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The dream of a new and just American society must not die.
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...


--Martin Luther King Jr.
The historic march on Washington, D.C. took place on August 28, 1963. At that time Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had the support of labor unions, religious groups, and "all people gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and dignity." On March 14, 1964, Dr. King became the first African-American to receive the John Dewey Award of the United Federation of Teachers.
Albert Shanker, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, presented this award to Dr. King for his outstanding contribution to the education of all Americans. The Award Citation recognized King's belief that all students should have an equal opportunity to achieve success. It acknowledged King's further understanding of the important role educators play in our society.
During King's acceptance speech, he stressed the need for the passage of the Civil Rights bill in the United States Senate. Dr. King felt this bill would help rid America of every vestige of segregation. He also stated that segregation was "a new form of slavery," "a caste system." King viewed segregation as socially and morally wrong and sinful. "Segregation is not only sociologically untenable, segregation is politically and economically unsound," said King. "Segregation is wrong, to use the words of the great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, because it substitutes and "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity."
Dr. King urged all persons of good will to join the thousands of Americans who were "gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and human dignity." He wanted to make the American dream a reality for all citizens. Nonviolent direct action would be the means to that end.
The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
"The sudden and violent death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., places a serious and profound obligation on all Americans, black and white -- and obligation to continue and broaden the now still efforts of Dr. King to build a society where racial justice and peace prevail," said Albert Shanker." That dream of a new and just American society is shared by millions upon millions of Americans --and that dream will not die. We have been proud to walk with Dr. King in Mississippi and in Washington and to work with him in establishing freedom schools in the South. In this tragic hour, we rededicate ourselves for his cause," said Albert Shanker President, UFT, upon learning of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, The Sixties (1960-1969) is remembered as the turbulent decade in which five civil rights leaders were assassinated: John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin L. King. The Sixties is also remembered as the decade in which three courageous young civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered in Mississippi by the Ku Klux Klan: Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were shot to death at point-blank range and James Chaney was brutally beaten and shot three times in the face. All three bodies were buried in a dam until they were recovered by the FBI.
As we move through the 21st Century, the dream of a new and just American society must not die because "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The dream of a new and just American society must not die because it is a dream based on the American dream of liberty and justice for all. The dream of a new and just American Society will not die because "The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice." This I believe.
"In the absence of a well thought out, well-rounded and consistently applied evaluation system, many districts resort to their default position: heavy reliance on student test scores to judge teachers. Effective evaluation involves regular professional development, frequent observations, appropriate support and help if a teacher is struggling, and a fair and fast system to counsel out those teachers who do not improve after being provided that help." -Randi Weingarten, AFT President 
Since the teacher evaluation system is flawed, the thought of merit pay for teachers is absurd. Surely the idea of merit pay must have been hatched by persons with a corporate mind set, isolated in a fiefdom, and housed away from the humble masses they attempted to lord over. Perhaps these educrats have never entered or spent any meaningful time in an inner-city public school; nor have they sent their children to any pauperized public schools, i.e., schools which are crumbling before their eyes. Sadly, the state-of-the-art prisons, unlike our impoverished inner-city schools, serve as reminders of where bureaucrats have invested American taxpayers' dollars for over a century. 
It would serve our nation well to invest in the human potential of its most vulnerable citizens: our youth. Certainly, ensuring that youngsters have a solid educational foundation should take precedence over a prison system which only ensures that the poor will eventually become as Dr. King predicted, "socially and economically useless." 
Our schools must offer a beacon of hope to future generations: the hope that, "liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness," will prevail as citizens seek the kind of education that enables them to advance up the economic ladder out of their economically, "disadvantaged," neighborhoods. 
Since our teachers are trained to teach, teachers know what children need. And as professionals, they know how to meet a child's needs. They must find out where the child is academically and then craft a program which will meet these needs and make these dreams a reality. For children with special needs, the task is a little more arduous. However, given the skills and abilities of the special educators, the resources and support of the administrators and the care and concern of parents, even that journey can be completed successfully. 
Unfortunately, there are many circumstances which undermine the efforts of educators in public schools. First, educators are not treated like professionals. Second, the needed resources and resource persons are often missing in public schools. Third, test-taking skills and teaching to the test have become a daily priority. Fourth, inner-city youth are not treated as innocents. Therefore, the public schools may even serve as a prerequisite for the later incarceration of youth whenever the school-to-prison pipeline is allowed to become a reality for far too many of our inner-city youth. 
There is no merit in merit pay. The educational playing field is not level because the resources are withheld. And unlike crafting a product for a corporate entity, teachers are working with human souls and attempting to create an environment where learning can take place. Yet teachers are held accountable for everything ... even though the variables are great. "Today's diverse population in public schools calls for a comprehensive assessment system that combines formal assessments (standardized tests) with informal, classroom-based assessment (portfolios, projects, performances and exams). This is the multifaceted approach necessary to equitably assess all students, including those with bilingual and special needs (Harris-Stefanakis, 1993, 1995, 1997)."
Therefore, I agree with Randi Weingarten: "no longer should 'accountability' be focused on teachers alone. Everyone involved in education -- teachers, administrators, parents, students, elected officials and community leaders -- must be held accountable for student and school improvement."
Knowing this, the phrase "merit pay" should be removed from the lexicon of educrats, bureaucrats, and the loose lips of their followers. There is no merit in merit pay.
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