Re: On Unions and Education
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Re: On Unions and Education
- From: LeoCasey@aol.com
- Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2004 10:31:44 -0500
It is has been interesting to see how Deborah Meier's Dissent essay "On Unions and Education" has been parsed, and how some folks have pored over it to find an isolated passage, here or there, which taken out of context, would make her sound critical of teacher unions in a piece where she affirmed their importance and their centrality, as the collective voice of teachers, in education. Michael Antonucci, producer of anti-teacher union Internet newsletter and web site, the Educational Intelligence Agency, managed to find a sentence which, out of context, suggested a much more critical attitude toward teacher unions.
I think that Susan's focus on the particular line where it is mentioned that teacher unions can be conservative, not in the political sense of the term but as a supporter of existing teacher rights and protection, is also misplaced. Deborah Meier has always had a politics which appreciates the importance of due process and fairness in large institutional settings, and nothing that she said there should be misconstrued as suggesting something contrary. She is not arguing that teacher unions should be any less vigilant in their defense of teacher rights -- quite to the contrary.
I would urge folks to reproduce the essay in full; Deborah Meier and I have discussed the essay, and I know that is what she would like to see, and that Dissent has a very liberal attitude toward republication rights, provided that the appropriate recognition is given to it. The essay makes its case extraordinarily well, and it comes from someone who is not in the leadership of a teacher union and who has a well-deserved reputation as an educator, so it will carry great credibility.
And no one need be afraid of the passages where Deborah suggests that in particular settings, teacher unions can be less than we would all like them to be. Those of us most initimately involved in the daily life and organization of unions, which are complex democratic institutions representing millions of American educators that have to negotiate change and build consensus and so can never move as fast and as far as we might like, often struggle with how we can be better, and it is good for us to have 'critical friends' raising issues in a supportive fashion, as opposed to seeing them only in the hands of those who seek to destroy teacher unions, both from the right and from, as we have seen even here on occasion, from the ultra-left. Teacher unions, with all of their organized power and political influence, are all that stand between public education and massive privatization at this point in our history. It is this role in defending public education, together with the facts that K-12 education is the one industry in all of the US which is overwhelmingly unionized and that teachers unions are an electoral bulwark of the coalitions that turn back the hard conservative right, which makes them into a political target from those same forces.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never has, and it never will.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters.
-- Frederick Douglass --
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