- Subject: Button Mysteries
- From: "George N. Schmidt" <Csubstance@AOL.COM>
- Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 05:50:32 EST
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
In a message dated 3/14/01 12:11:02 PM, Jedoyon@AOL.COM writes:
<< I know a teacher who gains strength to go
on by wearing one under her vest to school everyday. So, whereas some aren't
the best for those reading them, they can give power to those wearing them. >>
Amen to that.
In Chicago's schools, where today it is a crime for teachers to think
critically of the lies of those in power, even wearing a button under a vest
has that kind of meaning Juanita talks about here.
In 1983, when Harold Washington ran as the first viable African American
candidate for mayor of this city, things got very tense and ugly. While it
was possible to wear a three inch "Teachers for Washington" button in an
inner city school, in the predominantly white schools in working class and
middle class areas, things were more complex.
The trade mark Harold Washington button was a blue sunburst. I wore it every
day at Steinmetz High School. At that time, Steinmetz was just coming off a
decade when integration (i.e., the arrival of the first black kids beginning
in 1970) meant an annual race riot or two. (The one I was in the middle of in
the 1970s took place on both ends of the Christmas vacation 1975-76; the year
(1974-75) before, the race riot had taken place in early October after a
black girl was nominated for Homecoming Queen...).
My being a white guy and wearing that button confused a lot of the white kids
and white teachers. In the lunchroom (where I always had a lot of friends and
was on the union's elected professional problems committee), I would find my
(white) friends staring at my lapel. I started initiating the button
conversation by saying something like, "Now I know how a woman must feel on a
warm day. Are you staring at my boobs or do you want to talk about the
One day, my button provoked a nasty response. I came out of work and found my
car plastered with "Epton for Mayor" stickers. (Epton was the white
candidate, a Republican nonentity who suddenly became the Great White Hope
when Harold won the Democratic nomination.) After cleaning up the mess
(that's a hard one, as many people know, in the days before "GOOP Off"), I
got the identity of the young man who did the deed and persuaded him rather
dramatically to apologize publicly and atone for his sins.
Context is nearly everything in politics, even with button wearing. I'm sure
that "Erase the CASE" buttons will be popular at NCTE and AERA. But I wonder
how many teachers will be wearing them in Chicago schools this spring when
Paul Vallas or our mayor visits their school. My opinion of teachers who
promote causes like "justice" and "equality" everyplace but their own schools
is widely known.
Those who remember the days when Hollywood now and then made a movie about
unions without parody (or praising scabs, as in "The Replacements") will
remember that one word had a lot of power -- and required a great deal of
risk to say -- when Sally Fields portrayed "Norma Ray."
As one old time union person taught me early, the most powerful word in our
vocabulary -- the vocabulary of the powerless who have to organize and
cooperate to get anything -- is sometimes simply "No."
5132 W Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641
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