Tuesday, September 11, 2012

They Say Up in Cook County, There Are No Neutrals There: You'll Either Be a Union Man, or a Thug for Emanuel

Update: links added, towards the end. Update 2: Kept adding throughout the day. Will probably stop when I go to bed -- I have my own classes to teach & can't keep this up. Still, it feels like the most important story in the nation right now.

More links on the Chicago strike:

Rick Perlstein, Stand against Rahm! (via):
So though this may change if the strike turns lengthy and disruptive, Chicago isn’t seeing its teachers as greedy. They’re seeing them as a vanguard in the struggle against what might happen to the rest of the middle class next if they don’t speak up.

Mark Naison, guest post at Diane Ravitch's blog: "The union, in this instance is far better advocate for the children of Chicago than the mayor."

• Same blog, this time Diane Ravitch herself: the evaluation method that Emanuel wants to put in place on the Chicago teachers "is junk science. Bunk science. Just another club with which to knock teachers, wielded by those who could never last five minutes in a classroom". (In general, Diane Ravitch's blog seems like a good place for pro-strike links & commentary.)

• Ok, one more Ravitchy link:
The real difference between the CTU and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not money.... The real differences are about the corporate reform agenda. The mayor wants merit pay, more charters, evaluation of teachers by test scores, and all the other components of the national corporate reform agenda. But little noticed by the national media is that none of these so-called reforms works or has any evidence to support it.
She then links to this Washington Post story, which has more links, for evidence. (Damn reality and its well-known liberal bias!)

David Dayen, The Chicago Teachers Union fight is a National Fight

5 Facts About the Terrible State of Chicago Schools (which the Union wants to fix) (via)

• Corey Robin gets into it with an overpaid bloviator tut-tutting about how much Chicago teachers make. (And who gets his facts wrong. But hey, reality's biased!)

• And always remember: we have it on the authority of law professor M. Todd Henderson that $400,000 a year doesn't go very far in Chicago. He certainly doesn't send his precious darlings to public schools. I trust he supports the strikers, right? Right?

Adam Kotsko, The Long Game (via). Excerpt:
Take, for instance, education reform. We all know that the entire enterprise is a joke from an educational standpoint — the “school choice” movement has consistently failed to deliver the promised results. This would be a decisive objection if the goal of education reform were to improve education as such, but we are long past the time when market structures used to have to justify themselves for extrinsic reasons. Here as everywhere, the point isn’t to impose market-based reforms because it will deliver better outcomes, but simply because education will then be a market. Unequal outcomes are a feature, not a bug — the “school choice” system is designed to reward the most talented while leaving the mediocre behind.
Sally Kohn, Standing up to Rahm (from Salon -- not to be confused with Salon's Stand Against Rahm (first link at the top of the post)), via a striking teacher on facebook. Excerpt:
Prior to going on strike for the first time in 25 years, the Chicago Teachers Union won “concessions” including that the school board would provide textbooks on the first day of school. Teachers have previously had to wait up to six weeks into the school year for instructional materials to arrive. And the union wants to limit class sizes, which are the largest in the entire state of Illinois. These aren’t the demands of greedy thugs. These are the demands of teachers who want to teach....

Notice that no one is pushing charter schools in wealthy communities because public schools there are thriving. In other words, the school district I grew up in is still a good school district — not because of unions or vouchers or high-stakes testing but because of taxes. But in poor neighborhoods and inner cities across the United States, students are struggling because their communities are struggling — conditions only made worse by the recent recession. The teachers and teachers’ unions who work in these districts to try to help are part of the solution. Poverty, homelessness and the dramatic funding cuts to social services that help needy families, as well as the cuts to public education, are the problem. And we can’t expect teachers to do more and more when conservative austerity measures are giving poor kids and their schools less and less. Teachers are advocates for their students. Teachers’ unions are advocates for teachers.
Sabrina Joy Stevens, The Real Stand for Children (via):
Pop History Quiz: Do you know how children ended up off the factory floor and in classrooms?

Unionized adults.
The Chicago Teachers Union is standing, as unions have long stood, for the rights of ordinary people -- including kids. Stevens explains more.

David Sirota, The Bait and Switch of School Reform (via the previous). He points out three self-interested motives of the so-called reformers who just happen to be wealthy wall streeters: first, pure profit (they're selling what reformers want us to buy, e.g. standardized testing services); second, a distraction from the fact that the real problem in education is poverty and inequality, and if we really wanted to fix the schools we'd have to fix that (which no one in power in this country has any interest in doing), and third, that it's yet another front in a long war on unions.

Micah Uetricht, Strike for America, includes some interesting information about the local political background (and on-the-ground reporting).

Brian Leiter on his blog:
There is only one problem confronting urban public schools, and it has nothing to do with the schools or the teachers, contrary to all the blather by idle-rich busybodies and the intellectually feeble politicans who do their bidding. The primary problem with urban public schools is that they largely serve a population that lives under conditions of economic hardship, sometimes grotesque economic hardship, with all the attendant problems of poor nutrition, physical safety, availability of adult supervision after school, and suitable environments and incentives for school work. That, of course, is why suburban public schools in affluent communities--with unionized teachers who are no different than those in the urban schools--always do better on measures of academic performance and outcomes. If you don't have to worry whether there will be food for dinner, or whether you will be mugged, or if anyone will be available to take care of you, or whether you'll have a quiet place to work, it turns out to be easier to do well in school. It's got nothing to do with the teachers, and everything to do with the environment. (Here and there, fabulous teaching makes a difference, but you can't make policy around atypical cases.)
A profile of Karen Lewis, head of the CTU. (This link, and the next few, via Leiter.)

Freddie deBoer, Making a Job Worse Is a Brilliant Strategy for Attracting the Best Talent:
People believe that we are suffering from a lack of talent and drive in our teacher ranks. As you all know, I don’t agree, and I find the empirical evidence far, far more indicative of student-side demographic effects causing poor educational performance. But suppose the other side is correct. How the fuck are we going to fix a talent deficit when the self-same people work relentlessly to make teaching a less attractive profession? There’s a simple reality facing any talented, driven young graduate who is considering teaching as a profession: you know that our media and our politicians are always going to want to make your job worse....

The reality is that you can’t be pro-education and anti-educator. Not just in the sense that you shouldn’t be, ethically, although I certainly believe that. I mean the notion that you can say that you care about education while working relentlessly to attack our actual teachers is nonsensical. If you want to attack our teachers as “overpaid,” OK. Go ahead. But you don’t get to pretend that you give a shit about education. (italics in the original)
Also, in his earlier post also at Balloon Juice:
Do you think that teaching should be a high-status position that carries with it a decent wage and the chance for meaningful pay raises? Or do you want to continue the relentless assault on the profession? That is the essential question at stake here.
Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher give some context on education reform.

Jim Nichols has a whole 'nother round up of links, only a few of which duplicate the ones I've posted here. Maybe I'll add a few below.

• Kevin Lee, a Chicago teacher, on why he's striking (at Ravitch's blog):
As teachers, we notice signs when a student is homeless — and we buy clothes for the student. We see students who are pregnant from rape (typically a mother’s boyfriend). For many students, the school lunch is the only meal of the day. And we have a lot of students who aren’t officially homeless, but are bouncing between the couches of relatives and friends and during the school day are worrying about where they are going to sleep that night. I have had the student who is distraught one day in class because a friend was in the hospital from a shooting or killed.

I can’t even remember all the names of students in the school where I teach who have been murdered. The awful thing is that I don’t even consider the school that I work at one of the most impoverished in Chicago.
America: land of opportunity! We're number one!... at, er, figuring out ways to educate starving, homeless children so we can pretend they have a decent shot at the American Dream.

And Dave Steiber, another striking teacher, writes here. (Via Nichols)

Karynthia at Alas: On being a CPS parent & siding with the striking teachers

• Written before the strike, but relevant to it: Dana Goldstein, Can Teachers Alone Overcome Poverty? Excerpt:
[Regarding] the idea that teachers can completely overcome poverty[,] There’s a reason, I think, why this ideology is so attractive to many of the wealthy charter school founders and donors Brill profiles, from hedge funder Whitney Tilson to investment manager and banking heir Boykin Curry. If the United States could somehow guarantee poor people a fair shot at the American dream through shifting education policies alone, then perhaps we wouldn’t have to feel so damn bad about inequality—about low tax rates and loopholes that benefit the superrich and prevent us from expanding access to childcare and food stamps; about private primary and secondary schools that cost as much annually as an Ivy League college, and provide similar benefits; about moving to a different neighborhood, or to the suburbs, to avoid sending our children to school with kids who are not like them.

The fact of the matter, though, is that inequality does matter. Our society’s decision to deny the poor essential social services reaches children not only in their day-to-day lives but in their brains. In the face of this reality, educators put up a valiant fight, and some succeed. The deck is stacked against them.

You'll either be a union man, or a thug for the Austerity State of the 1%.

Which side are you on?

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