Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"The Alternative Is Frequently Worse"

If you haven't seen this post at The Jose Vilson, you should--not just because of Jose's brilliant (as always) commentary on the situation, but the lively and revealing comment thread that follows. Fans of Jose's will know that his writing almost always provokes thoughtful responses, but this one is especially salient.

As one commenter urges others to rethink their positions on teachers' unions, as unions can prevent their members from getting meaningful work done even if a majority of the members wants to do the work, quite a few others come back to tell this commenter that the union cannot/does not/will not fight individuals who want to do more or differently. What the union is supposed to work for is the members' rights, within legal and contractual limits, to teach and live more or less as they see fit within their professional opinions. Jose and a few others remind us that, no matter how we may feel about the union, "the alternative is frequently worse."

I tend to agree. In my travels around the blogosphere, I've read posts from colleagues in far-flung union-free states in which they teach six or seven periods a day, followed by mandatory meetings, with lunch and prep periods that may not be duty-free if they come at all. That kind of pace is simply impossible to maintain and still continue to teach consistently well for long periods of time. Love them or hate them or apathetically disdain them (as some of us, including myself, sometimes do), the union is there to make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen to us.

So let's have a health and safety group hug for the union, as the picture for today's post suggests (Google search "Solidarity" and see what kind of crazy stuff comes up). Because the alternative, as Mr. Vilson reminds us, may very well be quite a bit worse.
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