How to Oppose White Supremacists Without Becoming a Monster, Yourself



There is a danger in opposing white supremacists.


In confronting such an odious set of beliefs, you can justify suspending your own strongest held moral convictions as a necessary end to defeating their prejudices.


It’s easy to see how this might happen.


When hearing an ignorant troll like Richard Spencer arrogantly spouting warmed over Nazi propaganda, it is quite natural to wish to issue a rebuttal in the form of your fist.


You can follow the logic all the way from your heart to your knuckles.


Your thought process might go something like this:


This fool is so enamored with violence, let him suffer the consequences of it.


But that is conceding the point.


That is giving the white supremacist his due. It’s entering his world and playing by his rules.


Oh, I’m sure it’s satisfying, but it’s the wrong way to respond.


However, on the other hand one can’t simply smile and nod during Spencer’s tirade and then expect to reciprocate with an academic treatise.


No cogent, logical, professorial come back is going to counter the purely emotional arguments made by white supremacists.


They are stoking fear and hatred. Logic is useless here.


So what are anti-racist anti-facists like ourselves supposed to do when confronted with people like this?


We have to walk a razor’s edge between two poles.


On the one hand, we can’t tolerate intolerance.


I know that’s paradoxical. But it’s true.


As Vienna-born philosopher Karl Popper put it in The Open Society and Its Enemies, unlimited tolerance leads to the destruction of tolerance.


If we tolerate the intolerant, if we give them equal time to offer their point of view and don’t aggressively counter their views, they will inevitably resort to violence and wipe our side out.


This doesn’t mean immediately punching them in the face or violently attacking them. For Popper, we should let rationality run its course, let them have their say and usually their ideas will be rejected and ignored.


However, if this doesn’t happen and these ideas start to take root as they did in Nazi Germany (or perhaps even today in Trump’s America), then Popper says we must stop them by “fists or pistols.”


In short, Popper writes:


“We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”


Popper believed in the free expression of ideas, but when one of those ideas leads to violence, it is no longer to be tolerated. Then it is outside the law and must be destroyed.




What then do we do with our commitment to nonviolence?


Do we reluctantly agree to push this constraint to the side if push comes to shove?


No. This is the other pole we must navigate between.


On the second to last day of his life, April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech stating his unequivocal commitment to the principal of nonviolence:


“It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.”


The next day he was shot to death. These are among the last words he spoke in public.


That King was to be martyred in the cause of justice would not have surprised him.


He had already received several death threats and attempts on his life.


He knew that his continued efforts to fight for human dignity would probably result in the premature ending of his life someday. He knew all that yet he still prescribed nonviolence.


There was simply no other way for him to exist.


Mahatma Gandhi, who influenced Dr. King and our American fight for civil rights with his own nonviolent revolution in India, went even further.


At the start of WWII, he wrote that the British should lay down their arms and let the Nazis invade the United Kingdom without offering any violent resistance. They should even let themselves be slaughtered if it came to it. He made similar remarks to Jews facing the Holocaust.


That’s pretty extreme.


But can you imagine its effect?


No one followed Gandhi’s advice. We fought the Germans in WWII and won. We crushed their pathetic thousand year Reich and threw their prejudiced ideals on the trash heap of history.


And yet here we are today. In Charlottesville. In Portland. In Washington, DC.


The scared and ignorant have rooted through the trash and recycled those same odious ideals.


The war ended, but the battle goes on.


Would that have happened had we met violence with nonviolence?


I don’t know the answer. No one does.


But it respects an important point – we can’t ultimately fight our way to peace. Not without killing everyone else. And then why would the solitary survivor wish to live?


There is an inherent flaw in humanity that continually incites us to kill each other.


We can never have true peace unless we find a way to stamp out that flaw.


Nonviolence is the closest we’ve ever come to finding a solution.


So there you have it, the Scylla and Charybdis of our current dilemma.


We must try to navigate between them.


We must not tolerate the intolerance of the white supremacists. But we must also not allow our opposition of them to change us into that which we hate.


I know it sounds impossible. And I certainly don’t have all the answers about how we do it.


To start with, when white supremacists advocate violence of any kind, we must seek legal action. We must use every tool of the law, the courts, and law enforcement to counter them.


This requires political power. We must organize and keep them politically marginalized and weak.


We must take every opportunity to speak out against white supremacy. We must continue to make their ideal socially and culturally repugnant. At the same time, we must also reach out to them in the spirit of healing and love. We can’t give up on them, because they, too, are our brothers and sisters.


Yet if they resort to violence, we can feel justified in protecting ourselves and those they wish to victimize.


But the keyword here is “protect.”


We should go no further. We should not attack.


I know that is a hard line to walk.


Maybe it’s not even possible. Still, we must try.


It might feel satisfying to punch a Nazi. Heck! I’m sure it would. But we cannot allow ourselves to become like them.


Because the real enemy is not them.


It is their fear and ignorance.


And if we’re honest, we hold the same disease deep inside our own hearts.


We cannot defeat racism and prejudice unless we overcome our own flawed humanity.


Respecting Student Free Speech Was Hard for Adults During Today’s School Walkout



The kids are all right. It’s the adults you have to watch.


The walkout planned nationwide to protest gun violence today on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting came to my western Pennsylvania school – and we weren’t ready for it.


In fact, up until today no one had mentioned a thing about it.


I had asked teachers if they wanted to do something and was told it was up to the students to lead.


I had asked the high school student council if they were interested in participating, but there wasn’t much of a response.


Then this morning in the middle school where I teach, there was an impromptu two minute meeting where we were told some kids might walk out and that we should just let them go.


Their right to free speech would be respected and there wouldn’t be any penalty for participating.


However, as a teacher, I was instructed not to bring up the subject, not to allow discussion and only to attend if all of my students decided to go.


That’s a hard position to be in.


It’s like being put in a metaphorical straight jacket.


But I tried.


When my 7th grade kids came in, they were all a buzz about something and I couldn’t really ask why.


The suspense was broken with a sledge hammer during second period when one of my most rambunctious students asked if he could use the restroom at 10 am. That was over an hour away.


I told him he couldn’t reserve an appointment for a bathroom break but he could go now if he wanted.


Then he explained himself. At 10 am he was walking out.


The room exploded.


They had heard about the nationwide walkout at 10 – the time of the Parkland shooting. They knew kids all across the land were leaving class for 17 minutes – 60 seconds for each life lost in the shooting.


But that was pretty much it.


They didn’t know what it was that kids were protesting. They didn’t know why they were protesting. They just knew it was something being done and they wanted to do it.


It was at this point I took off my metaphorical straight jacket.


I couldn’t simply suppress the talk and try to move on with the lesson – on propaganda, wouldn’t you believe!


We talked about the limits of gun laws – how some people wanted background checks for people wishing to purchase guns. We talked about regulating guns for people with severe mental illnesses, criminal backgrounds or suspected terrorists. We talked about how there used to be a ban on assault weapons sales and how that was the gun of choice for school shooters.


We even talked about what students might do once they walked out of the building.


They couldn’t just mill around for all that time.


Since we were in the middle of a unit on poetry, someone suggested reading poems about guns and gun violence.


Students quickly went on-line and found a site stocked with student-written poetry on the issue – many by students who had survived school shootings.


I admit I should have checked the site better – but we had literally minutes before the walkout was scheduled to take place.


Some of the poems contained inappropriate language and swear words. But they were generally well written and honest. And the kids liked them.


I let them print a few that they wanted to read aloud at the demonstration.


They were actually huddled around their desks reading poetry and practicing.


They were really excited about the prospect of standing up and being counted – of letting the world know how they felt.


One student even wrote her own poem.


She said I could publish it anonymously, so here it is:


“Pop! Pop! Pop!


Everyone crying, calling their parents, saying their last goodbyes.


Screams echo throughout the building.

Blood painting the white tiles.

Bodies laying limp on the ground

Screams of pain

Bullets piercing our skin.


Yelling and sobbing increase.

We are escorted out.


‘Is this what you wanted?’”



I barely had time to read it before the time came.


Students stood up and were confused by the lack of an announcement.


But this was not a sanctioned school event. If they took part, they were on their own.


It was my smallest class and several kids were already absent.


They all left and were immediately met by the principal and security. To their credit, the adults didn’t stop them, but they told them not to put their coats on until they were outside and to otherwise quiet down.


I made sure to emphasize that anyone who wanted was welcome to stay in class. But no one did.


After the last child left, I grabbed my coat and followed.


When I got to the front of the building I was surprised by the lack of high school students. There were only a handful. But there were maybe 50 middle school kids.


When the principal saw all my students had decided to participate, he asked me to stay in the lobby. He said it wasn’t necessary for me to attend.


That was hard.


I wanted to be there, but I didn’t want to be insubordinate, either.


My students were expecting me to be there. They were expecting me to help guide them.


So I stood in the doorway and watched.


Students did as I feared; they pretty much milled around.


A few of my students held their poems in hand and read them quietly together but there were no leaders, no organization.


After about 5 minutes, the adults pounced.


The resource officer criticized them since their safety was more at risk outside the building than in class. Administrators chastised the collective group for having no plan, for only wishing to get out of class, for not knowing why they were there and for not doing anything together to recognize the tragedy or the issue. They said that if the students had really wanted to show respect to those killed in Florida they would have a moment of silence.


The kids immediately got quiet, but you can’t have a 17-minute moment of silence. Not in middle school.


I saw some of my kids wanting to read their poems aloud but too afraid to call the group’s attention to themselves.


And then it was over.


The whole thing had taken about 10 minutes.


Administration herded the kids back into the building early and back through the metal detectors.


I can’t help feeling this was a missed opportunity.


I get it, being an administrator is tough. A situation like today is hard to stomach. Kids taking matters into their own hands and holding a demonstration!?


We, adults, don’t like that. We like our children to be seen and not heard.


We want them to do only things that will show us in a better light. We don’t like them taking action to fix problems that we couldn’t be bothered to fix, ourselves.


But what right do we have to curate their demonstration?


If they wanted to mill around for 17 minutes, we should have let them.


Better yet, we could have helped them organize themselves and express what many of them truly were thinking and feeling.


If I had been allowed out of the building, I could have called the assembly to order and had my kids read their poems.


But doing so would have been exceedingly dangerous for me, personally.


I can’t actively defy my boss in that way. It just didn’t seem worth it.


If we had had warning that this might happen and planned better how to handle it, that also might have been an improvement.


Imagine if the school had sanctioned it. We could have held an assembly or sent a letter home.


The teachers could have been encouraged to plan something with their students.


Obviously if the students wanted to go in another direction, they should have been allowed to do so.


But these are middle school kids. They don’t know how to organize. They barely know how to effectively express themselves.


Regardless of how we, adults, feel about the issue, isn’t it our responsibility to help our student self actualize?


Isn’t it our responsibility to help them achieve their goals?


I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a crazy hippie.


Maybe I’m some radical anarchist.


But I’m proud of my students for taking a stand.


It was unorganized and a mess.


Yet they stood up and did something we, the adults, really weren’t that keen on them doing.


Their message was a muddle.


But they had something to say.


They just haven’t figure out how to say it yet.

Rampant Ignorance of What a School Should Be



From politicians confusing a living wage with a handout—


To a white supremacist teacher podcast.


From a tone deaf government flunky using tragedy to do anything to stop gun violence except regulate firearms—


To a Bronx principal barring a black history lesson during Black History Month.


All-in-all, it’s been a crazy news cycle.


If one thing was made clear during the last seven plus days, it’s this:


Many people have no idea what a school should be.


Take West Virginia, the site of a recently resolved statewide teacher strike.


After years of watching the cost of living rise while wages remained stagnant, educators took to the streets to demand enough money that they wouldn’t have to quit their teaching jobs and look for work elsewhere.


It’s a reasonable request.


Imagine if we didn’t pay doctors enough to afford to practice medicine. Imagine if we didn’t pay lawyers enough to afford to practice law.


Teachers just wanted enough money so they could focus on educating the next generation and still get perks like food and shelter.


However, West Virginia is a self-confessed conservative state where self-identifying conservatives unashamedly explain that a full-throated expression of their conservative values includes the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay people a living wage for a hard day’s work.


Or as state Senator Lynne Arvone (R-Raleigh) put it:


“The teachers have to understand that West Virginia is a red state, and the free handouts are over.”


What, Sen. Arvone? Are you high?


A salary is not a “free handout.”


That’s redundant – there is no such thing as a free handout. Handouts are by definition free. That’s something you would have known had you paid more attention to your third grade language arts teacher. But, whatever.


Moreover, a salary is neither free nor a handout.


It is a fixed regular payment – often weekly or biweekly – made by an employer to an employee in exchange for doing a job.


West Virginia teachers are doing their job. State representatives like Arvone aren’t doing theirs.


They aren’t making teaching an attractive career and thus encouraging the best and brightest to become teachers. When you’ve already got a shortage of people willing to become educators, you have to invest. That’s economics 101! Basic supply and demand.


Admittedly, after 8 days of a state-wide strike, the legislature caved and gave teachers a 5% raise, but only moments before introducing a bill to reduce the requirements to become a West Virginia teacher in the future.




It’s like lawmakers are saying: Oh. So you want your raise? Here you go. But the next generation of teachers hired in the state will be more ignorant, less experienced, more unskilled and less professional. In short, they won’t expect to be paid a living wage because we’ve made teaching right up there with being a WalMart greeter!


So there!


If passed, the academic quality of education provided by West Virginia will drop.


But so will the cost. And that seems to be the only thing lawmakers like Arvone and her “conservative” colleagues seem to care about.


You know, I don’t think they know what conservative means, either.


It’s certainly not what a public school should be.


Want another example?


Take Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old Florida teacher who allegedly ran a white supremacist podcast until non-Aryans heard it, put two-and-two together and removed her from class.


On a recent episode she bragged about spreading racist and prejudiced ideas to her students.


According to an article in the Huffington Post describing her latest podcast:


Volitich also agreed with her guest’s assertion that more white supremacists need to infiltrate public schools and become teachers. “They don’t have to be vocal about their views, but get in there!” her guest said. “Be more covert and just start taking over those places.”


“Right,” Volitich said. “I’m absolutely one of them.”


Great. Just what we need. An army of undercover white supremacists being encouraged to enter the teaching profession – taking those newly minted minimum wage jobs vacated by more expensive but less biased educators.


As a more than 15-year veteran of the public school classroom, I have some advice for white supremacists thinking about becoming teachers: Don’t.


We don’t want you here.


No one has the time for your warmed over master race lullabies.


We don’t need another generation of privileged white people who think the world owes them something just because of the color of their skin.


We need an America made up of people of all colors and creeds who believe in a meritocracy. You get what you work for, what you earn.


And we need lawmakers to actually create a system that supports this ideal.


We need political parties and grassroots movements to push for such an America.


Nazi propaganda belongs in one place only – the history books. It is not part of our future.


And on a personal note, let me just say that becoming a teacher often makes you more progressive than you were when you started.


I know it did me.


Especially if you work at a high poverty, high minority district like I do.


Your job is to serve students’ needs. You push them to think, you don’t tell them what to think.


If that’s not what you’re up for, you’re not up for being an educator.


Indoctrination is not what school should be.


And that brings me to Betsy DeVos, our billionaire Education Secretary who bought her government position with campaign contributions and political connections.


She went to Parkland, Florida, this week to visit with students, teachers and administrators who survived a school shooting a couple weeks ago.


Or at least that’s what it probably said on the press release.


It was really just a publicity stunt to push for arming teachers instead of sensible gun control.


Parkland students have been rocking it holding demonstrations and speaking truth to power demanding that we keep them safe from future violence by banning assault rifles, mandatory background checks on all gun sales and other common sense measures favored by almost 70% of the nation.


DeVos took about five questions before walking out of her own press conference.


She didn’t meet with students – didn’t even try.


She was just there for a photo op.


Well, time’s up, Betsy.


The next generation isn’t putting up with your tone deaf water carrying. With your own family ties to mercenary soldiers for hire, it’s no surprise you’d be against gun control and in favor of firearms to chase away all the Grizzlies attacking our public schools.


It won’t stop the bloodshed but an increase in gun sales will boost your portfolio.


Arming teachers is one of the dumbest things on an agenda full of real whoppers from this absurd Presidential administration.


Teachers touting guns, shooting it out with armed terrorists – no. That’s not what a school should be, either.


So finally we get to the Bronx, where some dimwit who somehow became a principal told an English teacher not to teach a unit on the Harlem Renaissance.


You know, the Harlem Renaissance – Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington… Nobodies like them.


And if that’s not bad enough, she did it in February during Black History Month.


This number crunching pedant thought it was inappropriate because the teacher wasn’t in the social studies department.


This is what happens when you try to put education in a box with things like Common Core. Don’t teach background information, just look at every text divorced from everything else around it – the author’s personal history, what was happening in the world at the time or even how the reader responds to it.


Administrators like this need to take a seat and get out of teachers ways.


This kind of subtly racist micromanaging isn’t a part of what schools should be either.


Schools should be places where dedicated professionals are prized and valued. They’re given the autonomy to teach what they know is important and they make these decisions informed by the empiricism of what their students need.


Schools should be places without prejudice or racism. They should be cultural melting pots free from segregation and preconceived notions. They should be about academic freedom and the joy of learning.


I wish more people understood it.


Maybe then we could work to make our schools and our country more like the ideals of the overwhelming majority of the people living here.


Instead of continually letting the rich and privileged set the agenda.


Teaching is Hard Enough Without the Threat of Imminent Death




I am so sick of coming to school and having an impromptu meeting to discuss why my students and I might die today.




Every time there’s a major school shooting somewhere in the nation it seems a copycat makes a threat in my own backyard, and we react.


The police tell us it’s not a credible threat so school stays open.


However, be vigilant.


Be aware that our students know about the threat and will be talking about it.


We’ll bring in bomb-sniffing dogs…


But try to maintain calm and order.


There will be a lock down drill in a few days…


But try to make the kids feel safe and secure.


An older student violently attacked a classmate last week after threatening to go on a spree…


But attempt to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning.


To which, I say: are you freaking kidding me?


I know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.




There are certain basic necessities anyone must have in order to become a fully actualized person.


After physiological necessities like food and water, safety is absolutely fundamental.


Without it, you can’t get people to focus much on anything else.


You can’t get children to pay attention to nouns and verbs, for instance, if they’re afraid they’re going to be shot and killed.


You can’t get them to care about writing a complete sentence, if they feel like they may have to duck and cover at any moment.


You can’t get them to bother with abstract reading comprehension if they’re afraid of imminent death!


Oh, and by the way, I’m not exactly at my best either!


My lesson plans aren’t going to win any awards when the best solution our legislators can come up with is giving me a loaded pistol to keep in my desk drawer!


Well, Yippee Ki Yay! I’m a teacher! Pew! Pew!


My 7th grade students are literally frightened that going to school on any given day may lead to the end of their lives.


Every couple of weeks on the news it’s another school shooting and another body count, while lawmakers do nothing to ensure it won’t happen again tomorrow.


Every few days, it’s a rumor about this or that troubled kid we all know snapping and throwing a gun in his backpack. Or it’s an anonymous threat scrawled on a wall or a social media page.


Today it was teaching classes where half the kids were missing because their parents held them out of school afraid a vague rumor of imminent violence was true.


And as I tried to assure those who did show up that everything was okay, law enforcement checked the lockers with K-9 police dogs looking for weapons or drugs.


What the heck are we coming to?


I work in a police state and my students are being asked to learn in a penitentiary.


And the teachers should get guns.


And the principals should get guns.


And the parents should get guns.


And the guns should get little tinier guns to protect themselves from even more guns!


This is madness.


We’re begging for a political solution but our political system is a shambles. Nothing puts that in starker contrast than the gun debate.


The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun laws – an assault weapons ban, closing the gun show loophole, mental health screenings, etc.


If we lived in an authentic Democratic Republic, we’d have them. But we don’t, because we live in a plutocracy.


One industry has enough power and influence that the only solution our policymakers can safely suggest is one that increases that same industry’s bottom line.


It’s like Tony the Tiger suggesting the only cure for obesity is to eat more Frosted Flakes! They’re Ggggrrrreeeaaaattt!


A teacher’s job is hard enough without society crumbling all around us.


But that doesn’t mean the children aren’t learning.


They’re watching the world burn with wide eyes. They’re taking in every flame, every bullet hole, every cowardly senator, representative and chief executive.


They’re watching and taking names.



At the end of the year, policymakers will wag their fingers at the nation’s teachers about failing standardized test scores.


They’ll bemoan sinking academic standards, powerful labor unions and a lack of moral fiber as the cause of a generation of children who lost out on an education while cowering under bulletproof backpacks.


But this generation refuses to be lost.


Despite everything, they’ve left a trail of breadcrumbs back to sanity.


They are emotionally damaged by a country that no longer functions, but they know the truth.


They know who’s responsible. And they know what to do about it.


When they reject our society, we’ll know why.


Because the next generation will be nothing like us.


And on a day like today, that’s the most hopeful thought I can offer.


Go Ahead, SCOTUS. Rule Against Unions in Janus Case. You’ll Only Make Us Stronger





The corporate owned far right has been trying to destroy labor unions for decades.


But this time they may have finally overplayed their hand.


The upcoming Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case set for a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb 26 has been billed as the final nail in the coffin for public sector unions.


With the pitifully weak Democrats giving up President Obama’s pick for the bench in favor of Trump’s absurd choice, Neil Gorsuch, the court has a decidedly conservative bias.


So court watchers expect the latest challenge to collective bargaining rights to come out in favor of the corporations and billionaires who have spent truckloads of money to ensure the little guy has less of a say in the workplace.


BUT! They aren’t taking into account how stupid these far right shills truly are!


The case comes down to this: some people working in a union job don’t think they should have to pay union dues even though they benefit from the contract negotiated by their union. They affirm that being part of a union is political speech and thus they cannot be compelled to pay – yet somehow they should be able to keep all the benefits of being in a union, anyway.


So the union gets me a raise and better healthcare, but – even though none of my dues go to pay for political campaigns (that money is donated separately and voluntarily) – just being in a union is a political act.


If the court rules in favor of this position, unions would no longer be able to compel members to pay dues.


Pay them, don’t pay them – there’s nothing the union could do.


Conservatives are betting that if dues become voluntary on a person-by-person basis, at least a few members will opt out and thus weaken union finances and ability to collectively bargain for everyone.


But what they don’t seem to understand is that a decision like this would overturn decades of established law.


It would overturn mountains of legal decisions that provide the foundation for how our government works.


In short, how many times are we compelled to pay for things we don’t necessarily believe in?


Answer: every freakin’ day!


How much of my tax dollars go to the military? What if I don’t want my taxes used to pay for a bloated war machine?


How much of my hard earned money is wasted on corporate subsidies? What if I don’t want to prop up huge multinational businesses already making record profits?


How much of my money go to privatized schools? What if I’m against charter and voucher schools and want my taxes instead to fund fully public schools with elected boards, transparency and who have to accept all students regardless of ability?


If the court rules against unions, then I guess I won’t have to pay my taxes anymore – or at very least, I will have to be given the option of where my tax dollars go.


Not just SOME of my tax dollars – every single penny on a line-by-line basis for every single tax payer in the United States!


An Illinois based engineering union wrote in detail about exactly how such a ruling would change the landscape. Operating Engineers Local 150, wrote on their blog titled, “Union Busters Set Themselves Up for Janus Backfire”:



“If not bargaining is protected free speech, then bargaining will conversely be protected free speech, giving union workers new protections that we’ve never enjoyed before.  For example:

  1. Governor Scott Walker’s now infamous Act 10, the law that destroyed public sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin, will be declared an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech and association.


  1. Every state in America will now be subject to bargaining with their public sector employees, even if they didn’t previously.



  1. Local municipalities will be subject to numerous taxpayer lawsuits based upon forced contributions to lobbying groups.


  1. The municipal lobbying industry, currently an extremely large source of revenue for lobbyists, will be decimated as taxpayers now have a First Amendment right to demand their tax dollars are not used for lobbying or political advocacy.



  1. Public Sector pensions will be adversely affected as participants demand that their forced pension contributions are not used for corporate speech.


  1. Municipal advertising, tax increment financing, and all other types of tax breaks (think Foxxcon in Wisconsin) will be subject to litigation based upon taxpayers’ First Amendment rights to opt-out of this type of speech. The same burdensome calculations that are currently leveled only upon unions would become widespread.”


Shaun Richman, a former organizing director for the American Federation of Teachers, agrees.


In an article for In These Times called “How A Supreme Court Decision to Gut Public Sector Unions Could Backfire,” he writes:



“The ruling could both wildly increase workers’ bargaining power and clog the lower courts with First Amendment challenges to routine uses of taxpayer money. At a minimum, it has the potential to turn every public sector workplace dispute into a constitutional controversy…”



Frankly, this is kind of exciting.


In trying to stifle workers’ free speech, conservatives may unravel the statutes that have muzzled us for years.


A decision against unions by the Supreme Court would open the way for thousands of cases throughout the court system – challenge after challenge. Certainly conservative justices would try to staunch the tide, but they simply couldn’t stop every case – especially after such a dangerous precedent has been set!


The SCOTUS would be unleashing chaos on the justice system, and I, for one, hope that every workers union takes advantage of it.


Every individual across the political spectrum should file suit against whichever political peccadillo they want. Evangelicals can file against public schools using their tax dollars to teach evolution. Libertarians could file against having a standing army. Liberals could file against oil pipelines.


And on and on and on.


Meanwhile, those workers unions that conservatives are hoping will be destroyed will be just fine.


You think workers won’t pay their union dues? Some might try, but doing so will have immense personal ramifications. At very least, it will make those individuals social pariahs. Who wants to associate with someone who thinks they should get all the benefits without paying like everyone else?


Moreover, I don’t advocate violence against anyone, but stiffing your co-workers on your union dues is a sure fire way to get slashed tires. Do you put your lunch in a communal fridge? I wouldn’t eat that after word gets out you’re a free rider. Not unless you like to share your co-worker’s saliva.


Again, I’m not advocating for any of that, but it’s just the way humans behave. We don’t like paying for any other able-bodied person whose “political” decision puts our lives and livelihoods in jeopardy.


The end result of a ruling against unions would forever put collective bargaining rights firmly under the protection of the First Amendment.


It would protect all speech – including union rights.


So I say, go ahead, SCOTUS, make our day!


Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes



You’re Puerto Rico’s school system.


More than five months since a devastating hurricane hit the island’s shores, some 270 schools are still without power.


Roughly 25,000 students are leaving with that number expected to swell to 54,000 in four years. And that’s after an 11-year recession already sent 78,000 students  seeking refuge elsewhere.


So what do you do to stop the flow of refugees fleeing the island? What do you do to fix your storm damaged schools? What do you do to ensure all your precious children are safe and have the opportunity to learn?


If you’re Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello, you sell off your entire system of public education.


After an economic history of being pillaged and raped by corporate vultures from the mainland, Rossello is suggesting the U.S. Territory offer itself for another round of abuse.


He wants to close 300 more schools and change the majority of those remaining into charter and voucher schools.


That means no elected school boards.


That means no public meetings determining how these schools are run.


It means no transparency in terms of how the money is spent.


It means public funding can become private profit.


And it means fewer choices for children who will have to apply at schools all over the island and hope one accepts them. Unlike public schools, charter and voucher schools pick and choose whom to enroll.


Make no mistake. This has nothing to do with serving the needs of children. It is about selling off public property because it belongs to poor, brown people.


Something similar happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.


A district that served mostly black and poor children was swiped by private interests and turned almost exclusively into charter schools.


The results have been an abysmal academic record, the loss of black teachers, black neighborhoods, cultural heritage and in its place support for a status quo that just doesn’t care to provide the proper resources to students of color.


If the Governor and his wealthy backers have their way, Puerto Rico will be yet another ghettoized colony gobbled up by industry.


However, the people aren’t going to let this happen without a fight.


Mercedes Martinez, President of the Federacion de Maestros of Puerto Rico, an island teacher’s union, released the following statement:


“Dear comrades in the diaspora, now more than ever we need your unconditional solidarity.


Governor Roselló just announced his plan to shut down 307 schools, implement charter schools and vouchers. Disaster capitalism at its best. Added to the announcement of the privatization of PREPA. [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority]


The way to victory is already paved, organized and militant resistance, concrete proposals to improve the public goods that we have, unity and organization. Be our voice in the states and let the world know that corporate reformers want to make PR the next New Orleans as they did after Katrina.


The hurricane has been the perfect storm and excuse for them to advance their plans. Today the so called “educational reform” will be sent to the legislature.


We will give the hardest fight of our lives, and we will triumph. Send letters and videos of support with our struggle. Teachers United, will never be defeated!


Lucha sí”


I don’t know about you, but I stand with these brave teachers, parents and their students.


I may live in Pennsylvania, my skin may be white, but I do not support the theft of Puerto Rico’s schools.


These children have just as much right as mine to a free and appropriate education. Their parents deserve the right to control their districts. They deserve transparency and self-rule.


They deserve the choice to guide their own destinies.


Teachers’ opposition to the move comes even though the Governor is proposing a $1,500 raise for all educators. Martinez says it could come to a general strike.


Their cause has hope on its side – especially in blocking the proposed school vouchers.


The Governor’s voucher proposal wouldn’t go into effect until the 2019-20 school year. However, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court struck down a similar program in 1994 when the current governor’s father, Pedro Rossello – himself a former governor – tried to push it through. The court ruled the island’s constitution forbids public money being used to fund privately run schools.


From this day forward, let us always remember what they did to New Orleans. Let us remember what they are trying to do to Puerto Rico.


Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.


But somehow that never happens.


These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.


While the rest of our public schools are celebrating Black History Month, the children of Puerto Rico are reliving the struggle for their civil rights.


They are still the victims of colonization and brutality.


But they are not alone.


I stand with the people of Puerto Rico.


Will you stand, too?


Will you speak out for Puerto Rico?

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!



Rick Saccone Hopes to Become Trump’s New Bobble Head in Western Pennsylvania


Rick Saccone hard at work for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

Rick Saccone’s signature achievement in the Pennsylvania House was to get “In God We Trust” posted in every public school.


Actually, he didn’t even get that.


He wrote a successful bill that merely allowed public schools to post that – if they wanted.


To my knowledge not a single school in the Commonwealth has taken him up on it.


His second greatest hit was to authorize a state day of fasting.


I’m not kidding. And it’s all down hill from there.


Now he’s running for U.S. Senate!


Oh. Wait. His fundraising was terrible.


Excuse me. He’s running for U.S. House – because that’s an easier win!


Whatever. So long as he can get to Washington, DC. He’s had enough of this small potatoes Pennsylvania politics – even though he’s one of the smallest potatoes in the patch.


If you know what I mean.


He’s running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election to be held March 13 to fill Republican Tim Murphy’s seat.


You may recall Murphy. He made his name voting for anti-abortion legislation until his alleged mistress got pregnant and then he allegedly pushed for her to abort their love child.


You know. Family values stuff.


Is Saccone up to that level of hypocrisy?


Donald Trump thinks he is.


The least popular President in U.S. history with only a year under his bulging golf shorts thinks Saccone is his kind of guy.


Trump even came to western Pennsylvania to support Saccone tweeting:

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“Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!”


Of course, Trump immediately had to walk back this comment because his trip to the keystone state was being paid for with public tax dollars. He had to say that it was an official White House event and not (as he indicated in the tweet) that it was a campaign event.


You know, for once I agree with Trump.


Rick Saccone IS Trump’s kind of guy.


He has lots of experience as a Yes Man. That’s really all he’s done in Harrisburg.


We used to have our own version of Trump – a Republican Governor who had no idea how to do his job – Tom Corbett.


Of course, Corbett’s reign was short lived. Like the President, his popularity plummeted and he was voted out of office like yesterday’s garbage.


But he had his loyal bobble head Saccone backing him every step of the way.


In fact, he voted for Corbett’s initiatives 95% of the time giving him the nickname of Corbett’s “Mini-me.”


Even when Corbett proposed something deeply unpopular, like cutting almost $1 billion from the state’s poorest public schools, Saccone went out there to explain why our children, our future, just weren’t worth the investment.


The Swamp recognizes Saccone as one of their own.


That’s why big moneyed interests are pouring cash on the sycophantic lawmaker. That and the fact that the district in question went for Trump in the last election by 20 points.


The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent at least $1 million on ads for broadcast and cable TV stations to boost Saccone’s candidacy.


And that’s not all.


Congressional Leadership Fund has put aside at least $1.6 million for ads, not to mention funding from outsiders like the 45Committee and Ending Spending – a group founded by the mega-donor Ricketts family.


All this money just to serve out the remainder of Murphy’s term!


Whoever wins would be up for re-election in November to secure a full two-year term.


Moreover, now that the state Supreme Court has overturned the Commonwealth’s gerrymandered districts that unfairly favor Republicans, that November race is likely to include newly drawn legislative lines.


So this GOP wonderland that boosted Trump and Mitt Romney in 2012 will likely become more competitive.


In fact, it may already be.

Saccone disrespecting the flag by wearing it as a shirt.

Some polls have Saccone up over Lamb by only a 3 point lead. This may be in part because of Trump’s steadily deflating support – even among Republicans. The President’s approval rating in the district has dropped to 49 percent – not far from the national picture where 47 percent disapprove of his job performance.


This is not good news for Saccone.


The SuperPACS supporting him are trying to paint Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, as a Nancy Pelosi puppet.


But Lamb has repeatedly criticized Pelosi, telling The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he would not support Pelosi as the Democratic leader. There is a “need [for] new leadership on both sides,” Lamb said.


Yet Saccone has done everything in his power to suck up to Trump.


Taking his cue from the Commander in Chief, Saccone took to twitter to express his feelings:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 4.27.01 PM

“I’m humbled that @realDonaldTrump for President, Inc, has officially endorsed my campaign for Congress!”


I’m not sure why he wrote “President, Inc.”


Perhaps Saccone thinks the office belongs to a private company.


Perhaps he doesn’t understand that a politician’s job is to serve the needs of his or her constituents.


Judging by his less than stellar performance in state government, this would seem to be the case.


He’s come a long way from earnestly trying to legislate past the establishment clause of the first amendment to fighting to starve our schools to running for a position as Trump’s favorite puppet.


Or not.


That depends on voters this March.


Full Disclosure: I am not a Saccone fan. Along with teachers, parents and students from across western Pennsylvania, I’ve picketed outside of his offices demanding he do his job and provide for students. He was deaf to our cries. Do you hear me now, Rick?