No one can deny the importance of educators. A society’s values and expectations are communicated to each generation via its education system.
And let me qualify a lil’ more… I come from a family of dedicated and militant individuals who taught everything from reading to cultural awareness in schools and churches Monday - Sunday. I grew up with concerned citizens plotting and executing successful campaigns to oust school administrators who disrespected teachers and students. I am an instructor and a student learning how to be a better instructor. I am raising children who spend the bulk of their day as public school students.
And with all of that I still say the Chicago Teachers Union Strike (Sept 10 – 18, 2012) was some bullshit.
To be clear: I am not talking about the teachers. I am talking about the STRIKE.
Should teachers get what they want and more? Absolutely. Is a STRIKE the strategy to get what is wanted in a CONTRACT? No.
Contracts are about business – capitalism: the system of exchange based on value and labor. There is no Golden Rule for fairness within a capitalist system. Any “DON’Ts” or “DOs” are primarily designed to keep the system castor-oil regular. A contract is simply a formulaic promise that the flow will not be disrupted. Basically, “I will give you what you want so I can get what I want.” Unions representing mental/physical laborers keep that two-way process in check. And when the “I” and the “you” can’t agree on how to keep things moving – negotiation, mediation, work slow downs... all of that and then some until terms are finagled.
But a STRIKE? A STRIKE means STOP. A striking worker is a paradox that business cannot handle. A STRIKE, then, is the most important action a workforce can take to bring about change. A STRIKE is not about a conditional reform. A STRIKE is about changing THE SYSTEM itself.
Wait. Did you see the thousands of red shirts downtown? It was stunning, exciting, inconvenient… it was WORKERS flexing their collective power against a system that does not work.
Like most urban school districts, CPS is broken. Money, personnel, organization, social ills, etc., it all gets in the way of the education of the children. For the most part, our children learn in spite of the system not because of it. The system doesn’t work yet it still exists. It exists because comfort levels can be negotiated.
But we had a STRIKE! Meaning, the labor it took to keep the problematic public school system STOPPED. And why re-start a problematic system that you have the power to STOP? Why not STRIKE to tear down the system? Why not STRIKE until the desire to change catches fire across the nation's decrepit public school districts? Why not keep the system STOPPED until Obama & Romney HAVE TO address an equitable and sustainable fix before that first Tuesday in November?
But instead, the STRIKE STOPPED when the system received what it needed to continue to exist.
And for that fact alone, I say the STRIKE was a waste of time, energy, and opportunity.
COLLECTIVE POWER is for REVOLUTION not evolution.