NEW YORK CITY, April 1—Our high school is getting a crash course in worker’s power and class-consciousness. The school bosses run the science department in the way that best suit ruling-class need. The students are heavily tracked to get into the elite courses, effectively dividing the future working class. A few teachers are given the least-performing students with the low ratings that accompany them. Then, they are served a heaping helping of abuse from the science Assistant Principal who regularly plays Christian music in her office while displaying a crucifix.
The Chapter Leader started a staff-wide petition against her abuses. Some teachers who benefited from her unequal treatment in the Science department were not only against the petition but also drafted a letter in support of the AP and against their fellow co-workers! It came to a head at a union meeting where a PL’er, the chapter leader, and other teachers called them out their siding with their boss against their fellow workers.
Attack Hurts Students Most
This attack is in a working-class high school with a relatively large special-needs population. Seventy one percent of the students are Latin and Black, 21 percent Asian, and 7 percent white. Many are Muslim and immigrants, both documented and undocumented, from Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. On the surface, this school seems multiracial, when in reality students are live segregated lives through the tracking system (see box). The school is in the top 20 overcrowded classrooms. An attack on teachers and maintaining a tracked school system perpetuate a segregationist and elitist education.
Instead of hiring more teachers for the growing needs of the school and its rampant problems with programing, the Principal would rather hire two more Assistant Principals to harass and control the staff and students. Two English Regents Prep (statewide standardized exams required for a diploma) classes are already taught by science teachers, of course, two of those that the Science AP regularly harasses. The school bosses prioritize control over student needs.
Teachers, in unity with parents, must fight for the needs of our students, the future leaders of the working class. The next step is to unite the parents and the teachers in struggle against the administration. The chapter leader and other teachers are going to be organizing teachers, students, and parents to fight back against the bosses’ criminal plans.
After the chapter meeting, in which the science teachers had sided with the school boss at the expense of others, the ringleader was seen having a conversation with the school principal who literally gave him a pat on the back while he lamenting “I tried”. What did he try? He tried to attack his fellow workers in order to protect his boss. Workers who embrace the individualist ideology of cozying up to the bosses and helping them attack workers have no shame and are pawns of the bosses. They are like scabs that help to heal the wounds that the workers inflict on the bosses by breaking strikes.
There is potential for struggle in the building, especially with May Day on the horizon. So, with all of the needs for the special-needs students and the general lack of teachers and overcrowded classes, the principal is deciding to dedicate his energy to creating more Advancement Placement classes! He wants to further dilute the general education classes and maintain an inequitable racist status quo. He is doing all of this in the name of helping the students.
There would be no need for tracking or Advance Placement class under communism since all students would all be given exactly what they need to best develop their intellectual potential. We will continue to organize against the bosses’ control of the school. Struggles like these are the real schools where the lessons of class struggle are learned.
Tracking, Modern Day Segregation
Tracking is keeping students in separate educational paths (“tracks”) based on their academic performance. The origins of race-based tracking actually reach as far back as the federal court ruling in Roberts v. The City of Boston in 1850. It was a case that upheld separate school curriculums for Black and whites on the belief in inherent racial differences in intelligence. This case was later used to support Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the racist “separate but equal” law. No matter how you slice it, separate education is still an unequal education.
Following desegregation of schools—for many schools in the South, integration did not occur until the early 1970s—tracking students became a de facto policy of segregation. Black students were placed in lower-academic tracks with less experienced teachers. The tracking was often also based on funneling certain students into certain jobs—vocational paths for those from working-class backgrounds and general education paths for wealthier students. This reproduces the mental vs. manual division among the next generation of workers.