Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rallying with Some Teachers

I'm not political.  Never have been.  A self-proclaimed "Independent," I refuse to vote along party lines.  And then I refuse to reveal whom I've voted for.  But this current teacher-bashing trend has gotten me all riled up.  The media needs someone to blame for our country's education woes and who better than teachers?  I will not pretend there aren't bad teachers out there, but it's only fair that everyone take their fair share of responsibility:  teachers, administrators, parents, AND students. 

Under the guise of "education reform"--which I will not argue is sorely needed in some places--numerous state governments have started calling for measures that are against teachers.  Honestly, these proposed laws have little to do with education at all; they are vengeful union-busting proposals.  Historically, teacher unions (and unions in general) tend to support more liberal (ie, Democratic) candidates, so once more conservative (ie, Republican) politicians seized control in the recent mid-term elections, it spelled trouble for the unions.  Call me crazy, but alienating and angering a sizable number of voters does not sound like a very good way to remain in office.

I have been a member of the National Education Association and its state affiliates since I began teaching.  Admittedly, I haven't been an active member, but a member I have nonetheless been.  For me, it's an act of security--job insurance, if you will.  When Jon worked as a painter, he was a proud union member as well.  I'm not going to turn this post into pro-union propaganda because I'm certainly no expert, but I do want to point out that despite my union membership, I have been laid-off twice and am nowhere near tenure due to the fact that I have taught in three different states.

I'm operating under the assumption that most people know about what's been happening in Wisconsin when it comes to teachers and unions.  What may not be known is that several other states, including Missouri and Tennessee are attempting to pass similar bills.  To borrow from the lexicon of my students, the legislators "done lost their minds."

In a stroke of luck, a teachers' rally was scheduled at the state Capitol the same weekend we were visiting Nashville for our anniversary (see previous post).  I think it was a sign.  While I really don't have a strong connection to Tennessee, for me, this rally was for teachers all across the country.  Despite the rain, the crowd was electric; it was an extremely empowering experience, which strengthened my commitment to the teaching profession. 

There were some very rousing speakers who gave impassioned speeches about the work teachers do and the reasons why we do it.  And yes, there was talk about the importance of unions.  The state representative from Memphis, Joe Towns, said this about collective bargaining:

"Collective bargaining gave us the weekend. Collective bargaining gave us safety laws in the workplace. Collective bargaining [put an end] to working children like they were grown people."

Sometimes we forget how good we have it, huh?  I certainly appreciate my weekends, don't you?  But more than any single issue, I think it's the disrespect for teachers--and for working people in general--that hurts most of all.

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