Friday, July 15, 2011

So, Teacher, you don't want to be "political"? That's No Longer An Option

I know, you are in the teaching life to teach, to instruct, to give to the next generation.  So am I.  But, I have come to some stark realizations lately:

Teachers Protest Budget Cuts & Union-busting
Legislation at the Oklahoma State Capitol
Photo by Brett Dickerson
1.  If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not.  Professional writers and pundits have been hired and paid handsomely to attack public school teachers and our representative organizations as their full time job.  And in case you missed it, they are attacking you, too.

2.  Even if you don't like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway.  Sorry, your critics won't let you out, no matter how much you want to be seen as that virginal, non-collective, not-dirty-with-politics, nice-smelling teacher.

3.  Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day.  They will begin presumptive statements with phrases like "greedy union bosses" and hope that you forget that your "bosses" are still certified teachers, deeply committed to the profession.  For instance, the president of my local teaches AP English full-time with a huge grading load and is working on his Masters Degree while being a responsible husband and father.  Wow, what a "greedy union boss."

4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring.  Don't believe me?  Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations.  Remember, school administrations operate in collective ways, also, not just teachers.  And they won't stop even if all teachers unions go away.  It is in their best interest to act collectively.  Hmmmmm...Maybe it's in our best interests, too.

5.  If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right?  The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency.  Those who want to dismantle public schools today want only to "open up a new market" of private schools that will come into existence, fail, over and again. Isn't that what wide open, freewheeling business does today?  Sure it is.  And not much of anyone thinks anything of it.  Would we think something of it if a charter school collapsed and closed at odd times and their students had no place else to go for the rest of the year.  Oh, yea.  Who stands between "market" education and consistent public ed?  The teachers unions.  That's the whole purpose of the attacks.

The only way left for you to not be "political" is to stop being committed to public education.  So, welcome to "the collective", like it or not.  Your critics have made sure that you are locked in.


  1. I agree 100%. It's now increasingly important that we collectively emphasize this truth. I would even argue that individuals who try to no longer be political by halting their committment to public education is still a very political decision. I would posit that such an individual who says, "I'm no longer going to care or be involved in any shape or form" is effectively handing over any potential grassroots power or influence they could have been a part of building to the powers that control the narrative on public education aka corporations. You can't stay neutral on a moving train, right?

  2. You are right on, Mark! Thanks for the comment. I agree that the decision to stay silent is a political decision in itself; and, effectively turns over the decision-making to increasingly smaller groups of people.

  3. y'know, I think you educators political stances are a matter of survival as well as your student's educational experience quality. sure, you have to put some effort into lobbying-fighting-for your jobs and, by proxy, your students quality of eduction, but I think your efforts should be in getting more money fom big business and the wealthy to buld more schools and decrease your class sizes. the main reason itis so tough to handle classes in public schools is basic. Ill mannered students od this era disrupt and retard the progress of the rest. Teachers spend much to much time and attention managing behavioral problems. Teach kids how to behave at home, reduce the influence of the bad on the good by isolating them, and you can function well with much larger classes. bottom line, the econmy is so bad there have to be cuts accross the board, and education is not exempt. It should be. I believe there needs to be legislation to increase taxes automativcally at the local levels, when funding gets so low you guys have to spend your energy playing politics to survive. In the mean time> Fight. All you can do. My heart goes out to you. the single most significant reason i did NOT gointo teaching, something I love, is the quality of students--their demeanor. I am too picky about whom I would teach. Much to picky to work in a private school...good luck. My heart goes out to you all..Mynamis Restricted