Today I joined Philadelphia public school teacher Neal Follman for a few hours of picketing at my old stomping grounds 440 N Broad Street, headquarters of the Philadelphia School District. Neal has been placed on unpaid leave for dissenting against the terrible conditions being imposed by the district for in-person learning for the remainder of the year. He is forgoing his salary, because he simply cannot in good conscience teach under conditions that have been emotionally devastating to the young people in his care and deprived them of a year of learning. Virtual education is no substitute for education grounded in human relationship. Teachers and students need one another. Education for liberation is a social experience. The past year has been a trial run for a future of soul-killing data harvest, both educational and medical.
What remains to be seen is how many will join Neal and commit to protecting our city’s children from this fate.
Neal made the sign I held today. It said “Our Children Are Hurting.”
That is a message we all can get behind.
On the flip side it said “How Are We Helping Them?”
I invite folks to come out in person, so we can start talking about what comes next unplugged from screens. Join us on the median opposite 440 N Broad St, Philadelphia PA on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting NEXT WEEK. We’re going to embrace Philly’s lovable quirkiness and make it a BYO-Picnic. Let’s create a spectacle of fellowship during rush hour. Bring a snack to share – this is about building a grassroots movement! Bring a blanket or a chair – the terrain is rough. Bring lots of hydration. It was HOT today. If you can, pitch in sign-making materials or sidewalk chalk. We will have some supplies available, too.
Please center the needs of children and education in your sign slogans. Remember the things I’ve taught you about human capital bond markets. This is not a general protest. It is a meant to be a coalescing of minds around the need to stand up for Philadelphia’s children; to face down the interests of global finance that view our children merely as commodities in a vast data surveillance panopticon. The authorities want granular information about how our children’s minds work, what they know, how compliant they are, and what their “health status” is. They want to know all of that so they can place bets on our youth as they dismantle bricks and mortar schools, replace teachers with AI avatars, and gradually push us all into a militarized virtual world.
We simply cannot let that happen. No one wants that. We just have to break the spell.
This will not be a dour undertaking.
We will make it to the other side by bringing love and light and having fun.
Do you want to bring a poem to read?
Do you want to play some music?
Do you want to teach us a song?
Bring your gifts. We will put them to good use!
Below is a video I did with Neal today. The sound is terrible. I’m sorry. I forgot my audio mic. I will do better next time. Still, you get the gist.
Here is Neal’s Declaration of Dissent. You can find him on Twitter @RockPHL
Declaration of Dissent
My name is Neal Follman and I have served the children of Philadelphia for eleven and a half years as an English teacher in middle and high schools. My first four and a half years were spent in some of our most underserved and underperforming schools, while the remaining years were spent at a citywide admit; Constitution High School. The testimony below is a brief overview that attempts to give the reasoning behind my decision to ignore the threats of being placed on leave without pay, along with further disciplinary action. Most importantly though, I hope to properly explain my refusal to further comply with conditions that I believe are abusive to our children.
As an educator, I have strived to provide my students with a quality education that I was blessed to receive; one that incorporates literature, history, philosophy, psychology and writing in order to foster an ability to engage in critical thinking. I attempted to work within a system that was riddled with inequality, corruption, and subhuman conditions. I devoted myself to my children, and focused my efforts on trying to counteract the many inefficiencies and disparities that were a reality for them and their families. I cannot prove I was successful in these endeavors, but the relationships I formed allowed me to justify my participation in an institution that was built upon a foundation of indoctrination and exploitation.
The strength, intelligence, and creativity of my children inspired me daily, and I was fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I loved, while also feeling as if I was contributing positively to society. While I disagreed with many of the district’s and union’s previous policies, I still felt as if my presence was beneficial to the development of my students’ souls.
Since lockdowns began on March 13, 2020, I have not felt that our plan of action has been the best available option for student progress. Our school’s being closed, and the protocols being put in place for hybrid learning, are a direct threat to the development of our children. The extreme restrictions placed on basic aspects of living can serve only to further stunt their growth, both academically and socially. There is now no room for any deviation from systematic regimentation, and accepting these conditions can only result in surrendering to an even more unjust and exploitative system than our previous one, which will make it very difficult to find enjoyment or meaning in. It is for this reason that I can not justify complying with the “new normal” guidelines that claim to be designed to ensure safety.
The conditions and treatment I have witnessed and experienced over my career made me immediately question the intentions of district and union actions. The buildings I’ve worked in, the deliberate disruptions to learning, the curriculums that revolved around flawed testing, the lack of information regarding healthy living and the economic system we live in, the promotion of obedience and attack on individuality, the food we feed them, the funds given to unsuccessful data-seizing programs, the lack of resources and insufficient opportunities available to improve access to a wider variety of employment, and the rebranding of policies that perpetuate the continuity of generational poverty are just a few reasons that I questioned their concern’s authenticity. The list can go on and on, but from the moment I walked into Andrew Hamiltion in 2009 (?), it was clear that health and safety were a low-level priority to those that benefit from keeping the system functioning poorly. It is even more insulting to hear that my health and safety is a top priority from entities that have had no problem justifying laying me off three times to avoid paying my health insurance over the summer. When I walked into the building I was given a basket that contained my provided safety measures, which was immediately insulting to me because it contained cloth masks, not N95. None of it adds up, and a critical mind should know that such inconsistencies indicate it is being lied to.
The health and safety of vulnerable populations has never been the priority of those that prosper from their struggle, so my skepticism should not be surprising, but it seems we have forgotten how blatantly our leaders overlooked the suffering their initiatives resulted in. They have yet to take responsibility for their actions, and instead have changed their narrative so they could alter their means of deception. Our students received little to no instruction during the spring of 2020, and the virtual “education” they endured this school year has failed drastically. From what I have witnessed this is common nationwide, but it should come as no surprise that disadvantaged populations will suffer the most from the lockdown measures. The lack of concern given to their physical and emotional health has resulted in almost all of my students acknowledging that they are depressed, insecure, and absent of motivation. The impact on mental health has been obvious and concerning, yet my students will be entering the building with teachers that have not had a single professional development geared towards assisting in this transition (free access to apps is insulting, so such telehealth strategies at this point will not be mentioned). Trauma is experienced uniquely, yet the imposed restrictions on living are being dictated uniformly. The plan put in place will be described below, but can also be found on the district’s website: https://www.philasd.org/coronavirus/schoolstart2020/.
As of May 5, 2021 there have been 230 total deaths of school age children due to Covid-19, and while I do not want to downplay the sorrow felt by these families, I do believe it is important to acknowledge that the actions we have taken have contributed to the disillusionment and alienation of millions (an estimated 3 million children have stopped attending their school’s program of virtual learning). The impact that this year will have on their development is hardly addressed in mainstream publications, but the data available is startling. Unicef predicts that “the global socioeconomic crisis caused by the pandemic could push 142 million more children into poverty.” More than 168 million children have had their schools closed for a whole year, and Johns Hopkins predicts an additional 2 million under-five deaths could occur this year due to the disruption of health services. When we take into account the rise of suicide and the barriers to social interaction, the negative impact of our mitigation efforts becomes apparent. We have an extremely dire situation, particularly in communities that are disadvantaged socioeconomically. It is estimated that 17 million Americans (7 million of them children) throughout the US have entered into food insecurity over the last year, bringing that total to 54 million nationally. In a country where our leaders claim to be so concerned with its citizens’ health and safety, why are these statistics not discussed as frequently as soaring case numbers and topics that further sow division amongst our population?
As more studies begin to appear in scientific journals, it is becoming more and more clear that asymptomatic spread is unlikely, and our best chance to fight against the virus is to adopt healthier habits of living. Accepting these realities would disrupt the questionable narrative we have been receiving, and limit the potential profits of companies and individuals that have seen their wealth expand unprecedentedly. The people claiming concern for our health and safety have made a killing from the policies that we were coerced and frightened into following. These same people and institutions have been responsible for overseeing the changes made to our children’s schooling, and I believe these modified experimentations will only serve to further harm our children.
During my years of serving our city’s children, I strove to nurture and develop my students’ unique souls and talents. This was a huge undertaking due to the large number of students placed under my supervision, along with the many bureaucratic policies that emphasized standardization and regulation over individualized support and a diversity of opportunities. Students were forced to accept the curriculum and assessments imposed on them by federal, state, and district entities. The vast majority of teachers were bullied into implementing a never ending stream of initiatives that repeatedly produced insignificant gains and outcomes, which in my opinion were designed to maintain an endless lack of learning. If countries with far less resources can achieve higher rates of literacy, then what is our excuse? Even more interesting is when you look at data that connects illiteracy to incarceration.
While graduation rates have supposedly increased, how many of our students were actually prepared to take on the role of an independent and productive citizen? How many of our students were encouraged to attend colleges they were unprepared to succeed in, only to receive a burden of debt with no degree to help them decrease it? From what I have witnessed, these unreported numbers are frequent.
I have been a proponent for opening schools since September, and while I am aware that being in person came with risks, it was my opinion that keeping buildings closed would produce far more negative effects on our children’s mental and physical health. Based on listening to the accounts of my children, I believe my suspicions were correct. When the district was told by the Department of Education’s Dr. Miguel Cardona to open schools, I was open to returning, even though doing so would further disrupt the routine and schedule that our children have become accustomed to. I questioned the reasoning behind this decision since students would only have 8 days of in-person instruction, but felt that my presence could assist them as they made the transition back to social living. I also thought that allowing seniors to come back for celebrations and closure should have been our top priority, since so much of their educational experience was taken from them already. I was still willing to participate in this questionable solution, until I became aware of the protocols being proposed in the name of students’ and staffs’ safety.
The implementation of increased control over student activity is evident before they even enter the building. They must line up and stand on yellow circles that are separated by 6 foot distances, while face coverings further prevent any meaningful human interaction. They must fill out a questionnaire that determines if they are able to enter the building, asking them if they have had certain symptoms that might imply infection, or if they have been in contact with anyone that has been determined to be positive for Covid-19. If they pass this initial inspection, they get a green check on their phone (I don’t know what happens if they do not have a smartphone), which they show upon entering. After their bags pass through the scanner, and their person proceeds past metal detection, they must follow the yellow circles mentioned above to the predetermined stairwell, which they will climb and immediately enter the classroom of their respective pod. They will then take their seat that was measured to maintain distancing, take out their computers, and begin their day.
The teacher is expected to teach their lesson to students at home using a Google or Zoom meeting, while the students that are in person follow along on their Chromebooks. The teacher is not allowed to have any close interaction with them, and students will remain masked up in their assigned rooms until it is time for their pod’s designated time for transition. They are only permitted to leave to use the bathroom (requiring a QR code to do so), or during lunch to pick up the meal that the school has provided. The students will leave by 1:50, following the same protocols for movement that they followed since entering in the morning. They will then return on Tuesday and go through the same routine, only differing in the three classes they attend that day. Wednesday is a half day devoted to what has been labeled as asynchronous learning, which at best has questionable efficacy. Thursday and Friday will be entirely devoted to remote learning, where teachers will teach all students virtually from their empty classroom. I think we all know how well this has been working.
At any time, students may be subjected to inaccurate and Emergency Use Authorized testing (the testing company’s consent form acknowledges this), and their results can be shared with a variety of agencies or subsidiaries. The federal government has contributed at least 10 BILLION dollars of taxpayer money to these companies. If students or teachers refuse consent, they are not allowed to enter the building. Teachers like myself that refuse, will be placed on leave without pay, and eventually face disciplinary action. It is important to note that at least one of these companies has a DNA test and database that is used by police departments across the country, and has supplied the technology to locate and track the Uygher population in China, as well as other people or populations that have been labeled dissidents.
For a district and union that has spent the last year claiming to focus its efforts on social justice issues, doing business with such a company is blatant hypocrisy. Even more concerning is the lack of information they have been providing about the many different companies involved in this testing, and the lengths they have gone to prevent me from receiving information about contracts that have been awarded to these companies. The teacher’s union has also chosen to elevate test administration over their purpose of providing their members with representation when they have reservations and concerns about the test’s implementation.
For the remainder of the 2021 school year, 31/110 students at Constitution will receive 8 days of in-person learning. There are minor variations across schools, but the conditioning of these “new normal” policies are being implemented nationally. Even more alarming is that they are particularly popular in urban schools across the country, and it appears that these changes will become the new standard in a different method of indoctrination. The limitations these initiatives place on our children’s development cannot be properly predicted, but with the knowledge I have gained from my experience, I do not believe these policies will produce any improvements to what already was a deeply flawed system.
It is for this reason that I can no longer comply with a system that I believe will only further damage children that are already hurting. These measures to ensure safety are abusive and infringe even more on our rights as humans, and will only further silence any viewpoints that stray from the accepted narrative crafted by authorities, which have placed more effort on self-promotion than doing what is best for the communities they should be serving. I believe that accepting these policies will have catastrophic consequences for humanity, and usher in an existence that is no longer worth living.
When will we say enough is enough? How many times can we continue to accept our leaders’ lies before their selfishness brings about our demise? When will we face reality and focus our collective effort on fulfilling our obligation to providing the next generation with a better future than they have at present? When will we overcome the many fears that are hurled to keep us in a permanent state of disillusioned obedience? There is no longer time to delay, so if you agree and would like to be a part of something, come join me in the streets. I will be devoting my efforts to exposing the corruption that we have allowed to run rampant, so we can start implementing much needed solutions.
If you agree with the observations I have highlighted and would like to contribute, then I ask you to spread the message, and do so positively and intelligently. When we come together and combine our collective talents there are limitless possibilities, and our efforts will reinstill the pride that has been lost by conforming to this engineered and unfulfilling method of living. Rock Bottom Foundations accepts anyone that is interested in reimagining the way we have been living, while working on building a more fulfilling and meaningful existence. Together we can rebuild our communities, and restore our humanity. The only way to go is up.
Student Consent Form:
By signing below, I consent to follow and understand that my child must follow School District of Philadelphia Health and Safety protocols, consent to my child’s being tested by a Certified School Nurse through surveillance testing and symptomatic testing as described above and as a condition of participating in the hybrid program, consent to test results being shared with me at the phone number and/or email address provided above, and acknowledge and agree to the following:
–I am signing this form freely and voluntarily.
–I am the parent or legal guardian of and am authorized to make decisions for the child named above.
–I understand that in order for my child to participate in hybrid learning, I must agree to allow the School District of Philadelphia to test my child for COVID-19 regardless of whether they show symptoms of illness.
–I authorize the School District of Philadelphia to test my child for COVID-19. I understand that my child may be tested as often as determined necessary by the Certified School Nurse, and that this consent extends to all surveillance and symptomatic COVID-19 testing performed during the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.
–I understand that my child’s test results and related information will be forwarded securely to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control.
–I acknowledge that a positive test result will require me to promptly pick my child up from school and keep them home until they meet the criteria to return to school according to School District Health and Safety protocols even though COVID-19 tests may not be 100% accurate and have the potential for false positive or false negative results.
–I understand that the Certified School Nurse and School District of Philadelphia are not and are not acting as my child’s medical provider and that this testing does not replace treatment by my child’s medical provider, and I assume complete and full responsibility to follow up with a medical provider to determine appropriate action with regard to my child’s test results.
–I am aware of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 of my child and others regardless of whether my child participates in hybrid or 100% digital learning, and understand that failure to consent to the testing described above, revocation of that consent, or failure to comply with the above rules and School District of Philadelphia Health and Safety protocols may result in steps being taken to protect the health and safety of my child as well as other students and staff, including but not limited to my child’s remaining in or returning to 100% digital learning.
–I understand that testing will be provided for my child at no cost to me or my family.
–I understand that I may sign and date this form and return it to the School District of Philadelphia, or that I may submit this consent form electronically, and that by typing my name and date, I am intending that the electronic submission of this form constitutes and is the equivalent of my personal signature.
From the website:
The BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Antigen Self Test is a lateral flow immunoassay intended for the qualitative detection of nucleocapsid protein antigen from SARS-CoV-2 from individuals with or without symptoms or other epidemiological reasons to suspect COVID-19 infection when tested twice over three days with at least 36 hours between tests. This test is authorized for non-prescription home use with self-collected direct anterior nasal (nares) swab samples from individuals aged 15 years or older or adult collected anterior nasal swab samples from individuals aged two years or older.
The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag tests have not been FDA cleared or approved. They have been authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization. The tests have been authorized only for the detection of proteins from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens, and are only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the declaration is terminated or authorization is revoked sooner.