Friday, May 18, 2012

Teachers Cannot Be Bystanders to Walker’s Bullying

Anti-bullying Efforts
I have had my share of regretful experiences in my life. One of my high school era regrets was an incident where I stood as a petrified bystander while a bully punched my unsuspecting, younger brother in the head from behind. My guilt still festers deep inside.

Over a year ago, Governor Walker and his Republican/Tea/Libertarian Party cronies coldcocked unsuspecting Wisconsin teachers and public workers from behind with his union-busting initiatives. This blow to the heads, hearts, and pocketbooks of tens of thousands of public servants admittedly knocked us to the grass. From the grassroots, however, a million of us have pulled ourselves up to stand against Walker’s divisive ways and petition for his recall.


I am proud that I have not been a bystander in response to this attack. I was at the state Capitol (on a union-fought-for personal day) when the Fab 14 walked. I marched many miles around the Capitol square at numerous rallies. I have solicited business leaders (the only people Walker listens to) for intervention. I put up a recall sign in my yard. I petitioned the local school board. I met with one of Walker’s staffers to voice my displeasure. I visited with both my legislators and wrote many more lawmakers. I made numerous calls to friends, family, and colleagues soliciting for support. I canvassed for recall signatures. I shared my views with reporters. I donated money to the recall drive and election. I have tweeted, e-mailed, and blogged relentlessly. I spoke to progressive groups.  I am proud to have stood with the million pro-union, pro-public education, & progressive Wisconsinites in this recall of Gov. Walker. I have no personal regrets in this incident.

Regrettably, though, I am disappointed in some of my petrified and/or apathetic colleagues. While I know what I am fighting for in this recall, I have sometimes wondered whom I am fighting for. Sadly, too many bystanders, including teachers, made Gov. Walker’s empowerment possible. I am sure I would be sickened to know how many Wisconsin teachers did not even vote in the recent primary or the last election that brought Walker to power. While the Walker bombshells have moved many out of their secure bunkers, I am still frustrated with the passivity of too many of my colleagues.

I realize our grassroots efforts are down 10-1 in funding to the filthy rich and outside forces fueling Governor Walker’s propaganda machine. I realize our school communities have been sliced and diced by layoffs, massive turnover, program cuts, and the retirement rush precipitated by Gov. Walker’s divisive management style. I realize we are demoralized by the efforts of the anti-union, anti-public education contingent invading our state. I also realize the power of fear in the face of powerful political forces and the urge to brace ourselves for the inconceivable.  

When you are living a hell, it is sometimes hard to see beyond the fire. However, when I step back from the heat and take a long, cool look at this realization, I recognize this saga quite clearly. Working in schools, I have seen Walker’s tale played out a thousand times before. I have seen it in intimidators who look to mask their low self-esteem. I have seen it in the racists who seek an outlet for the hatred they have learned. I have seen it in the homophobes, who externalize their insecurities. I have seen it in the sexists who feel threatened by empowerment of others. I have seen it in the unpopular persons who yearn for status. I have seen it in perpetrators who find scapegoats to avoid their own ills. Along this same storyline, Walker’s attack on Wisconsin teachers and their unions is a classic tale of bullying.

Walker is the archetypical bully. He has plenty of insecurities as a possible suspect in a John Doe case and as a college dropout--which necessitates his attacks on the “liberal” academics. Self-esteem issues explain his need to repeatedly remind us how “courageous” he has been and how he is like Ronald Reagan. Walker, like most bullies, yearns for status—which explains his national speaking tour.  Most blatantly bullying is Walker’s divide and conquer” management style (openly advertised to one of his billionaire campaign donors).

No group is better skilled at handling bullies, like Walker, than public educators. Teachers have much experience managing bullies in schools. We are trained in anti-bullying tactics. We have intervened in bullying situations and we advise our students on how to counter bullying. It is now time for Wisconsin’s teachers to embrace what we teach our students.

Tom Barrett
Public educators must not be bystanders to Walker’s bullying. Teachers (and administrators) must be assertive and expose the damage Walker has done to our schools, students, profession, and state. As we get bullied by Walker billboards, industrial-size yard signs, and 30-second commercials in the next weeks—we must petition our friends, family, and neighbors to support public education and a better Wisconsin by supporting Tom Barrett for Governor of Wisconsin.   

Our efforts now will ensure no regrets after June 5th.

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