Sunday, February 20, 2011
Looks like some of the fervor over democracy in the Middle East is spilling over into the state capitals of many states as governors scramble to slash budgets and exert the corporatizing of public education. In Wisconsin, neither side is willing to blink. But while the media emphasizes the attack on teacher benefits and salaries, (other public employees too) the real battle is over the right to bargain collectively. If ever my fellow Americans were showing their ignorance of their own history, it's in situations like this. Many have no concept of how the struggle to unionize workers yielded everything from minimum wage, to an 8 hour work day, paid vacations, and the entire structure to bargain collectively and grieve unfair practices. Right now, Capitalism is devouring Democracy. An old labor song says that "every generation got to win it all again." So true. At this writing, demonstrations in state capitals are being planned in California, Colorado, Oregon, and New Jersey. Other states will follow; battle lines are drawn.
Underreported in all of this is the attempt to break up the last of the influential labor unions. That's what all this is about. Republicans know that with no voting bloc in organized labor, they can easily dismantle the Democratic party, and with it the control of Congress, the courts, the immediate future.
Last Friday night, speaking on Bill Maher's program, journalist Tavis Smiley said it best. "Budgets are moral documents."
With the privatization and corporatization of public education comes all the evils that teachers are currently resisting. Skewed data from unreliable tests, data driven curriculum, and all the soulless quasi-reform efforts that make both students and teachers dread going to school.
I'm excited. The time to take a stance is now. I wish an organized body of teachers wasn't such a "sleeping giant." It's the sleeping part I worry about. I hope the train hasn't left the station. Ten years ago, when enmeshed in this crisis, if I started to voice a passionate opposition with everything that's wrong with public education I would be mistaken for a teacher that's burned out.
I vividly recall telling people who genuinely seemed interested in these issues that I might be tired, I might be discouraged, I might be angry, but I AM NOT BURNED OUT. Hardly.
Until we live in a culture that has the will to care for all it's citizens, we will have this unrest. Until our governments have the will to care for those most vulnerable, those most deserving, we will have this unrest. Slowly, more and more people are able to determine what is worth fighting for. Those folks will do what it takes. No blinking.