Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicago's Teachers "Won't Back Down" and Inspire Teachers throughout the Nation by Mark Naison

Whatever the outcome, the Chicago Teachers strike shows that cross section of the nation's teachers are fed up with being made the whipping boy for the nation's failure to reduce racial and economic inequality and provide equal educational opportunity for its citizens. You do not mobilize tens of thousands of people to put their jobs at risk and take to the picket line without a powerful undercurrent of frustration and rage with the way they have been treated.

The strike won't stop Education Reformers, who have the support of the nation's biggest corporations, from cementing their stranglehold on education policy on the local and national level and from consolidating their influence in both major parties. But it pulls aside the facade of support and compliance with the Obama Administration's education policies that the Democratic National Convention hoped to project and reveals how wildly unpopular Race to the Top is with many of America's teachers and a small, politically-savvy group of public school parents. The strike also provides a powerful antidote to the propaganda campaign for the new Hollywood teacher-bashing movie "Won't Back Down," which hits American theaters at the end of the month. The sea of red shirts marching through Chicago, and the teachers around the country wearing red in solidarity, show that teachers may not be as easy a target as the movie's backers anticipated.

The Chicago Teachers Union has flipped the script on Michelle Rhee, Democrats for Education reform and other backers of school privatization and showed how a teachers’ union can be a militant advocate for the right of students to have a school experience which includes music, art, sports and class sizes small enough to receive individual attention. There is no guarantee that the strike will achieve its major goals, but it has already succeeded in giving America's teachers a huge emotional lift and in forcing the media to recognize that teachers’ voices cannot be marginalized and suppressed without significant consequences.

“Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham's Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports...”

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