Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class Privilege And The Mayor's Assault On Chicago's Labor

In my other analysis, I purposefully left out class since it is not one of the declared principles of the anti-union side. As I saw it, the principles were not being greedy, accepting responsibility of education, and making serious claims.

But I couldn't help but see the parallels. I was having a conversation with a former class mate of mine who is now a teacher. Paraphrasing, the standardized testing model Rahm is pushing an unfair standard because poorer students -- and especially the ones coming from broken homes -- do not test as well. I responded:

Douglas and Paine both argued that the society is responsible for preventing abuse of the workers and for education -- and Paine was put in jail for the arbitrary reason of being a British citizen because the French didn't like him. Douglass was not even allowed to learn to read and was put under a new master when he stopped fearing the current one. That's a part of their disciplining of you. They're not just being stupid. In the times of slave whippings, everyone knew the abuse was going on, it was quietly tolerated (not celebrated), so long as the master did not get a reputation for enjoying it. That's about as far as their logic takes them even today.

There are two ways to come at this, principle and fact. The fact is, they are horribly misinformed. And so was I. There is coverage of class and test scores and it explains that race and class play a role in test scores. Whether or not that can be reasonably accommodated in testing, or whether it does enough, is something I have to do research on. It's an uphill battle. Market journalists need money for advertising and for campaign donations and by and large that comes from the same private interests who lie to us constantly as well, to put it bluntly. It's not a conspiracy, it's a business.I'm ready to disagree with the teachers on this principle if testing can be reformed. Bloggers like this, filled with comforting snark, still manage to question the status-quo fairly even-handedly:

In the Texas public schools, all three major demographic groups have tended to outscore their peers from around the nation. It may be that funding cuts will harm this statewide performance. But in recent years, there have been large funding cuts to public schools in other states too. In our view, the failure to compare the size of the Texas cuts to those in other states was one of the obvious, groaning flaws with yesterday’s news report.
Bottom line: Conservatives do enjoy blaming the unions. Liberals like to mess with Texas. 
We live in highly tribal times. Such times may tend to lower comprehension among even the brightest players.

It's here where the liberal heartstrings must be muted. Obama, by not speaking out, is also considered a victim, which is effectively support for Emmanuel.  I don't even have to cite this, this is his own dogma, his spokesman said he knows he wants "both sides" to solve it. In reality, both Fox News and NPR support this delusion. Honestly, Obama just paraded Emmanuel down here, effectively trading him for another Daley, and I'm supposed to pretend he had no idea this was going to happen? The teachers aren't dragging him into this, it's the other way around. Or I suppose you can believe that "By walking out on Second City kids, the AFT’s Chicago affiliate has inadvertently handed Emanuel a new opportunity to take a different approach to reform. " Like the teachers are Jonah and are being rescued by the whale. Sure. That's more likely.

Sorry for the snark. Back to the facts.

This does not neccesarily mean become exactly like Texas in every way, for example while unions are not widespread, they have other (less dignifified in my opinion) forms of collective bargaining:

Texas public school teachers may vote to have a group represent them in discussions with school management in a process known as “elected consultation” — if the local school board allows it. Elective consultation is similar but not identical to collective bargaining, with the most crucial difference being that any agreement reached through elected consultation is not binding on the school board, says Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, one of several public school employee organizations. Texas AFT represents 65,000 public school employees but not administrators.

 But it is definitely a powerful argument in defense of public schools. The claims of "reform" are not usually made without some mention of charters though. Here is a Daily Beast columnist arguing to "tie federal aid, and thus ultimately school revenues and teacher compensation, to measured results" which is "paying off in small but sustained improvements in test scores nationwide." The mayor also made this claim in today's paper. Timothy Stanley from CNN gave a long reasonable-style account of the facts, concluding with "austerity isn't just a tea party slogan. It's an inescapable necessity." It's clear why they like to scapegoat the unions. Both portray the management of government, the bigwigs, as the victims. "Stanley, an Oxford professor, is amazed that "the latest elected official to do battle with a public-sector union isn't the Republican governor of Wisconsin. It's Rahm Emanuel, the Democrat mayor of Chicago and President Obama's former chief of staff." the Beast's Frum's headline blares "Rahm Stands Up To Teacher Union Bullies."

It looks like the message is established but it's on shaky ground. Emmanuel is keeping the focus off of poverty for now, who knows when the media will ever start, and I really don't feel like preparing for how ridiculous they are willing to bend the facts to get out of that.

My personal belief undercuts all of this though, and that's the teachers have not stopped teaching. This is probably the most educational thing that has ever happened to this city in my lifetime.


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