Why the Badass Teachers Association Has Taken Off
By Mark Naison
Monday, June 17, 2013
Over the last few years, I have founded or helped found several Facebook groups engaged in education activism and protests against corporate control of public education and the test driven policies it has inspired. I helped create “Dump Duncan” and “Occupy Teach for America,” the first two years ago, the second six months ago and each have been dynamic and successful in promoting conversation and activism
But nothing can compare to what has happened with a group I helped found with an activist from the midwest, Priscilla Sanstead, called “The Badass Teachers Association.” Within one day, the group had grown to about 270 members, and then, through a recruiting contest we organized on the recommendation of a Long Island teacher, Marla Massey Kilfoyle, shot up to over 1,500 members between 4 PM and midnight on Sunday!
The surge of energy that accompanied this meteoric rise in membership is like nothing I had experienced before in Facebook activism. And it requires some explanation. What did a group with a half-humorous, and extremely provocative name, create such excitement among teachers all over the nation.
The key may lie in the statement we wrote describing our reason for creating the group:
“This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning”
At a time when high stakes testing and attacks on teacher autonomy have become official policy of both major parties, supported by the wealthiest people in the nation, and cheered on by the media, teachers may have reached a tipping point regarding the campaign of demonization directed against them, and the micromanagement of their classroom lives, especially because leaders of teachers unions- who have accepted funds from groups like the Gates Foundation who support test driven teacher evaluation- have not fought back effectively against these efforts.
Never have teachers felt more embattled, and never have they felt more alone. Many are contemplating retirement, more are under doctors care for stress and anxiety, all fear retaliation for speaking their mind about what is happening in their districts, their schools, and their classrooms.
Now all of a sudden, a group appears, which symbolically and metaphorically, allows teachers to say “We’ve had enough. We are not your doormats. We are not your punching bags. We are some of the hardest working, most idealistic people in this country and we are not going to take it anymore. We are going to stand up for ourselves, and stand up for our students even if no organization really supports us. We are Badass. We are legion. And we will force the nation to hear our voice!
In terms of what policies or organizing strategies will emerge from this group, only time will tell. But it is significant that there are clearly thousands of teachers in this country who are fed up with polite, respectful appeals to policy makers who hold them in contempt and are ready to fight fire with fire.
In claiming the label “Badass” with pride, they are announcing a new spirit of resistance, which combined with similar movements among students and parents, could end up giving Corporate School Reformers much more than they bargained for.