It’s NOT Paranoia

When you read this I’ll be enjoying the Coalition of Essential School’s Fall Forum in Providence (8th/9th). By the time I return (Nov 17th) I’ll have been many places where I’ll get feedback on the elections and on teaching this side of the Mississippi–including breakfast with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago AFT. But will it cure my “paranoia”?

Thanks to Ann Cook for reminding me that my “paranoia” about teachers holding a special place in the hearts of the corporate establishment is well-founded. Has anyone asked the policemen or firemen or sanitation workers (not to mention …) to work extra hours because there’s a “crisis” in NYC? They may, like teachers, do so without even being asked. Why then are teachers expected to solve the crisis facing the entire nation? Maybe even the rich need the goodwill of cops and firemen? Of course, it may not be long before they have created a truly separate world for themselves with their own cops and firemen–as they have in education, with their own schools.

The claim that our schools are in crisis goes back… actually, to every time there’s a dip in the financial well-being of America–a time when ordinary folks are looking around for someone to blame. I have a collection of headlines and magazine covers dating back to the 1950s that I look at on occasion. I both cry and laugh at them. Richard Rothstein’s book (“The Way We Were,” Century Foundation) traces it back to the mid-19th century. But starting in 1983 it became the official bi-partisan “line”: the teachers and their union bosses have been “sabotaging” America. In the famous 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” it was softened to, “as if they were”.

They may get their way and more if we don’t act… but how? Labor in NY State has been, so many tell me, the most powerful lobby on earth. But if so, how come we can’t do in NY what the Chicago AFT did without paying an awesome price? Our liberal State laws are more draconian than Illinois when it comes to any kind of labor actions–like striking. The penalties are aimed at both teachers and the union itself. It makes it harder, but the first step is to educate ourselves and our fellow teachers and parents, which was step one for Chicago AFT too. We need creative actions that educate, and whose message will be heard around the world–or at least the state.

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