In the discussion over the IEA, the IFT and the AFSCME endorsement of ALEC’s Kirk Dillard, what has emerged is not so much the issue of who we should vote for.
It’s also about the right to dissent from arbitrary, top-down decisions by the union leadership. And their vision of what our unions stand for.
What seems to upset former IEA Presidents Haisman and Swanson is not so much the substance of the opposition to the decision to endorse, but rather that our voices are loud and that we create dissension.
Shouldn’t a union member’s voice be loud? And what frightens them about democratic debate and dissent?
In a democracy, there must be dialogue, for “[the] silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility” (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty).
This revival of absolutism today forecloses the right to be heard and exiles truth from being openly examined. Moreover, it extinguishes critical thinking and the understanding of the relationship among ideas and matters of fact. In regard to making an informed decision that affects the entire membership of an association, for instance, the closest we can arrive at an acceptable course of action before an endorsement of a candidate or the sponsoring of a bill is by considering the counterarguments that are presented.
The following e-mail was sent to Ken Swanson in April 2011. It was not about endorsing a political candidate. It was about sponsoring a possible despotic bill and the dissension among its members:
Your response to my e-mail is precisely the reason why we need to know what IEA is doing for its membership! How can I give you “credit” when IEA does not communicate important information to both retired and active teachers? You believe, and the small clandestine group that advises you, that your “engagement” with Stand for Children most likely “prevented some of the more radical changes” Advance Illinois and “Performance Counts” would attempt to mandate. Nonetheless, Robin Steans said in Naperville last Monday that legislation was going forward today anyway.
Do you know how many teachers walked out of last Monday’s Naperville board meeting feeling both confused and betrayed by Jim Reed when he sat quietly acquiescing while Steans’ revealed her bulldozer tactics? We were blind-sided and left the meeting apprehensive.
Your defensiveness about my so-called “uninformed criticism” about this situation is both condescending and authoritarian. The best way to placate your memberships’ anxieties and to address their “naiveté” is through honest, open communication. Though I have written to legislators who use the same modus operandi as you, I will continue to engage them, and I will continue to write about these issues for active and retired teachers.
The IEA membership needs a leadership that keeps it well-informed and utilizes its Grassroots’ activists, especially members of the IRTA. The IEA does not effectively communicate with its retired and active membership, especially through its out-of-date and inconsequential website. To purposely keep activists in the dark on the most important issues that concern all of us is unwise.
Finally, I know “the world is changing” as you state in your email, and partnerships and negotiations, or “bending” as you call it, are still reliable strategies of choice for positive change. However, your unnecessary innuendo and personal attack are not successful strategies for effective communication between members of the same association. Instead, your condemnations terminate the indispensable exchange of opposing ideas and viewpoints that can bring to light new evidence before supporting a decision on a vital issue.
Though, you request that I “no longer need to send e-mails to [you],” I hope this kind of puerile hubris is not passed on to your successor, Cinda Klickna. For her accomplishments will be inextricably bound to her members’ trust in her leadership and her willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints before crucial decisions are made that will affect every one of us.
Bob Haisman’s spasmodic bile and rage against those of us who question the decision making of the IEA’s leadership necessitate no further response; neither does Ken Swanson’s current sourness. However, before you forget about their personal diatribes, read Ken Swanson. The former IEA President who was responsible for our Senate Bill 7. “Don’t ask questions.Do what you’re told” by Fred Klonsky.