Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
Sober observers may be bemused by the Occupy demonstrations in Oakland. They’ll naturally wonder, “How did this city get so nutty and dangerous?”
We put the question to longtime Oakland resident Howard Bashford, who opined that the civic psychosis could be attributed to “good intentions co-opted by people with bad intentions. In other words, ‘educators.’”
We scoffed, but Howard persisted.
“Listen,” he said, “everybody likes to praise teachers, but since women gained access to better paying career paths, the profession hasn’t attracted the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. And many of these underachievers have been easy prey to subversive organizations.”
We were taken aback, and asked, “You mean, the Communist Party? The Nazis? Anarchists?”
“Not exactly,” said Howard. “I’m talking about the Oakland Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.”
We scoffed again, and again Howard pressed the point.
“The OEA isn’t just about improved pay and better working conditions for teachers,” he said. “It’s all about a political and social engineering agenda.”
We demanded examples, and Howard said he would provide them gladly.
“The union not only endorsed Occupy Oakland, it provided the downtown campers four portapotties,” he noted. “I’ll not take advantage of this invitation for sarcasm, but I will ask how the expenditure of union funds helped teachers.
“Then the OEA encouraged teachers to walk off the job in support of Occupy Oakland’s Nov. 2 ‘general strike.’ And 360 of them did. Then the school district couldn’t find enough substitutes, and some classes had to double up. Need I point out the irony in the fact some of the strikers wore T-shirts with the legend, ‘Support Education.’
“And don’t forget last March when the OEA urged teachers and administrators not to discipline students who walked out of classes. It encouraged students and teachers to participate in budget demonstrations in Sacramento and told the membership to call these excursions ‘field trips.’”
Without asking if I wanted to hear more, Howard told us that the OEA or its officers:
- stood “in solidarity with the prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay,” California’s prison for “the worst of the worst.” “This makes sense for OEA,” Howard said, “as many Oakland graduates could end up there.”
- lauded the work of that great educational thinker and drug abuser Marion Barry. Need we mention Oakland has a drug problem?
- protested at an Oakland Wells Fargo bank branch, demanding that “banks pay their fair share.” “I’m sure this has relevance for the high-school unit on economics,” Howard smirked.
- thought a 5 p.m. protest that blocked a freeway made for a swell “learning day.” Never mind that it inconvenienced and threatened the health and safety of thousands of commuters.
- opposed an injunction to restrict court-identified gang members from associating with one another.
- condemned “the murderous Israeli assault on Gaza, their deliberate targeting of the civilian population, including schools and hospitals… which has been carried out with the strong support of the U.S. government” and encouraged “teachers to open their classrooms to discussion and teaching on the crisis in Gaza.” “Israel is a U.S. ally, therefore, Israel must be bad,” said Howard.
- urged the longshoreman’s union to boycott Israeli ships.
“Oakland students can’t read, write or do simple arithmetic,” said Howard, “but why worry about such minor matters? Worry about what they are learning.”
I must admit: Howard has a point. I should have realized something was amiss when I was covering Oakland schools back in the ’70s. I used to help out the OEA by returning their news releases with corrections of their errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. Never did I receive a word of thanks.
Oakland’s official nuttiness extends far beyond the schools. Case in point: Mayor Jean Quan has endorsed the Occupy demonstrations. Perhaps the voters expressing unfocused hostility count more than thousands of Oakland workers and business people, or the fact the demonstrations have strained public services, created a major health hazard and led to arrests, injuries and property destruction.
By the way: When did “nonviolence” come to include physically blocking the free movement of nonparticipants?