Getting fifty signatures to qualify New Business Item 11 for a vote by the NEA Representative Assembly was slow going at first. (The text of NBI 11, calling for a 48-hour nationwide strike for full funding of public education at corporate expense, is in the previous post.)
When I passed the form for the NBI down the row at our early-morning meeting of the California delegation, most looked at the proposal and passed it on to the next person. After getting a “critical mass” (20 or so) signatures, mostly by talking with people one-on-one about it, the signatures came much more easily. That was interesting in itself. One reason many people initially dismiss the idea of an unprecedented mass action such as this is the assumption that nobody else will support it, so it seems ridiculous.
In fact, author Michael Eric Dyson pointed precisely to that fear, when I asked what he thought about this proposal. He was part of a panel speaking at an NEA forum one day before the Representative Assembly began. I asked what he would say to teachers reluctant to support this proposal. Here is what he said:
People would say “how ridiculous that is for teachers”—I think that’s a beautiful idea…Martin Luther King Jr. for the march on Washington, the second time that he didn’t live long enough to see, told poor people “come to Washington…shut down the arteries of Washington D.C. and make the nation pay attention to you, because the government doesn’t understand anything other than dysfunction in its own operation for you to pay attention.”
I think it would be extraordinary!…If teachers would say “We are tired of both people from the grassroots not understanding our problem and the President and the Congress and the Secretary of Education not understanding it, we take it so seriously we’re walking out. What will you do to match our effort?”
Next: California Caucus Says No