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Chicago Teachers Union group take trip to Venezuela, praise socialist leader

The American public education system at work: Teachers crowdfunding a trip to Venezuela only to come back and teach your children about the greatness of socialism.

From MSN: The recent trip to Venezuela by a group calling itself a Chicago Teachers Union delegation has upset some union members and expats who question the point of the tour and take issue with the group’s praise of the country’s disputed government.

The four travelers, who crowdfunded the July trip under the banner of the CTU, met with Venezuelan government officials and educators, visited a commune and were featured in local media.

They wrote online about wanting to connect with Venezuelan teachers, students and unionists, criticized U.S. economic sanctions against the South American nation and wrote admiringly of its socialism, its communes and high literacy rates.

Critics say the group glossed over Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic crises and were excessively complimentary of President Nicolas Maduro, whose administration has been accused in recent United Nations reports of “grave” human rights violations and violence against dissenters.

“I am appalled a delegation representing themselves as CTU went to Venezuela, not to support striking teachers, not to object to human rights violations, but to go on what appears to be a state-chaperoned propaganda tour,” said Karen Moody, a teacher and union member.

And though the four travelers regularly called themselves a “CTU delegation” online, the union representing close to 25,000 people has sought to distance itself from the trip, stating the CTU did not endorse, sponsor or fund the trip.

Asked on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” last week about “some controversy” surrounding the excursion, union President Jesse Sharkey said: “Members go all kinds of places in the summer. This was neither an official trip nor something that was funded by the union. This is a group of people who are members of the CTU who decided to go to Venezuela.

Yet, the official CTU Twitter account retweeted some of the group’s updates, including a blog post titled “Introduction to CTU Delegation to Venezuela.”

CTU also retweeted another post by teacher Sarah Chambers, one of the travelers and a member of the CTU executive board, which read: “While staying in #Venezuela, we didn’t see a single homeless person. USA is the richest country in the world; yet, there are homeless people everywhere. Over 17k CPS students are homeless … This is why @CTULocal1 is fighting for fair housing #CTUAgainstVezIntervention.”

Not a homeless person in Venezuela…

That prompted a rebuke from another Twitter user: “What the Delegation fails to acknowledge is they used the CTU name to raise the funds, to set up meetings, to blog their ‘findings.’ This was never voted on. They don’t get it. Irresponsible and reckless.”

Chambers, who appears to have made her Twitter account private, responded by referencing a resolution passed by CTU’s House of Delegates to “oppose the invasion of Venezuela.”

She added in her tweet: “Have you visited Venezuela & spoke to 100s there? As a teacher, I teach my students to be critical thinkers, to get primary sources, listen to ppl’s stories & do research before just believing any news. I suggest you do the same.”

Blackout in Venezuela

When contacted by the Tribune, Chambers deferred to the group’s blog, Radical Educator Collective. The three who traveled with her – two other educators and a union organizer – did not respond to interview requests. Online, the group was clear the union wasn’t helping pay for the trip. At least 55 people donated to a GoFundMe campaign titled “Send CTU Strikers to Venezuela,” an apparent reference to their involvement in the CPS charter school strikes last school year.

In the photo accompanying the campaign, the three educators are wearing CTU hats. In comments, some donors expressed solidarity. One $50 donor wrote of admiration for his colleagues: “Proud of the CTU for their brave and visionary anti-imperialist resolution and enactment of ‘teacher-to-teacher’ solidarity between Chicago and Venezuelan teachers!”

A July 9 blog post titled “Introduction to CTU Delegation to Venezuela” states, “This blog represents the members delegation of the Chicago Teacher’s Union that are currently in Venezuela to learn from educators and activists on the ground. We are three rank and file charter school teachers and one CTU organizer. We organized this delegation ourselves and fundraised for the trip independent of the CTU.”

In the latest post, one member of the group wrote that she’d wanted to observe a method for teaching reading that combines numeracy and literacy skills. She was also curious about if and how educators incorporated the country’s social movements into their curriculum, she wrote.

They visited a commune and talked to educators involved with Mision Robinson, a social welfare program to improve literacy started under former President Hugo Chavez.

Though the group was inspired by the resolution, the opinions on the blog are their own, they wrote.

Ana Gil-Garcia, who co-founded the Illinois Venezuelan Alliance and teaches in the College of Education at Northeastern Illinois University, said the trip was unacceptable, though it would be different if they’d gone on their own, without using the CTU brand.

“Once you go there as a delegation of a very powerful union like the Chicago Teachers Union, it’s questionable,” Gil-Garcia said, adding the trip could come off as the union endorsing the Maduro regime, which she said has killed and imprisoned opponents and contributed to widespread food shortages in the country.

“That’s what makes me really upset about it,” she said. “The Chicago Teachers Union should be very objective because the membership is formed by people with different ways of thinking.”

Read the whole story here.

See also:

Socialist Venezuela in 5th day of nationwide blackout
Chaos in Venezuela: Death toll rises and protests rage on amid blackout
Paging Sean Penn: Venezuelan women sell hair, breast milk & sex to survive as country crumbles
Venezuela socialist nightmare: Dead buried in plastic wrap because family can’t afford a casket

DCG

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