Ken Lane
Berkeley Faculty Union

Post

1998

Kenneth S. Lane, “Ken” to all who know him, brought his commitment to the labor movement and his deep interest in teaching English together all through his career. Says old friend Miles Myers, “I connect Ken to a solid set of core values which he was willing to work for. He did not lose the force of his outrage at injustice.”

A native son, Ken grow up in Southern California and began his undergraduate work at UCLA in 1946. He transferred to UC Berkeley pursuing a major in anthropology. He then went on to graduate work in that field, taking two expeditions to Alaska and writing a book with two other researchers. After serving in the U.S. Army, Ken went back to UC Berkeley, ready to complete his doctorate. He discovered that the administration had lost the results of his qualifying examination and wanted him to repeat the work. He refused and transferred to education, a move he has never regretted.

Ken completed his credential and student teaching in El Cerrito and Berkeley, taught in the Berkeley Unified School District from 1960 to 1962 and then in the Mt. Diablo district. He returned to UC Berkeley in 1964 as a supervisor of secondary English. Ken was an outstanding supervisor, continuing to mentor his teachers long after they graduated.

Ken has been active in the California Federation of Teachers for many years. He helped organize the faculty on the UC Berkeley campus (Berkeley Faculty Union, AFT Local 1474) and elsewhere. Academic professionals in the UC system have a union because people like Ken did much work before elections began. However, only non-Senate track faculty won collective bargaining rights.

In the late 1970s, when a UC provost unilaterally decided that supervisors would no longer qualify as permanent employees, Ken and Leo Ruth won a case in arbitration establishing “moral tenure” at Berkeley. Ken was also very helpful to AFT members, locals and the state federation in a number of other cases. He appeared as an expert witness in the now famous Eileen Olicher case in Oakland which the union won on appeal. This case established the right of a teacher to use professional judgment in selecting best practice without fear of reprisals because of the content of student writing. Ken advised members and officers on grievance strategies and was willing to put his neck on the line when needed, participating in many censorship cases.

Ken has written for various CFT publications over the years, and as many people know him today, has taken photographs for CFT for almost 30 years. He helped give the California Teacher its first visual look, working with editor Miles Myers, suggesting stories and writing many, as well as taking the photographs. Ken started the question column for the Cal Teacher, and later did the same for the National Council of Teachers of English Council Chronicle. Ken also inaugurated a political column in California English, the journal of the California Association of Teachers of English, and as CATE’s legislative director wrote the column for many years. In 1993 CATE recognized his contributions with its Distinguished Service Award.

In addition to his work at UC, Ken represented the CFT at the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, from 1971 to 1988, influencing credential and teacher preparation policymaking on the state level. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation on the Ryan Act which established the Commission, receiving a special award from the School of Education for his study. Ken also served on the advisory group for the CTC that developed the CBEST test, and worked to ensure that the test would include a writing sample.

Ken remains active on the Curriculum Study Commission, an affiliate of CATE. He chaired the Commission’s prestigious annual conference at Asilomar twice, in 1967 and in 1989, that year enlisting AFT President Al Shanker as a speaker. On another occasion, Ken moderated a meeting of Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig and the Curriculum Study Commission aimed at aligning the English Language Arts goals of the State Department and teachers in the field.

This year Ken and his wife, Jana, member of the Oakland AFT, Local 771, will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary. Jana has walked the picket lines in Oakland in 1995 and 1996 further demonstrating the family’s commitment to the labor movement. Ken and Jana have two children, Stephen and Molly. Whenever he could, Ken spent time in the mountains with his family, backpacking, hiking, taking photographs, and on one trip, trekking in Nepal with his daughter. He always came back refreshed to throw himself into the fray once more.

Through dedication to his local and state unions, his commitment to subject-matter organizations fostering solid academic preparation and informed practice for teachers, and his awareness and communication of political events, Ken Lane embodies the qualities recognized and honored by the Ben Rust Award.