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Letters to the Editor

Week of May 4, 2001


Mental Health, the Pol Pot Way
TO THE EDITOR:Your article “Sibling Rivalry” (April 27) really pissed me off. For the second time in as many months some academic scam artist is leering from your cover, and inside is an article about some garbled, weakly researched (200,000 responses from his own Web site–gee whiz!) and inconclusive theory that no one will remember in a couple of years. Let me get this straight now: siblings are different depending on whether they’re older or younger and this may or may not be linked to a kind of undefined radicalism and may help us pick CEOs of potential companies? The fact that “evolutionary psychologist” Sulloway and the “cultural psychologist” (who found that Asians and Westerners think differently–mirabile dictu!) of last month are gainfully employed by places like Harvard and UC Berkeley is just wrong.

We’ve got to face it: “psychology” is the obfuscation of the obvious and the misdivination of the mysterious. It is at best a pseudoscience on a par with phrenology and astrology. I long for a day when instead of grinning from the cover of your newspaper, all the cultural psychologists, evolutionary psychologists, industrial psychologists, anthropsychologists, psychoanthropologists, biopsychologists, psychobiologists, psychohistorians, sociohistorians, sociologists, and the university hacks who hire them can be found not in the cushy halls of academe but in the Central Valley working twelve hours a day in the hot sun. A kind of Cambodian solution to a problem of parasites.
Mr. Makumbe

The Big Heat
TO THE EDITOR:We, Tania Kappner, Mark Airgood, and Yvette Felarca, lead a caucus within the OEA and within the National Education Association called Equal Opportunity Now (EON). We are also members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the main target of the Express‘ front page smear (“Class Struggle,” April 20).

It would be pointless to try to correct all the article’s demagogy and falsehoods (for example, there was no “riot” at the March 8 demonstration, neither the OEA nor the CFT gave “almost $11,000” to the March 8 demonstration, we did not steal any student newspapers, etc., etc., etc.).

The fight for the Oakland schools has to be put in the context of the national right-wing attack on public education. Sheila Quintana, the OEA leader for whom the Express‘ article is essentially a public relations piece, has been the central figure in the OEA trying to manipulate union members into selling out their struggle for quality education in the face of right-wing attacks. Knowing the unpopularity of her real positions, Quintana has repeatedly attempted to suppress basic union democracy and to use demagogy and scare tactics against EON in order to divert OEA members attention from the real issues at stake. The front-page Express article is essentially a repetition of Quintana’s demagogy and scare tactics.

While the Express article laments the miserable conditions of public education for Oakland’s teachers and students, it attacks the only political perspective that can solve these fundamental problems.

We are repeatedly “accused” in the article of utilizing the democracy of our union. Yes, we stand for union democracy, not just on paper, but in the practice of our union’s structures. Objecting to union democracy because it may make some meetings longer is absurd.

In addition to the charge that we support affirmative action, the article complains of our determination and militancy on the picket lines, of how we are for picket lines that actually stop scabbing. This is Oakland, not Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. The Express can campaign for “treating the strikebreakers courteously” as much as they want, but the strength of our union requires a more determined policy. The self-serving, shortsighted, greedy traitors who want to cross union picket lines should be saved from their own moral degeneracy by effective mass picketing that keep scabs out of struck facilities. This is the way to win strikes; it is the way our unions were built.

The Express article quotes a school board member saying, “My impression of them is that they are as prone to playing the crowd as any group that we see. They’re pretty much always trying to turn up the heat. My fear would be that they seem to thrive on conflict, and that is not a characteristic of the relationship that we need with the teachers’ union.”

This is a ringing endorsement. Of course the school board does not want a union leadership that will “turn up the heat.” They want people who will roll over and play dead. We have never won anything for education in Oakland–for teachers or for students–without “turning up the heat.” The irony of the Express article is that “turning up the heat” is precisely what is necessary to win the things that every Oakland teacher knows we need for ourselves and our students: a real reduction in class size, dramatic increase in resources, the building of new, modern facilities, etc.

The article refers repeatedly to the increasing influence of our perspective. At one point it says: “…the rank-and-file’s exhaustion has given BAMN an opportunity to increase its influence.” In this sentence, if you replace the “exhaustion” concept with “sick and tired,” it becomes true and sheds some light. Teachers are fed up with the conditions in Oakland schools. Students are fed up too. EON offers the perspective of teachers uniting with students, standing with the new civil rights movement and building the struggle that can win the changes we both need and deserve. That is why our perspective is gaining support.
Tania Kappner

Mark Airgood

Yvette Felarca