Friday, January 18, 2013

Letter From a Los Angeles Teacher Jail



I delivered this speech before the Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education and Superintendent Deasy on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, his real one on January 15 and not the pretend one the following Monday. I was only allowed three minutes to speak and thus had to read too quickly and even then did not quite get to finish. So I then sent this as a "letter" (an email) addressed to each school board member personally. By way of introduction, I wrote, "It is fitting that I should deliver this address on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Consider this my Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Birmingham in Los Angeles."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

-Martin Luther King Jr.
April 16, 1963

Though I did not include it, King's words which follow his epiphany above are even more apropos for teachers today. 

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea."

As teachers today, we all need to be Chicago Teachers. We all need to be Seattle's Garfield High School teachers.

Here is my speech, my Letter from a Los Angeles Teacher Jail:

Thank you distinguished members of the Board of Education,

I am here to discuss the teacher prison network devised by the Superintendent. He has created within your LAUSD a prison industrial complex for teachers, teacher gulags, imprisoning 350 teachers with more added daily. LAUSD is now the Soviet Union of public education.

The superintendent has taken his personal frustration and the failings of district administrators relating to Miramonte and placed the blame on innocent teacher scapegoats. You must be aware this is happening. Are almost 350 teachers suddenly behaving “inappropriately” towards students or has the superintendent launched an unprecedented witch hunt using the ruse of “student safety” to destroy the lives of dedicated teaching professionals? 

In Superintendent Deasy’s teacher jails, teachers are abused, isolated, segregated, and humiliated. Teachers are now housed completely without thought or reasonableness. They are denied due process. Teachers are never spoken to until after LAUSD "completes" its so-called "investigations". It never interviews teachers ever. How do you conduct an investigation without interviewing the teacher? Unsupported allegations are treated as fact. 

LAUSD administrators who conduct the investigations have no training in the proper techniques for interviewing children and they are never videotaped to check later for improprieties such as manipulating children or asking leading questions. Parents, rarely informed ahead of time, are never asked for permission.  LAPD’s frequent dismissals of baseless charges are ignored by LAUSD. LAUSD treats LAPD as an inconvenience. 

Ms. Galatzan, you and others talk about streamlining the due process system, but the current administration has eliminated due process conducting charades instead. Everything is predetermined. Principals read prepared scripts they know are false out of fear of reprisals. Teacher input is denied or ignored. Meetings held to discuss "tentative decisions" are conducted around district documents stating the decision which are signed by various district administrators prior to the meeting. There is nothing "tentative" about anything. There are no Skelly Hearings, no real ones anyway. LAUSD doesn't even review the "evidence" with teachers. In LAUSD, facts don't matter. Allegations matter.

What you are witnessing is nothing less than a modern McCarthyism where teachers are being Blacklisted with false allegations. Instead of a Red Menace, Superintendent Deasy has invented a Teacher Menace.

I have been a proud teacher and administrator in LAUSD for 28 years going back to 1982 and garnished a number of distinctions. I was an assistant principal at Crenshaw for two years, brought in at the District’s request to help restore its WASC accreditation. I was a mentor teacher for six years and have written official LAUSD curriculum. My teaching has been recognized nationally twice by Johns Hopkins University as a Johns Hopkins Teaching Fellow. My classroom was the only one selected in California to be featured on the National Science Foundation’s live broadcast featuring students in classrooms across the nation and experts at JPL and NASA. Good Morning America once did a major feature on my classroom. A number of years ago at P**** Middle School, Cherie Hale, one of my sixth graders rose from the 49th percentile to the 99th percentile in math in a single year on the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS). More recently at W********* Middle School, Josephine Galdomez (also 6th grade) rose from Far Below Basic all the way to Advanced on the California Standards Test (CST) in a single year with me.

The contrivances being used to destroy this life and career came not from my principal who greatly admires my teaching, though he goose steps along like all site administrators now for fear of losing his job, but his superiors. There is a top down atmosphere of fear created and nurtured by a superintendent who is not focused on education or discipline, but only teacher termination. 

I stand before you as one of LAUSD’s finest teachers: a mentor teacher, a Johns Hopkins teaching fellow, an outstanding former administrator, and now suddenly a dishonored, miscreant according to your administration, to speak truth to power. Mr. Superintendent, you imprisoned one too many teachers. Me. I speak for all teacher prisoners and thousands of teachers. The allegations against me are beyond false. They are ludicrous. Yet you, sir, treat them as true. And I am by no means alone. You have criminalized teaching by making ludicrous allegations and even the most minor offense into a firing offense.

I quote army attorney Joseph Walsch who finally terminated the heinous Senator Joseph McCarthy and his McCarthyism.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last have you no sense of decency?”

Sincerely,
Joseph K
1/15/13

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Chlorox of Christianity

When I was a senior in High School in 1977, an admittedly extremely cute, young female Mormon missionary perhaps a year or two older than me knocked on my door while I was alone after school and asked if I would like to talk. Are you kidding me? Come right in! I have always been on kind of a spiritual quest (perhaps like you) and always enjoyed, as I enjoy, talking about theology, philosophy, etc. Remember, I got jailed for discussing the Garden of Eden with 6th graders. I love teaching comparative religions.

I was extremely impressed by the Mormon's high regard for family. She constantly asked me if my parents minded us talking as she would not want to do anything to disrupt our family life. She would rather us cease our discussions than reap family discord. I liked and respected that. I also liked (and like) the fact that one day a week is set aside totally for the family. Our society is on the verge of complete collapse largely because we have allowed families to disintegrate. The talks were very interesting and many of "her" ideas on God were similar to mine at the time. Personified, in other words. Hey, I was barely 18. Cut me some slack. Of course the Massacre never came up.

I liked (and still like, though don't necessarily believe) the idea that we are spirits living in a spirit world separate from Heaven before we are born and that we choose our parents because of a particular experience our spirits seek here on earth so they can better appreciate some particular benefit or benefits of Heaven. This is why we should never do anything against our parents, they believe. They believe we, in fact, chose them rather than they choosing (or happening) to have us.
  
Cool idea.
  
A couple of red flags went up at some point. Don't remember which order. But she started to lose me when the whole idea of baptizing dead people came up. All those suffering souls that unfortunately were born before Jesus. Those out of earshot. What about cave people whose names we no longer knew, I wondered. Also, I was a helluva basketball player. And the Mormon Church loves nothing more than to have a good basketball team. Their churches come with extremely high quality gymnasiums. I led the way, but pretty soon, virtually our entire varsity basketball team (including four starters) was playing for the Mormon Church in their church(?) leagues. None of us were Mormon, but we made great Mormon hoopsters. The only problem was none of us could dunk. Well I could, as a matter of fact. But I didn't do it often. There were also quite a number of extremely gorgeous Mormon high school daughters and this added greatly to the allure of their religion. Mormon daughters in Utah are often not so fortunate. But in Arcadia? Unbelievable.
  
My spiritual quest went on for quite some time. I scared the beejesus out of the parents of my sister's best friend. They were having nightmares thinking about all the demented things I was probably listening to. I think they were Lutherans, but can't remember. Whatever they were, they got some books to my mother for me to read: Mormonism: Doctrines of Devils was one. This was kind of cool as I was also very interested in the Occult at the time. The Exorcist (novel, not the movie) got me reading everything related to the Occult for a long time.
  
But the final straw, other than my cute missionary being ultimately replaced by a much less adorable (male) missionary, was one day when she explained to me with utter sincerity that the mark God put on Caine for killing Abel was dark skin. And from that moment forward, anyone with dark skin was therefore cursed by God as they are all descendents of Caine. I'll never forget it and I remind every Mormon missionary that knocks on my door to this day. She looked at me with utter innocence and sincerity and told me that all was not lost for dark-skinned people. They have actual documented cases where black people converted to Mormonism, lived a paragon of Mormon life, became high-ranking Mormons within their community. And I kid you not, these magnificent dark-skinned paragons of Mormon virtue turned white. They have documented cases. 

Joseph Smith's many real estate swindles. His creditors trying to crash the jailhouse gates to either get their money back or kill him. The failed businesses he started much to the chagrin of his investors. The 1857 Massacre (which I think was mentioned in Doctrines of Devils actually) came later.
  
But I'll never forget that. "They turned white. We have actual documented cases." Now THAT's a cool religion!

Mormonism: the Chlorox of Christianity.