I hope you don’t mind that I’m still in teacher mode. Just this last weekend we went to my husband’s 60th school reunion. I volunteered as registrar and my husband did the A/V. It was an all-boys school but the wives have become quite familiar with each other over the years and we now feel like part of the class. The furthest traveled from Sweden. Quite a few have died. There were a number of walkers and canes. There was good cheer, good food, and a lot of catch-up.
Today, the local news has a significant story about an impending strike at all of the State Colleges.
Inevitably, this reminds me of when my kids were in elementary school and our local public schools had frequent strikes. I’m not talking about a few days now and then. In one school year, there was a five-week strike and then a few months later, the union walked out for eight weeks. What did we do?
In my densely populated neighborhood, the parents (mostly mothers) formed their own schools. Kindergarten (for about 12 kids) was in my house because I had a large playroom. This responsibility was shared with a friend (a librarian). Each child had to bring his/her own small chair. They had fun. We were exhausted. Throughout the neighborhood other classes at all grade levels were formed: Art (professional artist), French (mother from France), etc. A local hospital and church provided more classroom space. It was neat to see all the kids walking around the neighborhood from one venue to another.
This brings me to my opinion of the teachers’ unions. For a very long time teachers were underpaid, overworked, lacked supplies, lacked support. Perhaps because most teachers were female, there was a generalized lack of respect for this profession. A strong union was the only solution. I believe this was necessary. Better pay, smaller classes, health care, etc. all make for happier teachers and therefore happier students. On the other hand, unlike an auto plant wherein strikers affect the profits of the corporation, when teachers strike the students suffer. The students have no power to change anything. If School Administrators, School Boards, State Legislators, Mayors, etc. were deprived of their pay during a school strike, things would be different.
I do believe that strong teachers’ unions can be powerful tools to improve our educational system, if that were their main goal.
Our current system is rooted in the past. It needs a complete re-working. Academics should be taught on-line with the courses designed by teachers in those specialties. Classroom facilitators should be concerned with student interactions, spotting learning difficulties, encouraging independence and creating an atmosphere for imagination. The Arts should be standard, not luxuries. Although sports are a valuable part of education it is overemphasized compared to other programs. And, most important, the quality of an education should not be dependent upon the socio-economic status of a student’s neighborhood.
OK. That’s my rant for today.