Day 127 Wednesday, February 24, 2010: “Give Me Three Steps”


This is Day 127 of my time left at Fremont, Wednesday, February 24, 2010. When I wrote earlier, I was looking into the future, envisioning the New Fremont, swept free of the Fifty, with no more 9Rs, the parents and community which had no input into the plan basking in the glow of success.


So, how did it happen? Or will happen? Think of the following as another time-travel story. Or another version of “The Hangover.” (I related to the bearded one who asked, “Who’s baby is this?”)


I will also apologize in advance, for a lot of what I’m about to relate I’m going to put in terms of strategy and tactics (hey, history guy, eh?). There was a book written in 1645 by Miyamoto Musashi called “A Book of Five Rings.” It is largely about the philosophy of swordsmanship or combat, and has Zen, Shinto and Confucianism roots, written by a man who had defeated and killed all of his opponents in some 60… encounters. The book is used as a guide by many in the business world for running sales campaigns like military ones. Or you could read “Hagakure” [“Hidden Leaves”] by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a guidebook for how to be a samurai, the most famous quote: “The way of the samurai is found in death.” The book gained some popularity because of the movie, “Ghost Dog.” (Both of these are on my nightstand—puts some interesting images in your heads, eh?)


For that matter, one can also study Machiavelli, who not only wrote “The Prince,” a book on leadership, but also a military guide as well. Unfortunately, many people pretend to understand both books, basing their knowledge upon reading the dust jackets or back covers. They also misinterpret “The Prince.” They often do not realize they should also read his book on the art of war AND Baldesare Castiglione’s “The Courtier,” which is to “The Prince” was “Hagakure” is to “A Book of Five Rings.” If “The Prince” is too heavy, they go to something more accessible, such as “The 48 Laws of Power,” which I suspect the district has done—I call it “Machiavelli Light” or “Pop-up Machiavelli” or “Machiavelli for people who move their lips when they read”. Or maybe they read the pop-up version of “Dune”: “plans within plans within plans…”


So… Let’s pretend this is a military campaign: how do you defeat an enemy?


Step I in taking over any organization is to create vulnerability, to exploit a weakness, make them realize what their weakness is. Threaten to exploit and watch the show. When are people most likely to commit mistakes or to panic? When they are faced with the unexpected, with a sense of urgency. People panic, running in different directions. Some just give up, surrender to their fate. Belisarius, a 6th century Byzantine general (and my real-life hero) wrote that the greatest victory you can achieve is when you convince your enemy not to even fight.


On December 9th, Dr. Cortines, formerly of Scholastic Books, announced his plans for a New Fremont with armed school police officers (nice implied threat, goes well with the words “Under NCLB, I have the authority…”) strategically positioned around the auditorium—nay, nay, theater—and told us how awful we were, even blaming us for money misspent. We were told there were no excuses which would be accepted. Sound familiar? There was a sense of urgency created for the parents, community, and the media, who would re-word this cry of indignation. By the way, not just these great military masters of other times (including Sun Tzu), speak of creating a climate of fear in order to ease change, but also many consultants to the business world. I showed my ideas to Marc, a friend who does this in “real life.” Does that make Fremont the “Surreal Life”?


The sense of urgency has been driven home in a number of ways. We were told to reapply or dire consequences would follow. Threats (now called “misunderstandings” or “miscommunications” some of which have been retracted through “Explanations”) of non-payment during the summer, of being banished to a particular middle school, of being made “substitute pool teachers,” of getting a RIF notice, that 150 of us could be replaced with a literal snap of the fingers (at least Samantha on “Bewitched” twitched a cute nose and Jeannie crossed her arms and… never mind)… all of these were paraded before us.


Then we started to find our legs.


Step II would be to develop a team. I recall an email from someone at D7 wrote of this reconstitution (which has undergone repackaging) as just the thing for Fremont and even suggested what is really needed is a core group of dedicated staff who will do whatever is needed and will lead by example—I think some D7 called them “Laker teachers all dedicated …” Spartans, Athletes, a weird sort of Village People of heroes, eh?


This whole reapplication process is part of Step II and a bit of Step V. When people began writing and speaking out, when we went to the rain-soaked rally or the community meeting two days later or canvassed the neighborhood, doing the community walks, that was all part of Step II. Those will be the teachers labeled a “drain on the profession.” Those participating clearly are not going to be acceptable members of the “core group”/”Lakers” that was referred to. It doesn’t take a crystal ball or a tarot card reading or time travel or a magic 8-ball to see who won’t be acceptable.


So that means there will be a small group, a dedicated core. Cloak them in connections, credibility and authority. Maybe D7 will come up with banners we can fly from our cars, or giant foam fingers… (Maybe those of you reading this can design a foam finger which expresses your feelings…)


Now that you have a core group, you have to do two things. Make this takeover seem plausible. Hey, our reputations have already been smeared by Dr. Cortines and Dr. George McKenna III—remember Dr. McKenna’s words (and we do have that event documented) about us being the villains in this piece? And when we accused the district of not having a clearly thought-out plan, at first we were told this was “a skeleton,” [should I think Oingo Boingo or Social Distortion?] by Mr. Balderas [Magnet Chronicles, February 9 issue], that “it’s the people that choose to stay that are going to help me create that vision.” Ten days later, I got a link to LAUSD’s Powerpoint for the New Fremont at:,1,Slide 1.


So we now have a plan in place. That would be Step III. But I mentioned that you have to do something else with that core group. You have to make them a team, indoctrinate them, instill the belief that they are going to be movers and shakers. Why not call them “Agents of Change”? That, after all, sounds very proactive and positive—labels are important; so is propaganda. You have to train these Agents of Change. This is in-group/out-group stuff, real simple.


How would this core select elite group be trained? Look at this from a practical point of view. The New Fremont goes into operation on July 1, with the beginning of the new school year. B-Track and C-Track will be on first. They have to be ready to roll and to build up enough momentum that when A-Track comes on at the end of August, everything will already be in place. That means the core people on B- and C-Tracks must be trained before then. The deadline to reapply to Fremont is in mid-March, so the list of names will be available and Mr. Balderas can look at his “confidential stuff” on each staff member reapplying [Magnet Chronicles, February 9] and decide who the team is. C-Track will be off May and June, a perfect time for said training. B-Track goes off by the end of the week and will be gone until the end of April.


If I were in the district’s position, I would not reveal who is the core group of quislings (after Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling, who assisted Nazi Germany to conquer his own country) for a while. That would be really bad for moral (might mess up those CST scores, eh?) and lead to some unpleasantness on campus. So that means, if the core group is not being revealed or trained on campus, they have to be trained off-campus. Hey, it worked in “The Dirty Dozen”, ”The Devil’s Brigade,” and a bunch of other movies,  eh?


Step IV would follow closely on the heels of Step III, because once you have a vision, you need to communicate it. Use slogans or mottos—I like to call this “short attention-span theater.” Of course having a few deeds or acts to throw at the media wouldn’t hurt. Nor would symbols. Kids could draw them on their notebooks—aw, just go out and get a bunch of New Fremont notebooks printed and save time. All this is reinforcement of Step III. Maybe someone’s been watching that movie, “The Wave,” again…


But those troublemakers are still out there, for we have yet to reach July. Step V, according to my friend Marc, who deals with presentations like this for a living, came up with a similar idea to me: figure out who is not going to be part of the New Order—I mean, New Fremont. It could be individuals, who could become LAUSD “unpersons,” to quote Orwell. It might involve groups. Remember most of us were asked repeatedly to reapply. Let’s assume a large group gets removed, where would that leave Fremont. If there is a core group of “Laker teachers” (thank you, thank you, thank you for that phrase), they could then become empowered to move ahead without fear. “We’re afraid to go with you, Bluto—we might get in trouble!” Hey, this is French Revolution stuff here—remember Herb Niebergall wrote of the importance of knowing the causes of the French Revolution. I, myself, I see patterns. I look at eras and see flow charts. I just can’t do them on a computer—yet!


I remember building groups in the Society for Creative Anachronism (medieval and Renaissance reenactment group—lots of full-contact combat in armor, both as individuals and with armies which might number a thousand on a side). As Kyr (Sir) Yaroslav the Persistent, I was involved in training fighters, arranging strategy and tactics on battlefield (see “In Service to the Dream” from Mythos Productions—easiest way to find it is google my name Chuck Olynyk or Yaroslav the Persistent). My buddy Philip of Meadhe and I called it “legend building”; it involved re-telling stories of victories and building group pride.


We’re a lot more high-tech (I’m still identifying with that monkey in the space capsule). Use the media. Step VI: celebrate some early short-term victories.  Find and celebrate some successes from the first semester at the NewFremontHigh School. The 62% new teachers look with stars in their eyes at the “Lakers teachers,” and the district’s job becomes that much easier. So that would be first semester, next year, since the “horrible teachers” would be gone.


But this campaign to take over Fremont will have been going on for over a year (at least openly). Those who jumped on board, call the “agents of change,” since that sounds heroic, will probably be exhausted, maybe embittered. I know, from the experience of the last 40 days, that I suffer from exhaustion, depression, anger, hell, maybe even angst. It wears on my friends and alienates them as I roller-coaster emotionally and seem fixated on this problem, commuting the fifty miles to my school to go to meetings, to rallies, up early, to bed late, unable to sleep. Those quislings will probably be in the same state. So, before the end of the first school year of the New Fremont, the agents of change will have to be reinvigorated or they will burn out. In the S.C.A. (Society for Creative Anachronism), awards and titles are handed out (for a better understanding of it, go to I was knighted, and then a number of years later I was granted the title Baron. That won’t fly in the 21st century, but a show of public gratitude for loyalty and willingness to make things better—“sacrifice” would be a good noble-sounding word—would go a long way to doing that. That would be a good Step VII.

With the Agents of Change (that would be a great name for a group of superheroes) rejuvenated, the shaping of the new culture at the New Fremont (sounds redundant, but I can’t see a way around it) begins. It would be like a Renaissance. Interesting that people coined the word Renaissance because they wanted to bask in the glories of the Classical World and wanted to distinguish themselves from the Dark Ages (another label meant to throw mud)—I recall a textbook I saw at Edison Middle School which read, “In the Middle Ages, men had no knives and forks. They hacked their meat with swords”); it was a period of rebirth of Classical values.


“A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.” “If an injury has been done to a man it should be severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” —Niccolo Machiavelli

“Aut Caesar, aut nil.”  “Caesar’s way or no way.”—motto of Cesare Borgia, the model for “The Prince”


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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.


    August 2010



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