Makers at Amherst Media ran a Makerspace on the last day of the NERDSummit. I came up with a simple plan for the event: I suggested we get some old, broken remotes, recover the IR LEDs, and try program an Arduino to control some device, like a TV. Christine did most of the heavy lifting to get everything ready: she organized the kits and went to the Comcast office to get some broken remotes. I brought a few from my office.
If a lot of people had come, it probably wouldn't have worked well, but we just had a few people at first. More trickled in later and the room seemed comfortably busy the whole time, but I had a lot of time to play with the activity to see if it could be made to work.
In the end, I couldn't quite make it work. I didn't have a device to bring with me to control, so I tried to control the data projector that was in the room. But it was an NEC projector and it seems that NEC devices can be problematic to control: they have very long control sequences and aren't well documented. But I was able to get the IR LED out and confirm that it worked.
It was kind of creepy to not be able to see the LED with the naked eye, but yet see that it was shining when you looked at it through the camera.
Although I wasn't able to control the projector, I did find a lot of supporting code and documentation and I think with a few modifications, this activity could work really well with student. I need to find a small TV or maybe an old video camera that can work with a remote that uses a simple, well-documented protocol. Then, I think, the activity would be a great one to use with kids: the electronics are dead simple and the programming is relatively simple, conceptually. At the same time, it demonstrates recovering components from old devices, requires doing a lot of web research and reverse engineering something. And, in the end, who doesn't want to learn how to secretly control something at a distance: "No, Mom. I'm not touching the remote. I don't know why the TV keeps switching to My Little Pony."
In the end, the Makerspace was not a huge draw, but 20-25 people cycled through at one time or another. A few stayed the whole time, learning to program the Arduino. Some just watched, others came to chat. Many people were excited about the idea of building the Makerspace in the new Amherst Media building. It was a good fit with the event and worked out very well.
This is the weekend of NERDSummit. What started as Western Mass Drupal Camp has grown up and become the New England Regional Developer's Summit. And what a transformation it's undergone.
At times the growth has been uncomfortable. The camp started when Kelly Albrecht said, "We should do a camp" and I said, "I think I can get us a place." We started with creating an event for what we perceived as our community: our colleagues and co-workers.
During our second year, I looked around and realized that our steering committee was almost entirely white male. And all our keynote speakers were white men. During the third year, I began trying to recruit more women to join the steering committee. I challenged Johanna Bates, who had objected to the graphical theme of the website (which prominently featured a white male) to help us find a female keynote speaker.
Around the same time, Kelly recognized that the Drupal community was just one part of an increasingly integrated web development community and began to propose a conference that could welcome people from across the entire community.
The first NERDSummit focused attention on women in technology. With outstanding keynotes by Susan Buck and Ashe Dryden, and a panel on women in technology (among other events). We've begun a discussion about how to change the culture, decrease barriers to entry, and recognize that creating an environment by-and-for the majority, may not serve minorities well or at all.
I was rather shocked during the panel discussion to hear what now sound to me like tired tropes emerge from the audience: defensiveness, "not all men", and "this isn't an IT issue". It was like lancing a boil: hard, painful, and ugly.
We're learning. I'm learning. And I'm grateful to my colleagues who've brought us so far.
Mi legis la artikolon de Humphrey Tonkin en la Esperanto-revuo de septembro 2014: Ĉu Kalocsay kaj Auld aprobus? Diri la veron, mi serĉis laŭdajn vortojn pri mia eseo (kaj genio, kompreneble). Tion mi ne trovis, tamen. Anstataŭe, mi trovis du-paĝan plendon pri la hontinda stato de literaturo en Esperantujo.
Li mencias nek min nek mian eseon, tamen aludas multon, ekz.
la nuna jaro estis iom plata: kelkaj bonaj konkursaĵoj alvenis kaj premiiĝis, sed nenio mondskua.
kiom da homoj fakte studis la tradicion de eseverkado en Esperanto antaŭ ol sidiĝi por krei majstroverkon en tiu ĝenro?
ne ĉiuj niaj plej bonaj verkistoj aŭtomate turnas sin al ni proponante konkursaĵojn.
Se temas pri la du premiitaj [eseoj], regis unuanimeco inter la juĝantoj pri ilia [duaranga] merito. Sekve la tasko ĉi-jare estis facila – kvankam oni rajtus malfeliĉi, ke niaj verkistoj ne prezentis al la juĝantaro pli larĝan kaj profundan defion...
En la angla, oni diras damning with faint praise kaj mi kredas ke tiu artikolo ofertas inter la plej feblaj laŭdoj de l' historio.
The construction for the new BCRC is approaching completion. Walls, ceilings, floor, furniture, doors, windows, locks -- it's all there. There are really just details that need to get finished: the shades need to be installed, some blackboards didn't come in yet, a few faceplates to network boxes are missing, etc.
One other delay is the big display cases that will house the Living Museum of Dead Computers. They haven't come in. I really hope they can be in before the beginning of the semester, but that's looking doubtful.
It's been amazing to watch the demolition of the old space followed by installation of services, framing, walls, furniture, and everything. It's going to be a wonderful space for students: bright, airy, and welcoming.
Today, we had the final inspection and got the certificate of occupancy. Next week, we'll start installing the computers and monitors. It's going to be awesome.
I can't wait for the students to see it.
Mi ĝojis eklerni ke mi gajnis premion por eseo en la Belartaj Konkursoj de UEA. Estas la unua fojo ke mi partoprenis la konkurson. Mi kelkfoje antaŭe intencis partopreni, sed ne havis manuskripton preta je la ĝusta momento.
Mi devas danki al Philip Brewer kaj Istvan Ertl kiuj legis la malneton kaj provizis al mi multajn utilajn ĝustigojn pri gramatiko, stilo, kaj lingvouzo.
Tiu ĉi eseo estas unu el serio de hajbunoj kiujn mi verkas pri la pionira valo kie mi loĝas. Du el ili oni jam eldonis ĉe Beletra Almanako. En BA 8 estis Patro kaj Filo ĉe Sukerpanmonto kaj en en BA 18 estis Spuroj sub Franc-Reĝa Ponto. Ambaŭ pritaksas vizitoj al lokaj vidindaĵoj kaj siaj priskribo kaj historio.
En tiu ĉi lasta eseo, Morto… kaj Vivo en Amherst, Masaĉuseco, mi vizitas la domon de Emily Dickinson kaj tradukas iom el ŝia poezio. Mi interesiĝis pri ŝia poezio antaŭ kelkaj jaroj kaj strebas konservi la ritmon de ŝiaj verkoj. Estas malfacile, ĉar la akcento volas fali sur la lasta silabo, kiu en Esperanto estas kutime malofta.
Mi intencas verki kelkajn pliajn hajbunojn pri la pionira valo kaj finfine ekhavi sufiĉajn por libro. Mi jam havas ideojn por kelkaj pliaj.
Mi devas konfesi, tamen, ke tiun ĉi mi verkis en momento kiam mi estis ankoraŭ tre aktiva pri Esperanto. Ekde la malbona sperto kiun mi havis en la usona movado antaŭ kelkaj jaroj, mi nun malofte Esperantumas kaj apenaŭ verkas Esperante. Mi dubas iomete ĉu mi povos verki ion kiu indus gajni ĉijare. Sed la tempon kiun mi antaŭe dediĉis al Esperanto, mi nun uzas por aliaj aferoj: mia posteno, Faristaj aferoj, esploro pri herpestoj, ktp. Oni ne ĉion povas fari.
Gajni premion, tamen — eĉ duan premion kiun mi dividas kun alia homo — estas kuraĝige. Eble mi trovos pli da tempo dum la venontaj monatoj por verki Esperant-lingve denove. Eble…
I realized that this marks the 10th year I've been coming to St. Croix to do field work with Buzz. We came the first time in 2004 and fell in love with the place. I haven't been able to come back every year, but I've come back when I could.
I also realized that, while the first time I came, it seemed exotic and foreign, that now, although it doesn't feel like home, I feel very much at home here. I hardly notice when I have to drive on the left or remark on the palm and flamboyant trees.
We've generally fallen into a relaxed routine: a leisurely early morning, running the traps around 10, a quick swim, then lunch, then process the animals (collect observations and insert RFID tags under the skin), then release the mongoose, and come back for a relaxing afternoon and evening.
This year, a couple of opportunities presented themselves that Buzz couldn't pass up. As a result, we've been going out to refuge at 6 and then driving out to the east end and generally spending the entire day and more doing science.
Yesterday was additionally exciting with the passage of Tropical Storm Bertha just to the west of the island. This created even more work, as we needed to close all the traps. We got a lot of rain and strong winds, but nothing damaging. Power was out briefly and we couldn't go onto the refuge until late in the day.
Don't get me wrong: I love science and I love field work. But all things in moderation. This afternoon, I've bowed out of the trip to the east end to relax, catch up on various things, and cook up some chili.
Our college is moving toward using the now-common practice of sending HTML-styled email as newsletters from Departments to keep alumni and others up-to-date on current events. I expressed resignation about this practice and was asked to clarify what I was objecting to. Here's what I wrote:
It's the idea of sending html formatted email. This has become a common practice and companies like MailChimp and ConstantContact encourage people to do this because you can collect metrics: they put web-bugs and create fake links in the email that you can use to estimate how many people opened the email or clicked on links, which is very persuasive to people looking for ways to measure the impact of communications. But a primary way people get compromised is by getting an email that *looks* like it came from your bank or retailer -- or college/university -- that has links that install malware or lead you to disclose your login information. These links are easier to detect if you're making a decision based on the URL, but email programs like Outlook or Mail.app (especially the versions on the iPhone and iPad) make it difficult or impossible to inspect URLs before clicking on them. And they load URLs (for graphics and stylesheets and web-bugs) that disclose information even if you just open the email.
When people ask me about security, I always tell people to set their email client not to look at html email and not to click on links unless they've looked carefully at the URL and made sure it's going where they think it is. So, for example, when I get an email with a link that claims it's going to "The College of Natural Sciences", but is actually:
I don't click on that link. It's probably OK -- it is from the CNS newsletter in April. But if I click on it, I'll disclose information that perhaps I don't want to disclose. And I don't know anything about "alumniconnections.com". If I want to go to a page at CNS, I'll go to the CNS site and find it, thank you very much.
Sorry for the long answer. As I say, this has simply become an accepted practice in marketing -- and I expect they have the metrics to show it works. :-/ But from a security standpoint, it's a disaster. It gives malicious entities a style sheet for how to make an email that *looks* like it was sent from the institution. And it trains your end-users to click on insecure links in email. And so, although these techniques may work for you, they will also work for the bad guys too.
Since the launch of Makers at Amherst Media, we've been trying to maintain momentum. I continued Friday meetings at Amherst Media and we continued to get the word out and to seek funding. Late in the spring, we were notified we had received a Public Service Endowment Grant. This led to our project being cited in a letter to President Obama from the Chancellor on the occasion of the National Day of Making and subsequently appearing in the materials distributed by the White House after the event.
Jim Lescault suggested launching a new cable access program to commemorate the Day of Making and, going forward, provide a way to highlight and celebrate events in our Makerspace. So, with Nick Ring as Director, we shot our first episode which started running on Wednesday. And now I need to come up with ideas for more episodes going forward.
We're hoping to run a couple of workshops yet this summer and then more through the fall. Things are starting to come together and I'm hopeful that we've hit the right moment to catch the cresting wave of interest and support for building a Makerspace. I've been trying to encourage everyone to envision what we would build if resources were no object. Here's my idea:
We should build a co-working/business incubator space with a big common workspace, as a Makerspace which we could use for workshops and drop-ins. Attached would be a set of carrels, cubes, and small offices which entrepreneurs could lease to launch small business ventures. We could provide a spectrum of resources for everything from the casual hobbyist to the serious entrepreneur. I see this fitting perfectly into the new Amherst Media building.
I've pitching this idea and trying to persuade people that this is possible. We're not there yet, but we're "Making" progress. We can do this.
A couple of months ago, I described my idea to have students create balanced aquaria and since then I've set one up and have been collecting observations so I have some idea about what to expect if I have students do it. It's been fascinating.
I initially went up to Pelham to start building my aquarium. There's a wonderful little vernal pond I know up there -- almost more of a vernal puddle. It just a depression full of wet leaves with lots of copepods and other interesting critters. I figured it might be a good place to get the decomposer part of the ecosystem. There's also a reservoir that I thought I might be able to find some nice filamentous algae in. But I had forgotten that up there, the water is practically just rain water and the reservoir is basically oligotrophic. I could see a few newts, but no algae at all.
I drove next to Podick Cole Santuary, which is surrounded by agricultural fields and has a beaver pond (with attendant swamps and marshes). I found some nice scummy floating filamentous algae and scooped it up.
I had constructed the apparatus, filled it Poland Spring water, then I added some leaves and water from the vernal pool and some water and scum from the beaver marsh, sealed up the top, and I was in business:
I observed copepods and ostracods immediately. There were some collembola on the water surface. I think there was a big planarian, although I couldn't get a good look at it: It might have been a small leach. After a few days, I saw a small dragonfly nymph.
The data are complicated and interesting. The program I'm using to collect the data is pretty minimal: eventually I want to have something set up that will send all the data to a server that aggregate and summarize everything. But for the moment I'm just collecting it over the serial monitor of the Galileo.
At first I thought the big spikes in CO2 were happening at night due to biological activity and when they stopped it was because the copepods had died. But I saw that there were still some copepods, although it was clear that there were fewer. As I caught more glimpses of the nymph (who seems bigger) it now seems more likely he's been eating them. But at first, I didn't have reliable time-stamps on the data and, once I did, I found that the big spikes were happening during the day and the variation was correlated with something else: warm sunny days. When the sun shines in, it warms up the aquarium, which reduces the solubility of gas in water and drives the CO2 in the atmosphere, where it gets measured.
Around this time, I also noticed something new: snails. At first they were tiny -- smaller than sesame seeds. They would move around on the inside clearing off the algae and aufwuchs growing on the inside of the bottle. And they grew as well: now they're peppercorn or caper-sized. (Note to self: encourage your students to actually measure things they observe, rather than to simply use cooking analogies). As they grew, they became more efficient at hoovering up all of the algae. And then the CO2 really began to spike.
The spikes of CO2 got higher and higher and higher. I began needing a log axis to plot the data. I showed them to Phil who asked "What does it mean to have more than a million parts-per-million?" Good question, I thought. I did some investigating it turns out that the sensor is really only valid between 400 and 10,000 ppm. So it's not clear what those spikes mean -- if anything. Probably, I should simply truncate the data at 10,000.
The newest excitement has been seeing a slime mold (or molds) active. I recognized it immediately as some kind of slime mold, confirmed by @Genevieve.
It moved around, but also seemed to split up and then rejoin again. I shot a few time-lapse sequences (not really good enough quality to share), but which confirmed that it was moving around in real-time.
I had seen only a very small number of copepods in recent days: almost none. But then on Thursday or Friday, I noticed a vast number of really tiny copepods. There must have been a big hatch of eggs. I also noticed the slime mold looking like it was growing fruiting structures:
It's been a fascinating natural history project -- for me anyway. And I think my students will enjoy it too. I've gained a lot of insight regarding the additional tools and resources we might want to put in place to make the project really work well. I've realized that it might be really helpful to have quantitative light sensors in front of and behind the aquarium to measure optical loss. It might be hard to calibrate that, however. Having a temperature sensor seems pretty critical. Those are cheap. I also want to look into making adaptors to use cell phones as microscopes: if you could just press those up to the bottle to take pictures it might be really helpful for collecting imagery and trying to identify what we're seeing inside.
I read with interest the post Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers by Jennifer Frazer. This is a topic I've written about several times as well and the general thrust of the article mirrors the experience of my life almost perfectly. I originally went into science wanting to study natural history: I liked catching snakes when I was a kid. When I got to be about a junior in college, I discovered that pursuing a career in the life sciences had basically come to mean studying some molecule in some membrane somewhere and spending your whole life chasing funding to keep your lab afloat. And I said "no thanks" and turned aside.
I still get to do some natural history. I have my students do natural history projects for my writing class. We've mapped the locations of patches of garlic mustard and checked "potential vernal pools" identified by the state GIS system and, last fall, performed a survey of local terrestrial gastropods. Currently, I'm planning to have my students study balanced aquaria this coming fall.
I'm not even the only one in my department. There are a handful of faculty, mostly non-tenure-system faculty, who still engage in some natural history work. But mostly not.
Where I believe the article misses the mark is somehow attributing the decline in natural history to a lack of respect or appreciation of natural history as a topic of study. That's not really what's happened. What really happened was a strangling of the funding for basic science and the conversion of faculty effort and evaluation from the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of funding.
This is simply another aspect of the neoliberal framing and capture of our society. Knowledge is no longer valued as an end in itself, but only in terms of its return in dollars. Natural history isn't worth anything unless people are willing to pay for it.
It's the same framing that makes global climate change not worth understanding: as long as the profits (from oil sales, etc) can be privatized and the costs (drowned cities and devastated coastlines) can be commonized, the neoliberal overlords who dole out the dollars have no use for natural history. Indeed, when people care about natural history, they want to conserve nature and stop habitat destruction. How inconvenient!
So painting the issue as merely a sad happenstance completely misses what we need to fix about our society if we hope to fight back against these trends.
i met an eft
upon the way
beneath a leaden sky
he did not tarry long with me
just bid a curt goodbye
had he but lingered
there with me
i might have stayed awhile
for his cold-blooded honesty
and unimpeachable style
After the closing session of Drupalcon, we started our last evening with a sprint working on the Amherst Media website. I found and fixed several problems and we identified a code fix that will need to be written. I know *what* needs to be written, but I don't have all the info for how to write it. I'll take a run at it when I get home.
Afterwards, Nick and I had dinner in the hotel. It's a beautiful spot on the 18th floor with a nice view of the skyline, but it was almost totally empty. There is a lot of good food nearby, but it seems a shame to waste the space. We dined by ourselves in a large dining room and enjoyed the view.
We tried out Lyft to get a quick ride over to the Congress Street bridge to see the bats. Lyft is just moving into Austin and is currently battling the entrenched interests that enable taxi service to be a profession that can pay a living wage, rather than an army of contingent freelancers. Currently, to avoid violating the law, you can't pay for the service (although the drivers are getting paid by Lyft). A young woman picked us up within 3 minutes and gave us a friendly, courteous lift to see the bats. I can see that Lyft is going to destroy taxi services, but will in turn get killed by self-driving cars as soon as those become a thing.
Watching the bats is a celebrated event in Austin. Hundreds of people turn out to watch them fly out at night. Last time I had stood down in the park, but this time we stood on the bridge (since I figured that the hundreds of people up there couldn't be wrong). In point of fact, you couldn't see them very well from the bridge. You can't really see them that well from anywhere: they wait until after dark and are themselves dark. You really only get a glimpse that suggests their outline as they fly. We were in fact standing at a great spot and could see gales of bats flitting out along the riverbank. There was a boat with red light illuminating the bats for a river cruise and now and again, you could see how many bats were coming out.
Finally, we participated in Drupal Trivia Night. An MC provided entertaining patter while asking 6 rounds of increasingly obscure questions about Drupal and other CMS technologies. Our team was composed mostly of newbies and we only averaged about 25%. But we weren't worst -- mostly because a couple of other teams seemed to be competing for lowest score.
My initial take on Drupalcon was biased by my experience in the exhibit hall and the first couple of days of the schedule. The longer you wait, however, the more the technical discussions come to the fore. I probably would have had a better experience if I'd simply skipped the presentations and only attended the BoF sessions. But several of the presentations were quite good. And I learned a lot about Drupal and the Drupal community, so I have no regrets about coming -- it was totally worth it.
I was disappointed that the next US Drupalcon is back on the west coast. Since it had been in Portland last year, a lot of us were hoping -- indeed expecting -- an east-coast location next year.
This morning, I fly back just in time for Hack for Western Mass. I'm sad to miss the Drupal code sprints, but will be glad to do my civic hacking for Holyoke too.
During the weekend preceding Drupalcon Austin, I spent two days closeted with the core developers of Community Media Drupal. I had been aware of the Open Media project, which left off with Drupal 6. The developers that wanted to move to Drupal 7 reworked the project to address a number of limitations, but the project has struggled to clear the last blocking issues to create a release. Stefan Wray wrote up a nice report about our meeting although the stuff I did went under the radar. I had created a patch to fix a problem with the Feeds Cablecast module (and, for my efforts, was made a maintainer and learned how to commit a patch and roll a release). I also found and fixed a persistent bug with the menu display on Safari. I learned a lot and helped move the Amherst Media site forward quite a bit.
Drupalcon has been somewhat less fun/interesting. As an academic, I feel rather out of place. I've been using Drupal for a very long time -- 8 years anyway. But the open source community has evolved a lot. Where it used to be people creating software to "scratch an itch", it's now completely dominated by business people trying to productize everything. And much of it is hype about Drupal 8. Drupal 8 will be Wonderful. Drupal 8 will be Powerful. Drupal 8 will be Restful! Drupal 8 will cure cancer! You should marry Drupal 8 and have its children! It's all kinda creepy.
I've never really liked conferences — even academic ones where I sort of fit in. But I've suddenly realized why: it's because they're not all about me. Maybe someday someone will do a conference that is about me -- with sessions singing my praises and studying my works in awed and reverential tones. I might enjoy that.
On May 10, 2014, the delegates to annual meeting of the Massachusetts Teachers Association choose Barbara Madeloni as president. It's hard to overstate the significance of this tectonic shift in the organization.
Every two years, the organization chooses a president by election, but the practice is for the current president to be re-elected for a second term and then, when term limits prevent running again, for a two-term vice-president to become president. Occasionally there is a challenger, but challengers have usually -- perhaps always -- been defeated. In fact, that's how this whole thing got started, I think.
Several years ago (and if I were a journalist, I would go back and document all this, but I'm not, so these are just my recollections). Several years ago, at MTA annual meeting, the delegates passed a motion calling on the leadership to make no agreement that included high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluation. Then, in January, many local union presidents woke up with their members mobbing them with demands to explain why the press was running articles trumpeting that MTA had signed just such a deal with the Department of Education. Presidents were livid.
This was just one of many defeats that the leadership has tried to explain away as victory: "It's better than it could have been" or "It might have been much worse". There has been a generation-long challenge to public education with teachers being villified and the institution so badly damaged that the whole idea of public education is being brought into question. It's been a death of a thousand cuts.
I recall someone offering themselves as a challenger for president that year and being defeated. The ground wasn't yet prepared for a change of direction.
Activists have been trying for years to get the MTA to move toward an organizing model -- to activate the rank-and-file membership to stand up and demand change -- but with little success. When the leadership directly contravened the will of the delegates, a group of people got together and formed Educators for a Democractic Union. Each year since then, they have worked together as a caucus to advocate for a more activist stance. And this year they put forward a candidate for president with a year to really organize.
Barbara Madeloni was a uniquely qualified candidate for the role. As a former high-school teacher, she had credibility with rank-and-file teachers. As a professor, she understood higher ed and could represent faculty. And as someone who'd been driven out of her faculty appointment for challenging the corporate take-over of teacher certification, she offered hope to people daunted by the status quo.
I think her opponent was blindsided and, by the time he realized what was happening, the movement was unstoppable. He, and the rest of the MTA leadership, had simply assumed that he would win. It was his turn. When it became clear that it was actually going to be a contest, it was too late to organize a meaningful campaign. The only message his candidacy presented was more of the same. With one exception: he and several of his supporters expressed outrage over the successful campaign tactics that EDU employed. His campaign speech, which lacked vision and complained about his opponent's tactics, came across as petty and negative.
Barbara did everything right as a candidate: she worked tirelessly on her campaign, visited dozens of local unions, and carefully crafted her campaign message and her speech. She and her campaign advisors spent months honing the campaign speech and measuring every word. She had obviously practiced it and timed it carefully. She had five minutes and she used every second. It was a visionary speech that resonated with the audience and created a sense of optimism that teachers and faculty can aspire to more than watching public education dismantled piece by piece right before our very eyes.
When the vote came in, it wasn't even especially close. She won by 97 votes, or around 7%. Her acceptance speech was also uplifting and acknowledging the hard work to come. She was not elected to be our hero or savior, but rather to kick us in the ass and put us to work on the front lines defending education. It's the only way we're going to win. And if we organize and activate the membership, we can win. We will win.
In 2010, when I attended the MTA Annual Meeting, there was a bitter division between the leadership and rank-and-file members, who felt like they'd been sold out. The leadership had cut a deal with state government to allow the state to complete for "Race to the Top" funds. But the deal, inconveniently, directly abrogated a statement that had been adopted by the previous annual meeting that required the leadership to not sign on to any deal that used student test scores in teacher evaluation.
This was the last straw for many people who have felt that the the MTA does not adequately fight for teacher's interests. Rather than organizing and trying to confront the interests that have been trying to roll back gains that teachers won in the past, they've been focused on minimizing losses. A group of people formed Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) to try to shift MTA toward a stance more focused on organizing and fighting for teachers.
This year, EDU is running a candidate for president: Barbara Madeloni. I've written about her a couple of times already. When she first started running, her candidacy seemed like a long shot. But the response to her at 60 or 70 locals has been overwhelming. She is an outstanding candidate: she has the academic credentials and the street cred and the personal history of standing up to the man.
At the beginning, the MTA leadership seemingly didn't seem take her candidacy very seriously. But as she's gained momentum, they've begun attacking her and trying to emulate the successful characteristics of her campaign.
In addition to supporting Barbara's candidacy, EDU is trying to address the issues directly as well. Teams are drafting new business items to compel the MTA to not back down from supporting retiree health care (where, again, the leadership has tried to cut a deal rather than openly fight for teachers), bilingual education, minimum wage, adjunct faculty, and, once again, the role of high-stakes testing in teaching evaluation and determination of level 4 and level 5 schools.
The last time I attended the annual meeting, I left in disgust with the feeling that ideas were not welcome. With the chance to make a difference, I'm willing to re-engage and try again.