Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Why Are Teachers Targeted and What Can We Do About It?

After reading yet another week of press coverage that shows little or no awareness of who we are or what we do, I have to take a moment and look at why we are where we are in the press. There are a number of reasons, and none of them are good. Fifteen years ago, crappy press coverage and too many conversations with people who didn't know what they were talking about caused me to begin this blog.

A big reason, as I said a few days ago, is that we still have union, something lacking in much of these United States. Ronald Reagan painted a big old target on union when he moved to kill PATCO, the only union that supported his election. Yes, he told the country, we will put you all out of work if you move to halt the transportation of the elite. What's more important, working people or rich people taking their vacations? Reagan let the whole country know where he stood on that.

This started a downward spiral for union in America. This is a big reason for the erosion of middle class. When I was a kid, the norm was one-income families. You could buy a home and support a large family if you worked in a factory. If you work in a factory nowadays, you probably can't afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.

Teachers stuck with union, hopefully because we're well-educated. A few weeks ago, we faced a whole lot of pushback on a state law that gave us time to vote. Because we're union, many of us were able to take advantage of it. I brought my car into Toyota that morning to rotate the tires. They had no idea. They have no union. It was only the union that let me know about this, and it was me who mostly told the members in my building about it. The law, in fact, says it should be posted somewhere. What are you gonna do when you're an at-will employee? The best answer, in fact, would be to organize a union. (Easier said than done in many environments these days. It's on us to change that.)

Another factor is that we're a union dominated by women. Maybe you think sexism is a thing of the past, but I don't. Teachers and nurses are chronically underpaid, though our work is important to just about everyone. I can't speak much about nurses, but I've repeatedly read nonsense about just how easy it is to replace teachers. Just find an accountant and give him the math book. He'll know what to do.

First, find me an accountant who wants to be a teacher. Let's ignore the likely disparity in salary altogether and go with it. I can hardly thing of jobs more dissimilar. I like working with people, not numbers. I suppose math teachers like working with both. Still, it's a skill to capture the interest of 34 teenagers at a time, and here's something that doesn't occur to accountant advocates--people who work in offices all day are quite likely not to need, let alone have that skill.

Maybe the problem is that newspapers have had to deal with unions, and they hate them. Why should rich guys who own newspapers have to pay working people? That's a major inconvenience. The NY Times is supposed to be liberal. Not only does it have the worst education coverage in the city, but it also has run with reformy nonsense about us more than once. In fact, the supposedly left-leaning columnists have written blatantly ignorant nonsense that could easily have run in the Post. Of course, the Post runs more frequent anti-public-education editorials because the Times is so lofty it often can't be bothered worrying about the education of NYC's 1.1 million schoolchildren.

The answer for teachers, Toyota employees and everyone is union. It's getting involved and seen. It's being part of something larger than yourself and lifting up an entire wave of teachers. It's looking at the future and saying you want this to be a better place for our students and children.

Let them target us. We can and will fight back. We have the truth on our side. We have the numbers on our side. Women are more than half the population, and maybe one of them will be President soon. It's about time. The time to be afraid is over.

When the press attacks us we have to stand strong and tell them precisely how full of crap they are. Presidential candidates, including Bernie and Warren, seem to be listening to us. Even Biden, after years of sitting silent about some of the worst education policies I've ever seen, paid us valuable lip service at a recent UFT conference. His wife is a college teacher. Of course she didn't have to depend on it for a living or anything, but they didn't mention that in their comments.

We know what's true and what's not. We don't need to be shy about it. Teachers just tipped the governor's race in Kentucky. Let's do the same in 2020. Let's dump Trump and all his soulless minions, and let's send a message to those who'd mess with us--We aren't messing around anymore.
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