Defend Public Education

“Power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power.”

Posted in Uncategorized by Nicole Conaway on January 31, 2010

On the passing of two great leaders

Mary Ellen Riordan (1920-2010) Let’s honor her memory by continuing to fight.

From the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame:

Ms. Riordan and her bargaining team negotiated contracts that became the models for teachers’ unions everywhere. Through her leadership, starting teachers’ salaries in Detroit were finally raised above the salary level of factory production-line workers. This pay raise helped to relieve the critical educator shortage of the mid-and late-1960s. In the next decade, collective bargaining raised Michigan teachers’ salaries to the second highest in the nation. As a labor activist, she was also a well-recognized and highly respected spokeswoman for the rights of teachers and an effective legislative advocate for the needs of the rapidly growing numbers of Michigan’s poor and minority students.

Over the course of her career, Ms. Riordan has achieved many honors. For example, she was the only classroom teacher in Michigan to participate in President Kennedy’s 1963 meeting on Civil Rights in Education. She served as delegate to President Johnson’s 1965 White House Conference on Education, as well as the 1980 White House Conference on Families. She also met with President Carter on Urban School Problems as a member of the American Federation of Teachers Executive Committee. In addition, Ms. Riordan was the chairperson of the Education Taskforce of the 1972 Democratic National Platform Committee and was elected Commissioner of the Detroit Public Schools Employee Retirement System for nineteen years until it merged with the State of Michigan system. She was also named by the U.S. State Department to participate in its Agency for International Development’s Union-to-Union Program in Brazil in 1969.

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) Favorite teacher to millions of us.

“But remember this, power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power.”

“If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”


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