Labor's Pains

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The war on teachers: Why the public is watching it happen - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

The war on teachers: Why the public is watching it happen - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post

Why has this campaign attracted such strong bipartisan support and why has the public failed to speak out loudly against it?

Attacks on teachers have occurred in the midst of a broad-based attack on the bargaining rights and benefits of all public workers — but even by that standard, teachers have been singled out.

In New York State, where teacher evaluations were just released to the press, the state Legislature just passed — and the governor signed — a bill that exempted police and firefighters from having their evaluations released to the public. What better symbolizes the way teachers have become “fair game” for public demonization?

There are huge profits to be made in the testing industry, in educational technologies that replace teachers, and in constructing and managing charter schools, so it is not hard to see why some people in the corporate world would benefit from attacking public education and teachers unions.
But why are so many parents and the general public buying into this campaign? Certainly politicians wouldn’t be voting to take away teachers’ rights if they didn’t think it would get votes.

Let’s look at the way many in America’s shrinking middle class and battered working class view the teachers in their midst.

Large numbers of people are losing their jobs and homes, earning sub-standard wages and taking in their children who can’t find jobs. All the while, they see teachers, 80 percent of them women, who make better salaries than they do, have better health plans and pensions, and get two or three months off in the summer!

Many say to themselves: “Who do teachers think they are? Why should they live so well on my tax dollars when I can barely keep my head above water? At the very least, they should feel some of the insecurity I feel every day and face the kind of performance assessments workers in the private sector deal with all the time.”

...There is another more insidious consequence of the attack on teaching. Every time you undermine the job security, working conditions, and wages of one group of workers, it makes it easier for employers to undermine them for all workers. This is why, during the Depression, many unemployed people organized in support of workers on strike, even though anybody with a job in that era was relatively privileged. They believed in the concept of solidarity — the idea that working people could only progress if they did so together, and if one group of workers improved their conditions, it would ultimately improve conditions for all.

That kind of solidarity, for the most part, is gone now. If American workers are ever going to regain their fair share of national income and win back respect on and off the jobs, it is something they are going to have to re-learn. The Occupy Movement has brought back the idea of solidarity with its image of “the 99 percent fighting the 1 Percent,” but this idea has not yet spread fast enough to stop the war on teachers.

No comments:

Post a Comment