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To Bring About Change, Start Organizing, Gecan Says


Former VEA staff member Reggie Smith was known for telling educators, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.” At the event named for him, VEA’s Reggie Smith Organizing School, keynote speaker Michael Gecan (at right) told members from around the state that Smith, who died in 1985, was right on target.

"The people who oppose us count on us to be passive,” said Gecan, a community organizer for 35 years and author of Going Public. “We’ve got to take some risks, even be willing to fail. We’re involved in the good struggle.”

The key to making the change that you imagine, Gecan said, is effective organizing. That starts with individual meetings. “When a new teacher comes to your school,” he said, “who meets them, sits down with them, gets to know them? Organizing doesn’t happen without individual contact. People need to feel connected.”

Then you can move on to teaching and training leaders and preparing for collective action that demonstrates both your commitment and the justice of your cause.

The goal, said Gecan, is power. “Many people are put off by that word,” he said, “but all it means is the ability to act. I think that’s a good thing. More people should have it—it’s for everyone. When people feel helpless to act in their own behalf, they react negatively and bad things happen.”

Our local Associations must “deepen” to accomplish this, Gecan suggested. Local Associations must take on new organizing strategies, preparing teams of leaders on the ground who can gather and motivate members to take on important issues right there in their own communities.

“The opponents of public education have made you play defense,” Gecan told Organizing School attendees.

View photos from the Reggie Smith Organizing School.

 

 


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