Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Courage: the Rarest of Virtues

Bart Birdsall and Steve Kemp are my two heroes in this struggle to get the board and administration to treat teachers with the dignity they deserve. They stepped up front to take the bullets for all teachers.

I think there a fifteen thousand teachers in the Hillsborough system. Two out of fifteen thousand are rare people indeed, especially when teachers know their Constitutional rights and could defy this board, invoke these rights, and get

I can't remove this frame. lee

attention to the issues involved. A massive teacher revolt against the board and administration would alert the somnolent press and rally the community to work for teachers' rights. People always love teachers and rallies to their support.

Why teachers don't push back is a mystery. I think their training in obedience is too strong as was that of people who bowed down to the evil followers of Hitler. These were not only Germans; in every country that the Nazis invaded, collaborators emerged to do the dirty work the Germans assigned them. Poland is the premier example.

Why do teachers put up with oppression is the puzzle.
The administration and board know they have a captive population and take full advantage of that knowledge. They keep the teachers cowed with the threat of Professional Standards cooked-up charges.

The ROSSAC power resides, I submit, in teacher psychology. Teachers are the people who teach children to obey the rules and color within the lines. So they have almost a visceral revulsion to disobeying authority. That's the route the German people took who did not fight the Nazis except a brave few in the underground resistance. The populace could not bring itself to defy Hitler's evil authority. They were authority addicts.

I am an aberration. If there is authority and if it hurts people, I would defy it no matter what. I would have taken a bullet the first day of my existence in Nazi Germany. I think this trait lodges in my double helix. Somewhere along the line, I had a forebear who had this fighting gene. I got it from that person.

I fought the HCC administration from Day One of my employment there. The college paid janitors more than cleaning women. When I asked why, get this: "The janitors have to climb up on step ladders."

I sent a blizzard of emails to the president of the college, Morton Shanberg, a man greatly feared, with cc's to everything that moved on the campuses. I invoked fairness and Title VII.

The administration buckled and made the maids' pay equal to the janitors'.

A philosophy professor's wife was pregnant on his hiring, and the administration denied her health-care coverage because it was "a pre-existing condition." The professor was too abject to confront the bullies even though he had read ever document on ethics published since Pluto was a pup.

I screamed and screamed and screamed and sent memo after memo to the president. The administration caved and covered the philosophy professor's wife for her pregnancy. The philosophy guy avoided me thereafter because he thought I was toxic and was afraid to even speak to me or to acknowledge my existence. Fear of authority still paralyzed him even after I got his wife health-care coverage for her pregnancy. I think he also felt unmanned because he had stood behind the skirts of a mere woman, member of the so-called weaker sex.

I thought that phenomenon was a sad diminution display of the human spirit. But I was used to this phenomenon, having founded the Tampa chapter of the National Organization of Women and fought in the women's rights in the trenches in NYC and afterwards in Tampa. I knew what opposition comes from a person's espousing an unpopular cause such as fair treatment for women.

More recently after I retired to the celebration of the HCC administration thugs, in order to increase the chances for graft, the administration crooks proposed to switch the bookstore women in a sub-contractor flimflam from being college employees to being at the mercy of the subcontractor outfit that runs the bookstores at USF--Doubleday, I think.

The bookstore women would have lost their benefits including health care and the whole package of the protections of being a state employee. They would have gone on minimum wage with probably not a cent of health care. One of the women had just had an operation on her brain for a balance problem. This pre-existing condition would have kept her from getting any health care coverage anywhere even if she could have paid for it. This woman's husband had been an HCC professor but said that it was useless to fight the administration. I told him he was a wimp.

I had worked with these bookstore women for years; I was their favorite faculty pest. They had assured me I was the biggest faculty pest about book acquisition that they had ever seen. They became fond of me for this trait. I gave them something to complain about.

Confronted with being subcontracted, the women called me, and two or three of them and I marched on the board. We turned up at every meeting to harangue on the unfairness and barbarity of this move.

The HCC board is a bunch of prominent citizens involved in politics up to their unethical eyeballs. They are worse than the school board or at least as bad. My assessment says they are smarter than their ROSSAC counterparts. Nearly everybody is.

But the bookstore women and I appeared at every board meeting and harangued the board members; I even dragged my husband to a Plant City board meeting. And I sent a blizzard of emails around the state as well as to Gwen Stevenson, the college president. I wrote the board attorney almost daily. We won simply because we protested and kept on protesting and wouldn't shut up.

The old book-store women are still there in the campus bookstores, employees of the state with the job protection that status gives them. And by the way, I couldn't get a single faculty member to join us, although I had been faculty-union president. These cowardly, brilliant shits were too scared to move a finger, and I was not on campus to chase them down, quote Paine, Jefferson, and Samuel Gompers to shame them into action.

I worry how long democracy would survive without a few of us rebellious, risk-taking specimens. Recall that Thomas Paine, who posted rebellious squibs on barns throughout New England was one of the great clan of rebels to which I proudly belong.

The opposition automatically starts its campaign against us from Day One when they become aware that we are protesters of its skulduggery. The first stage consists of labeling us crazy. Carol Kurdell let me know via that twit Steve Hegarty, who got his job over better-qualified applicants for his buttering up the board and ROSSAC denizens when he was a SPT reporter covering the schools, that she believes I have Alzheimer's.

Kurdell's IQ drops below that of any Alzheimer's patient in the last stages of the disease. La Kurdell is a 20-year board-member dummy.

Last board meeting after I had attacked Tom Gonzalez coming and going, La Kurdell asked him, in effect, for an opinion on whether there is any way she could shut me up and end my Constitutional rights to free speech and the right to approach elected officials for redress of grievances. To his credit, Gonzales, said no in a rambling, sorrowful discourse that upheld the Constitution. Had he not, he knew he would be toast in the legal community. Even the worst judge will not issue an anti-free-speech opinion. It's toxic for lawyers to disdain the First Amendment.

Now I must see if the ACLU will come to address the board in response to my request. If not, I move up the ladder to the attorney general. Fortunately, he is running against Alex Sink for the governor's chair. I will ask both him and Ms. Sink if they would allow a school board to shut up a citizen's comment on the board agenda's labeled citizen-comment items. I will point out that Kurdell first talked over me when I tried to address the board-agenda items to drown out my words because she didn't want to hear that the board should advertise jobs on its site with hyperlinks to the candidates' resume. Finally Steve Hegarty tears up the requests I submit to comment at all. All in good timel, all in good time, this issue shall be fodder for board comment.

We will see what one old-lady citizen can do to thwart this subversion of the Constitution at the hands of the Hillsborough board chair and the complicit, unethical, cowardly board members, all of whom took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution.

I go on September 30th on a 24-hour turn-around flight to NYC and Broadway to see Jude Law's Hamlet. Hamlet is up against an uncle who murdered his brother for his wife and kingdom.

Even Hamlet's school friends except Horatio--remember those twits Ronsenkrantz and Guildenstern?-- have turned against young Hamlet and joined other court sycophants to suck up to Claudius, the murderous usurper. Gertrude is a girl who just wants to have fun and has the morals of a amoeba. Surely all of these suck-ups a know what Claudius has done, but they go along to get along.

I used to teach this play to my Freshman II students, believing it was the one piece of literature they could take through their life as touchstone. We would read the play, students' taking the parts. After each speech, I would say, "Now what did so-and-so say in today's English?'

A wonderful Black kid who took my course a second time to bring up his grade from a C to higher because he wanted to go to Gainesville would say things such as, "Claudius just said he was pissed, Ms. De Cesare." I know this boy will make a mark on the world. I hope I live to see it.

After the laughter had died down, we would go on line by line, translating that exquisite play into today's English. I believe that if you have Hamlet down cold, it's the one piece of literature that lasts you for life. You never run out of quotes from the play at cocktail parties or wherever. There is nothing that happens to you for which you can't find a behavior guide and quote in Hamlet.

When Hamlet shows beginning signs of rebellion in the play, guess what Claudius and his team do? They call Hamlet crazy, of course. That's the standard response of thugs.

But Hamlet wins in the end. He dies after triumphing over his uncle and all the court sycophants.

Tragic heroes must die, fulfilling what Aristotle calls in The Poetics, the need for the audience's purgation. Tragic heroes don't live happily ever afterward ever. Their inevitable death is part of the ritual of tragedy. a blood expiation for evil in the world. Jesus, of course, is the quintessential tragic hero.

I will return the same night after I see the play. My husband if 53 years is not well and gets nervous if I am gone too long. But I will have refreshed my spirit with the greatest paradigm in all of Western literature of right's quelling wrong.

I sent copy of the my letter to Priscella and Bill to all faculty at King High School yesterday. Not one has had the nerve to respond. Poor things.

But there are Bart and Steve. They fight ROSSAC evil despite danger to themselves. I don't know where that resolve comes from in these these young men. That secret resides in the the mystery of their DNA and their souls. Thank God for the courage of these two boys; it defines my benediction on the intrepid fellows. lee

-----Original Message-----
From: Anonymous []
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 7:09 AM
Subject: [Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch] New comment on ACLU Wants to Write Bart's Story.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "ACLU Wants to Write Bart's Story":

To the person who said, "There's nothing darker than remaining anonymous, is there?":

Hey, dummy! Read the blog. You obviously do not get what Lee has been reporting. It only takes a reading of the Erwin files or what the district has done to Steve Kemp to know that you have to stay anonymous or you will be punished or fired.

Get a clue! There are a few people like Steve Kemp and Bart Birdsall who will put their name out in the public, but the vast majority want to keep their jobs and don't want to be sent down to Professional Standards. Why is that so hard for you to understand, Dummy?

You are part of administration probably and hate that people can post anonymously, but if you got our names you would send us all to Professional Standards for punishment.

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Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 4:08 AM

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