Excerpts from Dr. Yohuru Williams BATs Teacher Congress Speech, “The Heart of the Swarm,” delivered Saturday July 24, 2015. This is a shortened version of Dr. Williams’s remarks during the BAT’S Congress on Saturday.
Welcome Back to DC Bats! A little less than a year ago today, we marched on the Department of Education to deliver a simple message. Restore our schools. We pledged then that we would not stop fighting until we had achieved our goal of the restoration of public education and re-centering of its focus back on children. We explained to the world then . . .and remind all today . . . that BATs privilege three things: people over profits, parity of charity and choice over chance.
We return today for phase two moving forward with a plan to reclaim our educational system from the forces of politics and enterprise who continue to endanger them.
This danger takes many forms. An education secretary, for example, with neither the credentials nor the political will to understand the necessity of public education. A mighty cabal of corporate interests pushing a program of high stakes testing and privatization that seeks to drain every penny from the public coffers. A host of unethical politicians and so-called community leaders who have swallowed the corporate education Kool Aide echo them in their claims that that our schools are failing and beyond hope. Add to this, fake grass roots organizations like Students First funded by the moneyed interests that promote their anti-union, anti-local control program under the guise of public service. Claiming their work to be the great civil rights issue of our time, they forge ahead administering one death-dealing blow after another to public education assisted by panoply of petty bureaucrats and civil servants without the knowledge or power to challenge them.
Last year we came to plead our case. This year we come to draft and mobilize behind a national platform, which we will decide . . . that that will allow us to fight as a unified force for restorative justice in reclaiming public education.
We recognize that there are rough waters ahead and we fight against a national narrative of failure informed by racism and poverty— however we will not back down.
We come today prepared to roll up our sleeves, hammer out our differences and begin mobilizing on a scale the likes of which have not been seen in the United States for decades. Welcome to the BATS Congress!
I feel a little like I am preaching to the choir this morning, but sometimes even the choir needs to be reminded why we sing. Our voices matter because we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
A snapshot of the past six months, in this regard is instructive. Indulge me if you will for just a few moments to show you how. Despite a national opt-out movement, and on the ground actions by groups such as the Movement of Radical Educators, the Caucus of Working Educators, the Newark Student Union, United Opt Out and of course the BATS, the pied pipers of corporate education reform continue to push their poison penned legislation. They would have the effect of turning the nation into the charter barter tragedy that is the state of public education in the city of New Orleans today, unregulated, hyper-segregated, economically deflated, and politically negated.
They continue, nevertheless, to undermine democratic practice, flaunting their poor grasp of history and their lack of vision; attacking the very agents who are an essential line of defense for our youth, teachers, and schools.
. . .
We are going to be clear, our schools are not for sale, and we are not interested in your Cartoon Education Reform. Stop turning public education into a mockery with your corporatizing crockery.
I recognize that they have cut instructional time for literature in our schools so it may feel for some like “Apocalypse Now” but I would remind you as my literature teachers would that “The Sun Also Rises.” Today over Morningside Washington, we rise with the sun with a powerful message for those who are in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of history.
So I would like to, in conclusion. read to you from the Gospel of Bats A farewell to Arms: The BATs version.
Attention enemies of public education, time for you to go on a permanent vacation. Today you may smile and laugh with scorn. But do not be surprised in the next few months if you find yourself in the heart of the swarm.
. . .
The Bats are going to play TSA for TFA.
Because when we recognize, in your lack of training, a detriment to youth, we cannot hold back, we must tell you the truth.
We appreciate the deception but numbers don’t lie.
It was clear. so clear, you weren’t ready to fly.
So we show you the door, but don’t you despair, for I’m sure now that you’re jobless Ms. Rhee will be there.
And when she runs in the other direction clutching her purse, scream to her “But Michelle you said students first!” ask her to explain where is your piece of the pie and while you’re at it for BATs please tell her “Bye Bye.”
For nearly eight years Mr. Duncan, the balls been in your court.
But it is obvious to all, leadership wasn’t your sport.
Your reign is now ending in thunderous despair.
You hear a crack from the heavens and you wonder “Whose there?” You reach for your binder and swing; ‘swat swat’.
It’s a shame you didn’t play baseball, or you would know all about BATs.
BATs fly by radar; we see with mind, how you have left our children and schools in a bind.
When down in a block we descend from the sky, to show you the door and tell you “Bye Bye!”
Bill and Melinda Gates your intentions so clear, trading the humanities for technology is all you hold dear.
We can teach without your I Pad and you may wonder why because the center of everything you do begins with I, I, I.
But we are the people and we will decide what is best for our children and as an aside when we show you the door and free money, you cry . . . We will do our best Backstreet boys impression and tell you Bye, Bye, Bye.
Corporate Education Reform lackeys too numerous to name, from small town America to Greece, Russia and Spain.
Your diabolical plans to drive our schools in a hearse was diagnosed and exposed by a public school nurse.
She took your temperature and grimly informed our nation has the Germ . . . Global Education Reform.
I suppose this is why you cut our school nursing jobs first, then libraries, athletics, music and verse.
But if you stay real quiet you can hear the beat of our drum for
we shall overcome…
We will restore our schools, so be forewarned, that truth and justice are at the heart of this swarm.
Our democracy is too important.
We can’t allow it to crash and that . . .you see . . . is why they call us badass!
For we will stand for the littles and fight for the truth, perish for principle in defense of our youth, do all in power to put the wrongs to end.
So BATs roll up your wings let the Congress begin!