Friday, May 18, 2018

Teachers Strikes Are a Moral Imperative

Diane Ravitch wrote about how Bill Bennett, Reagan's former Secretary of Education and part-time degenerate gambler, opposes teacher strikes. Bennett gets on his high horse and rationalizes this on moral grounds:

When coal miners strike they lay down their equipment. When teachers strike, they lay down their students’ minds.

First of all, I'd expect children's minds to be active if their teachers walked out. Wouldn't they wonder why it happened? If I were a kid and my teachers went on strike, I'd probably jump with joy for the time off. But I'd also wonder why they did it. This is a teaching moment, and I'd certainly teach my children why their teachers went out.

Let's go with Bennett's other misconceptions. There have been numerous instances of teachers striking for not only their working conditions, but also student learning conditions. In places like Detroit and Chicago, schools have been left behind not by teachers, but by governments thoroughly indifferent to the children they're paid to serve. Sure, teachers could hang out in rat-infested crumbling buildings and let the kids know they're okay with it. On the other hand, they can let communities know that there are certain things we ought not to stand for.

Oklahoma teachers, faced with a $6,000 pay raise, had other demands:

"This package doesn't overcome shortfall caused by four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It's not enough," Priest said. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28% of funds they cut from education over the last decade." 

Certainly class sizes benefit not only teachers, but also children and communities. If teachers cared solely about compensation there'd be no need for them to bring this up. I recall the Chicago teacher strike being not solely about money, but also about learning conditions. Who will advocate for learning conditions if not us? Rahm Emannuel? Joel Klein? Michelle Rhee?

I don't recall any of these reformies trying to get lower class sizes. In fact, uber-reformy Michael Bloomberg advocated for firing half of working teachers and establishing classes of 70. I know some super teachers, but I don't know anyone who could handle 70-student classes very well. In NYC, classes of 34 are already tough to deal with.

In the United States in 2018, over half of our states are "right to work," which means it's optional for people to pay union dues. (Oddly, none of the politicians who push this nonsense seem to think taxes should be optional.) Some "right to work" states have outlawed collective bargaining. I'm not sure exactly what they expect teachers to do when they can't earn a living. I'm also not sure why the people we present as role models for our children should be expected to clean stables or deliver papers before they teach, nor am I sure why they should have to work at the car wash or Applebee's after.

Most importantly, and I've made this point before, it behooves us to leave this world a little better for our children. And in case it isn't clear, students are our children. If we leave them a world of crap jobs with no future or possibility for enjoying life, we haven't precisely delivered.

I don't see New York going the way of those other states, and I'm glad we aren't up against a wall like a lot of our brothers and sisters. But neither are things peachy keen. We need to work to improve teaching and learning conditions, which are largely one and the same. We can't slide into complacency and we can't settle for nonsense like this Janus case. The clear and only aim is to strip us of our voice and leave us just like Oklahoma and West Virginia, among many others.

That's the way the United States is moving right now, and it's on us to grind this movement to a halt. It's a large burden, but it's all ours.
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