on NPR on my way back to the 5 boroughs from the hinterlands yesterday, one thing really struck me in how the Chicago teachers discussed the CTU: the openness with which CTU members discussed Karen Lewis, President of the CTU. There is far from a universal opinion on how Lewis has handled the breakdown in contract negotiations and the strike, even though the CTU delegates have voted to approve the framework for a new contract and end the strike effective today.
Members of the CTU frankly discussed Lewis's leadership in this time of what must be called a crisis. Several bluntly questioned her ability to lead following the drastic measure of a teachers' strike. Others called her too confrontational, while yet others defended her as tough yet pragmatic. This will clearly be a discussion in the CTU for the coming days, but that's just the point: it will, in fact, be a discussion.
I'll be honest here and say that I'm not as well-informed about UFT leadership as I'd like to be, but I cannot even imagine our local NPR affiliate covering a candid conversation about said leadership, let alone most rank-and-file UFTers having it in a public forum. God knows there is plenty of grassroots opposition to Mulgrew and Unity, but I only know that from being involved with the teacher blogging community. If you paid attention to the mainstream media, I think, you'd get the impression that the UFT is a monolith in lockstep march with Mulgrew, and that's far from the truth.
I wouldn't want to be in the CTU's shoes. They're going to be fighting a public relations battle over the strike, hammering out the dirty details of the new contract, and, you know, trying to educate the children, too. Yet I do envy their ability to have a spirited, fair, and public conversation about their leadership--even a leadership that, to me, seems quite a bit tougher than what we have here.