kevin McDugle made news when he took to Facebook Live to record a rant about poor protest behavior at the capitol only to delete that video, create another apologizing for that video , delete that video and then pick up a challenger for his seat who is – big shock here – a teacher. Not that I’m a McDugle fan, but it speaks volumes that a Representative at the state capitol can complain about poor capitol behavior by public education activists and then be castigated by the same people for being called out on their behavior to the point that he’s drawn a challenge to his seat by a teacher.

What Happens On The Internet Stays On The Internet
Monday, a lady who has been following the ROPE FB page sent me a private message with several screen shots made from a KOCO news article on the walkout by public education advocates. Here are a few of her comments.
I sure wish I could take screen shots of the name-calling that teachers and parents are doing towards reps and other state office holders. It’s almost like they are doing the same thing as they tell the kids not to do to others at school. How is this okay?? …. I can’t say a word in disagreement because then I am labeled as someone who hates children or education. I, like you, taught school ten years before staying home with my own kids. But I taught in a private school. Never brought home a thousand dollars a month. Always had to supplement from my pocket…..Just had to get this off my chest. I know the teachers need more funding. But so does foster care. Elder care. Veteran care. Roads. Jails. Bridges. You name it. Nothing is going to change until they audit and then start from zero all over.
I’m going to post just a couple of the images she shared. Sorry about the names, but, well, if you choose to post on Facebook – a public forum – those posts become public. Here are the words of some of the people taxpayers pay to educate children in our state or whose children are enrolled in public schools in our state.


I Don’t Know What I’m Talking About, But You’re A Hater

I could continue to go on, but I’ll close with this one exchange because I think it personifies the zenith of the problem. No listening or legitimate exchange of ideas goes on past the point of ridicule. There’s no need to explain oneself, or one’s ideas – there’s no need to refer to facts – just call someone a ‘hater’ and boom, you win! This is tyranny – tyranny of ideas, tyranny of feelings, tyranny of position – and no Republic can withstand this kind of attack on the First Amendment and Democracy. This kind of behavior feeds mob rule and mob rule only works while you're the one with the stick. Sad days....Sad days.
*I have removed the name of the Town in which I am an elected official for this reason – the people in the Town elected me to help do the job of governing the Town, not spew my personal beliefs. It is unfair of me to either use my position, or speak from my position, as that is not what the people elected me to do. Anyone can Google the information and find it, however, I will never offer it willingly or use it consciously in my work as Education Director of ROPE. It’s unethical in my view.