Friday, April 22, 2011

Learn From Us

I've been reading Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath this week, something I've meant to do for decades, and I can't help but notice that the entire theme of the book is being played out today, all over the United States. The richest people, despite having more money than they and their descendents can possibly use, are determined to keep it all, get more, and the hell with everyone else.

And the wrath of the rich is directed against those who organize, those with voices. In Steinbeck's book, anyone who stood up was labeled a "red." They were dispatched to jails, their camps were destroyed, they were tossed out of town. In these United States, union is rapidly becoming a foreign concept. Since Reagan destroyed PATCO unions have been waning, and working conditions have gotten worse. The road to middle class is tougher every day, to the benefit of no one, even the rich folks who think they've got it made:

"And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed."

- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 19

We're not yet at that point, of course. But Scott Walker of Wisconsin has pushed us one step closer. And one day the galoots who vilify teachers are going to realize the folly of complaining because we've got decent jobs. The idiocy of depriving us, our children, and their children of decent jobs, of crying "My job sucks so yours needs to suck more," is a national disease.

America needs to stand up. We, the teachers, are the last vestige of vibrant unionism in the country, and that's why we're under such vicious and constant attack. America needs to learn that, rather than take away protections and benefits for teachers, it needs to demand them for everyone.  When I'm face to face with billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who'd just as soon reduce us to serfdom as look at us, I'm very pleased that 80,000 working teachers are standing by my side, whether they know it or not.

Actually, we have the right idea. We have the idea that America needs to emulate. Join us, America. We're ready when you are. You can trust us. Why?

Because we're teachers, and it's our job to share worthwhile knowledge with everyone we can.
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