Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whatever To Wherever My Comment on Ednotes Went

Norm Scott is a very busy guy and probably just missed the comment I published on his blog. Alas, it didn't get published. It happens (I once missed a comment posted to here from my wife; "I know you're blogging again. Knock it off", she wrote. For two whole weeks, I couldn't figure out why she wouldn't speak to me).

Anyway, Ednotes has something about the MORE caucus weighing in with a statement on the UFT's presence at a march this coming Saturday. Mentioned in the post was the internal 'debate' MORE was having over what to say (what to say? what to say? Whatever to say? Omigosh). He ended his post this way

I have such antipathy for Al Sharpton that I have a problem taking part in something he is leading. That the UFT has been funneling money to his organizations all these years does not make me happy. I stopped watching MSNBC when they gave Sharpton his own show.

Which reminds me of the joke my right-wing brother in law once told me.
Standing in front of you is Sharpton, Hitler and Stalin. You have a gun with only 2 bullets. Which ones do you shoot?
Answer: shoot Sharpton twice.

(the comment I dropped that didn't get published is below).

Not a big fan of that last line (although I am ever a fan of you). 

I have some concerns over the debate within the caucus. I suppose it's better than Unity that MORE does debate, but to take a vote is a bit different from reaching consensus. Taking a majority vote requires the creation of a minority who is upset that they didn't get their way. Reaching consensus, which requires far more work, means that the people who would be in the majority take the added step of reaching out to the people who would be in the minority and do what it takes to bring them into a position where they can be ok with what's about to be done. We used to work to reach consensus. I believe that's because we used to care enough about what other folks thought to listen. 
Used to. While I am less concerned about any one debate, I am greatly concerned about the processes through which MOREistas do their MOREista-ing. In this case, I'm afraid that just because one (very cool) blogger calls this a debate, doesn't quote make it so.

You can so what you want (or not) I won't be replying.

(whereas "Used to." should have been "Used to?" and "quote" is, of course, "quite". Pardon my typos, I'm on a summer kind of flow.)

Anyway, to say that there is some tension within MORE is like saying there's some water in a river. Sure it's there, but you sort of need to in order to have it. That said, how that river flows is important. Listening is important.

Ed (who is prone to friendly reminders from time to time and is way too cool to spend anymore time on such trivia as this)


  1. Even though you recognize I am a busy guy there is still a smidge of paranoia that I was suppressing your comment. Not only am I not suppressing it but I want to feature it - especially the interesting point that even if I respond, you won't. That's the spirit of consensus. I admit that last night after coming home from the MORE summer event, after putting together my NYSUT story - which took an hour until 10:30 and to me more important that back stories on MORE - rather than staying on the computer and dealing with your comment - I sat outside reading and smoking my pipe until 1AM. And then off to dental work today. But I will respond to this post below and possibly on my blog.

  2. OK. My own snark satisfied, let's get serious. I helped found ICE a decade ago and also Coalition of School Workers in the 70s and both were consensus groups - maybe we voted twice in all that time. The ICE people brought the idea of "as much consensus as possible" to the initial pre-MORE meetings. The TJC and other crews had a different view of democracy - majority rule. I pointed out consistently what you say here - a vote causes a minority opposition. So we talked about super majorities and out of 3 steering elections only one had voting. I feel voting is dangerous and should be last resort.
    On this point: "We used to work to reach consensus. I believe that's because we used to care enough about what other folks thought to listen." I know I took part in debates that you may not have been part of - and this is part of the bad process - lots of people emailing their own choice of lists, instead of bringing it to the wider list. One reason was that there were some very private communications involved that could not be made public -- not the first time MORE has had that issue --- and some of us pointed out that at the very least Steering Committee, the only "elected/chosen" body in MORE MUST be included in some way. It took about 2 days for things to be worked out to reach that stage -- Steering should know stuff before it goes out to Discussion. And by the way -- does anyone really think these listserve discussions that often turn to flame wars is a way to make decisions or even reach consensus? The only way is to go to the steering committee where consensus can be reached -- and those meetings are/should be open to all though voting only limited. I do agree with you that there is often a time push to vote because people are in a hurry to move on -- and to me this is not a change in MORE but has been a problem for me since before it began. Lots more to say on this issue - but the battle for democracy doesn't just start at the door of the UFT. We must work very hard to build it in the opposition or we become new boss same as old boss - and believe me I challenge some people in MORE who suggest short cuts around democracy all the time, saying I would leave rather than become Unity-like.

  3. One more thing. I learned that you can have a lot of consensus in a group of 25 or less -- the original rough size of early homo sapiens groups. Not so much when you have 30-100 in the room or in an organization. Thus I've had to compromise on my consensus concepts in order to handle scaling up - which I'm sure you recognize is crucial of we are to be more than a debating society. How to manage growth - and we had about 30 people yesterday, 75% of whom I did not know - is a major task for our theorticians of democracy - and it is up to people like us who studied history and understand the forces that helped shape societies - to bring those understandings to the discussions. Crafting a democratic orgainzation while engaging in all the issues of the day is a major task. And I will point out that some of the internal critics in MORE haven't shown much predilection for democracy themselves. To them, there is no democracy only when they don't get their way. I rarely get my way but as long as I'm given a fair shot to put my 2 cents in I am good with it.

    1. I counted 20 voices on our 'debate'. How many did you count? Also

      "To them, there is no democracy only when they don't get their way." I agree, but also have to say that, if directed at me, those may be fighting words. I think my actions have dictated otherwise since I've been working with you folks. If you see otherwise from me, I have to ask that you call me out on it now.

  4. "I know I took part in debates that you may not have been part of - and this is part of the bad process - lots of people emailing their own choice of lists, instead of bringing it to the wider list."

    This is it. This is everything right here. There will ALWAYS be a reason to excuse bad process. That's how bad processes get in there. The need to keep everything public (which, IMO, MORE hasn't been as far back as last Spring when I became active again) will never ever go away. And do you know what the funny thing is? The very folks who benefit from keeping most stuff done in private are the very ones who will read this and never think about it again. That's not sad, not depressing, not upsetting. Just sort of funny.

    "And by the way -- does anyone really think these listserve discussions that often turn to flame wars is a way to make decisions or even reach consensus?"

    Folks sing of democracy as though it's a wonderfully fair process. You know much better than that, though don't you. Democracy is messy, bloody, brutal, replete with prides and reputations spilled on the floors, bloody knuckles, knives in chests and backs and relationships that are built, broken, then built and broken again. That's democracy, pal and I freeking love it. It's easy to marginalize a person, maybe chalk someone up to being a a-hole(maybe get a whole bunch of other folks to believe you? then get no one to listen to take that person credibly? and few to actually criticize that person whenever she or he speaks up about something? (not me, but ... hmmm hmmmmm)) . It's much harder to understand when and how to fight that person and when to find consensus with him or her. Say what you want. I say let it fly, let it bleed and let it run on the floor! At the end of the day, the product will be MUCH better than .... hey, why don't I stop right there, ok?

    "The only way is to go to the steering committee where consensus can be reached -- and those meetings are/should be open to all though voting only limited."

    Agreed. Although I didn't hear you acknowledge that that didn't happen here. Don't get me wrong, I understand WHY you didn't acknowledge it. You love MORE and you desperately want it to work. While I don't love it, I would like it to work. So let's find a way to start by acknowledging that there was a short-coming (and that there isn't any dam, excuse at all for that particular shortcoming).

    I'd like to place this into some context. I'm not MORE to the core. That boat sailed in June 2013 when I realized that building the caucus was more important than defending teachers (just my preference and we've spoke about it privately in the past). That said, I would like to see MORE work ( I have two years invested in a relationship with this org.). So, as smallish as something like process is more this is to me, someone is going to have to get tough with that group and force their discussions into an open forum. Or that group won't be a group in 4 or 5 years time.

    The clouds are passing on a warm August day and I think I'll leave it there and head to the beach. Thanks for dropping the comment.

    1. Sorry, that's NOT to criticize the need to build caucus over supporting teachers (that was pretty much the consensus and I accept). It's just stating a fact and why I moved ab it away. Nothing more. K, thanks

  5. I wish I knew how to support teachers. I've been trying for 20 years - as a Chapter Leader in the mid-90s I could do more in my school than I could in a pretty small caucus - and - no I don't love MORE - you know I always have issues - but my focus is to build something that could actually have the people power and influence to really support teachers - just proclaiming we support teachers doesn't mean much. So I am not sure what you mean by support. I do know that you threw yourself into the contract work and saw the benefits of having an organization - even if small. I saw in ICE how debilitating to a caucus it can be to get into the weeds of every teacher who comes calling -- and then find out from people you know that their problems are not really due to the oppressive admin. You know we had meetings to support teachers - go to their hearings, write about them, etc. And we did it - we did it in a mass blogging day. Can you separate individual actions from that of the group like MORE that lends the sense your work has some basis beyond feeling good even if what you do has little or no impact?

    1. so, I'm not quite sure what half of that meant. It wasn't my intent to imply that you -Norm Scott- don't or haven't helped teachers -also not to imply that MORE hasn't. Simply to say that the decision was made to build caucus over embracing that issue. That one is more important than the other isn't something I'm objecting to.

      I also know you have issues, My only intent there was to assert that you want MORE to work. I get that and I accept it. If the word 'desperate' was too much, it was only because I didn't up much thought into it.

  6. As you say - in the mess of democracy there is no real good process - often a muddling through. And with a group where the leadership has actually turned over with new faces having an impact there is often some confusion - who knows what history? We have people who came to their first MORE event a year ago playing a major role. And people who were never active in a union or ever saw themselves as being active not coming to the fore. And they are young. So I have a different standard in judging MORE. I see growth in people - and as one who came to activism that way I find it exciting to witness. I may not love MORE but there are a whole bunch of people in MORE who I love, you included - and I was not talking about you regarding democracy being only when you get your way - it is often a general human condition - and I've been there myself - pissed because somehow people didn't see my point of view. It seems no one is totally happy with the process or even the results -- there are enormous attacks from the ultra left and then attacks from the other end - which may be a sign something is going right.

    1. Well, sometimes, attacks from left and right mean something else. I'm not going to be critical of the product here (or anywhere). I'm only going to say that someone (or some group temporarily formed around an issue) seem always to happy lately while another seems not to be. While it's better than what some have, it's also indicative of a group that has stopped listening to people with whom they don't immediately agree. It's a sign that the dedication to that complicated melody -consensus- is wanging. That's all.

      (Oh, and also, none of this is about any person in MORE and yea, me too (we all love you!!)