I know, you are in the teaching life to teach, to instruct, to give to the next generation. So am I. But, I have come to some stark realizations lately:
1. If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not. Professional writers and pundits have been hired and paid handsomely to attack public school teachers and our representative organizations as their full time job. And in case you missed it, they are attacking you, too.
2. Even if you don’t like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway. Sorry, your critics won’t let you out, no matter how much you want to be seen as that virginal, non-collective, not-dirty-with-politics, nice-smelling teacher.
3. Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day. They will begin presumptive statements with phrases like “greedy union bosses” and hope that you forget that your “bosses” are still certified teachers, deeply committed to the profession.
4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations. Remember, school administrations operate in collective ways, also, not just teachers. And they won’t stop even if all teachers unions go away. It is in their best interest to act collectively. Hmmmmm…Maybe it’s in our best interests, too.
5. If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right? The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency. Those who want to dismantle public schools today want only to “open up a new market” of private schools that will come into existence, fail, over and again. Isn’t that what wide open, freewheeling business does today? Sure it is. And not much of anyone thinks anything of it. Would we think something of it if a charter school collapsed and closed at odd times and their students had no place else to go for the rest of the year. Oh, yea. Who stands between “market” education and consistent public ed? The teachers unions. That’s the whole purpose of the attacks.
The only way left for you to not be “political” is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to “the collective”, like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in.