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Re: "Sue the b_____!" Are you sure?



George,

I understand and agree that going to court is an uphill battle, but in the
haystack of defeats is the needle of victory. Should we stop searching for
the needle? Perhaps... However, when I read about the landmark decision
shared by George Sheridan and the injuction stopping the California exit
exams, I am renewed again.

There is no doubt that going to court without money is like starting a race
with a full ballast. There is no doubt that you are being screwed by the
Chicago machinery. In the long run, you will win. I do not know what form
that victory will take. You may even be psychologically and financially
tortured on the journey. But, George you will win. Perhaps not in the
courts this time (I think you will prevail), but you will win.

If the point is that given financial and human resources which road should
we travel, the courts or other forms of protest, then answer is not so
simple. In NY we have a firm suing SED pro bono. If we had to pay, would
we do it? Don't know. The court is another avenue to keep the issue
burning.

Bill
----- Original Message -----
From: "George N. Schmidt" <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
To: <ARN-L@listsrva.CUA.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2002 6:04 AM
Subject: "Sue the b_____!" Are you sure?


> In a message dated 2/20/02 9:20:48 PM, gkc@LOUISVILLE.EDU writes:
>
> << The courts give great deference to
>
> school districts and state agencies in their choice of methodologies,
>
> particularly to the extent that educational officials believe that what
they
>
> are doing is best for students. And they do believe this, I can assure
you.
> >>
>
> February 23, 2002
>
> I'm sorry for breaking my silence and mourning, but let's not mislead
people
> about the value of going to court to achieve justice in our struggle for
> democratic and decent public schools.
>
> To second George Cunningham and put it another way:
>
> Don't waste your time and money. The other side holds all the cards when
you
> sit down to play their game in their courts.
>
> A dozen metaphors I could think of would all try to convey the same thing.
If
> you have to go to court, be as efficient as possible, work as quickly as
you
> can, and never give your allies the notion that your main strategy is to
> "win" in court. When we are forced into court, we owe it to ourselves and
w
> hat we represent to do the best job we can. But we can do that without
> promoting the illusion that the courts are the place to seek justice in
this
> nation today.
>
> Every few months here on ARN, we have to return to this set of facts. This
> tells me that a lot of people were brought up to have faith in the court
> system, despite the facts of history and what anyone who wants to spend a
> little time in court can learn. The most basic fact is that those of great
> wealth and great power (usually, the two are one and the same) can afford
the
> lawyers and the resources to "win" no matter what the fact and the law.
The
> poor lose before they even get to court. Those of us in the middle
sometimes
> have illusions that the poorest teenager on Chicago's south side knows to
be
> false and ugly.
>
> Our adversaries are much more powerful in the courts than we are.
>
> Our adversaries don't care about the facts and the law. They will make up
> facts, buy them, do whatever they need to do to "win."
>
> Our adversaries are weakest in politics -- if the facts can get out
through
> the din of corporate (and governmental, and foundation-supported, and
> university-touted) Testocratic propaganda. Better to organize politically
> than to respond legalistically.
>
> They have the dollars.
>
> We have the numbers.
>
> But our numbers are nothing if we are not organized and intelligent about
how
> we handle our organizations.
>
> Anyone who intends to believe that our side can "Sue the Bast---s!" and
win
> at this point in history is asking for trouble.
>
> Here in Chicago, we have been facing the need to use the courts (and
various
> agencies, where lawyers have to do much of the work). Tens of millions of
> dollars have been spent since the Testocratic coup d'etat that turned
> Chicago's public schools over to the Business Roundtable and their allies
in
> 1995.
>
> -- Substance is defending against a $1.3 million "copyright infringement"
> lawsuit filed by the Chicago school board. To date, our side has been
forced
> to spend more than $100,000. The other side has poured more than a half
> million dollars (paid for by our taxes) into that one set of legal cases
(our
> main case is in federal court; my termination is in state court). We're
back
> in court Wednesday, February 27, 2002, at 2:00 p.m. That is 37 months
after
> the case began when the Chicago school board sued us on January 26, 1999.
> Even with the fact that the new copyright case before the U.S. Supreme
Court
> (the Mickey Mouse case), most people still don't understand that copyright
> law was not put into the U.S. Constitution to make Bill Gates the world's
> richest man or to give Chicago's Paul Vallas a way of creating military
style
> secrecy over dumb government documents (in this case, the Chicago CASE
> tests). We've got the facts, the law, and justice on our side and always
have
> had those things. Over time, we've also organized thousands of people
around
> these issues. But it sure hasn't been because the courts are the place to
be.
>
> Substance is not the only group that's been forced into the courts (and
> quasi-courts) since the Testocracy and its propagandists took over public
> education in Chicago in 1995:
>
> -- PURE filed a major complaint with the Office for Civil Rights regarding
> the discriminatory impact of the use of the ITBS as the "promotion
standard."
> I don't know the costs of that one, but it's still wandering around.
Despite
> all PUREs work, thousands of kids have been destroyed by Chicago's testing
> program since 1996 when the first "graduation standards" were forced on
> people.
>
> -- The Chicago Teachers Union sued in federal court to stop the
"termination
> under honorable conditions" of 137 tenured teachers -- and lost at both
the
> district court and at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Union
spent
> more than $200,000 on that litigation, and the Board of Education spent
more
> than $750,000 for the outside law firm of Jenner and Block (that friend of
> the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party and of the working man and woman)
to
> beat us and overturn tenure rights.
>
> [I know. I know. I know.... Someone out there has a book about "Teachers'
> Rights" and that book says tenured teachers can't be fired except for
extreme
> cause -- like abuse or conviction for a felony. You're wrong. That book's
> wrong. I can give you the names of a dozen tenured Chicago public school
> teachers I know personally who have been fired if you don't believe me and
> want to call them. Or you can go to the federal court docket and read the
> "Shegog" case file, if you don't believe me, and them. Or you can just
> believe that damned book that says we've got tenure rights. We don't. They
> were taken away. The courts upheld the taking away. Story over.]
>
> -- More than a dozen Chicago principals and teachers have sued -- and
won!!
> -- major cases, after being dragged through the courts (and, often, the
> appeals courts) since the Vallas administration was appointed to head
> Chicago's public schools by the most powerful mayor in the Democratic
Party
> in 1995. Most of the victors would tell you their lives and dollars would
> have been better spent doing their jobs than suing to correct the
injustices
> that we done to them.
>
> Litigation at this point in history is fighting on the other side's
terrain,
> by their rules, using weapons of their choice, in a war of attrition where
> they have more resources. We might win some battles from time to time, but
we
> won't win this war there.
>
> One well-placed petition signed by thousands of people is, in my opinion,
> worth more than the most eloquent (and expensive) legal briefs.
>
> (And if you wish -- and send us a self-addressed stamped ($1.20) 9 x 12
inch
> envelope -- I'll send you the November Substance. That issue has as
eloquent
> a statement of our position -- and defense of the First Amendment in the
> current situation regarding testing -- as has yet been written. For all of
> its eloquence, it was flicked off by U.S. District Judge John Darrah in
less
> than 60 seconds. He ignored it like he was flicking a booger off a baby's
> nose...).
>
> If we have to use lawyers and courts (as we certainly do at Substance,
since
> we're the ones being sued and I was the one who was fired from a teaching
job
> for publishing a newspaper -- on my second job!), at least let's not have
any
> illusions about getting "justice" that way.
>
> Please, let's not teach our children and one another that the courts, at
this
> point in history, are the best place to seek and find justice on the
issues
> we hold dearest here.
>
> People with power in this country today use the courts to control and
funnel
> dissent, with the lawyers coming out ahead no matter who "wins." If they
can
> get you away from the protests, board meetings, petitions, and streets,
they
> have done their job. By the time your "case" is resolved, in a decade or
two,
> your protest is lost. That strategy was first used against the labor
unions
> beginning under Reagan and has been successfully applied to other mass
> movements since. Lawyers, be they "Democratic" or "Republican", do what
they
> do best, but doing that means not doing other things. Limited resources
and
> all that.
>
> Am I saying don't go to court? No. We'll be back in court -- with dozens
of
> friends -- Wednesday afternoon. What I'm trying to say is that we
shouldn't
> spread the illusion that we will win our most decisive battles in the
courts.
>
> I would suggest that the history of the United States shows that on key
> issues, if you try to use the courts to "win" you're as likely to get Dred
> Scott (or Plessy versus Ferguson as you are to get Brown v. Board of
> Education. The courts of this country have rarely defended the rights of
the
> poor and the disenfranchised. Walk into a federal court in Chicago and
just
> tally up an estimated cost of the shoes on the feet of the lawyers and
judges
> and you can get a good index of the social class of the people who are
> comfortable in the courts. In fact, if you walk into a federal courtroom
here
> in Chicago wearing teacher clothes it's obvious you're not part of the
club
> that's running things from the other side of the railing that separates
the
> elect from the proles.
>
> Every dollar we are forced to spend on our court cases is a dollar we are
not
> spending on more important things.
>
> Our lawyers are devoted and hard working. But the expense in time and
money
> for litigation is simply not worth it unless you are forced there and have
no
> alternative.
>
> To repeat:
>
> Please don't spread the illusory hope that the victories people long for
here
> will come with the right lawyers and the right set of arguments in the
right
> case before the right court at this point in history.
>
> Didn't we learn anything from the 2000 presidential election and the role
of
> the most powerful temporal court on earth in that power struggle?
>
> George N. Schmidt
> Editor, Substance
> 5132 W. Berteau
> Chicago, IL 60641
>
> 773-725-7502
>
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