Why Do This?
The initial call for teach-ins contains a brief and cogent set of "Why's"
to do this which we hope you will review, critically. Here is the link:
We believe the outlook of a teach-in against the dramatic rise of high-stakes
standardized tests should adopt the overall outlook that is within two
Rouge Forum documents, the petition against the tests linked here: http://www.rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/petition
and the statement of purpose from the Rouge Forum, linked here: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/rouge_forum/
Taken together, these brief documents represent a determination to organize
a caring community within a society that is growing more inequitable and
Specifically, our outlook is critical of the processes of capital (as
in profits over people) which underlie the current attacks on education
(including testing, vouchers, school takeovers, and assaults on special
education), acutely aware of the racist nature of capital and the current
maneuvers in schools, critical of existing divisive education reform organizations
like the NEA and the AFT , democratic (relying less on charismatic leaders
and more on organic leaders) , more interested in collective conversations
than great speeches and presentations, tending toward collective direct
action at the work place and in the communities (petitions, boycotts, strikes,
sit-ins, etc) rather than alienated activity like lobbying.
We recognize that in this era, social justice demands organization.
The organization we seek to build is the Rouge Forum within the Whole Schooling
Consortium. We adopt the principles of the Whole Schooling Consortium linked
We are willing to work in coalition with other groups around questions
of mutual interest, but we are not willing to submerge our principles to
accomplish that. In each case, we are clear that our intention is to build
a new kind of organization, inclusive, anti-racist, action-oriented, that
encompasses parents, students, community people, and school workers that
understands that the employing class and the working class have little
in common but opposition. We know we must combine reason and strength,
rationalism and organization, because at the end of the day power only
bends to more power. We will struggle for our ideas about democracy, equality,
and inclusion, which also means we will criticize the social system in
tandem with the tests, because we believe that to fail to do so only recreates
oppression in new ways.
How Can We Build a Local Teach-in?
The process of organizing a teach-in should be seen as a process which
will also build a continuing organization, not a momentary flare-up. So,
part of that process is to work with other people over time in making authentic
decisions about what the group will do. Here are some suggestions, but
we expect that many local groups will be far more imaginative than we are
1. Organize a Rouge Forum Teach-in Committee. Our experience is that
we need to remind people that in today's society, real friendship is a
radical idea and that comradery is often more important than being correct,
recognizing that any group is going to have differences. A good start for
a committee could be two people, or ten. Set a date for the first meeting
and start inviting people.
2. At the First Meeting: be sure everyone has a chance to talk and to address the issue at hand from their own angle. A lot can be learned by this listening.
Discuss the "Why's" and the outlook described above for the teach-in until people are comfortable. It is valuable to discuss the power relations in your area (who owns, who does not, who is on the school board and who owns them, etc). Careful analyses of current conditions are vital.
Then consider a date and a site. Your choice of dates will probably determine whether the teach-in should be inside or outside in your area.
Campuses are great for teach-ins, but so is any public school, library, or other public venue. Campuses often have "free speech" areas set aside for use and administrators may insist that you schedule your teach-in around the availibility of that spot. You do not have to do that. All of any campus that is open space should be available for the teach-in. Choose a place that is best for you. You do not need permission to use open campus space, tho as a courtesy you may want to advise people of your intentions.
Take minutes-or tape. There is no reason to believe you are not forging history.
3. Someone needs to be responsible for pr to send to school workers, community people, parents, and students. If you wish, we can place your information on the Rouge Forum www site, with your own link. Urge people to save the date right away.
4. Visualize the day
What activities do you plan? Can you link some participatory theater, songs, music, or a parade (surely not a demonstration) to the day?
Discuss speakers, and consider how they might be more than spectacles, but conversations starters. How can a mass of people, in big groups and small, make sure everyone has a chance to contribute.
Discuss how you will win people to attending, emphasizing the role of each attendee.
Make a list of press contacts, but be sure you have other contacts as well. There is no reason to rely on the mainstream press which is, for the most part, going to follow the dictates of dollars over information as the recent resignation of the editor of the San Jose Mercury shows.
Set a regular meeting date for the committee.
Take a look at the check list that follows.
Remember that every state has a freedom of information act that can
be very useful. For example, most school systems have email lists for the
entire staff. Those lists are available under the FOIA.
And, paper does not organize people. People organize people.
A Checklist For Your Teach-in
Good luck on your work. Please send criticism
of our packets to Rgibson@pipeline.com