The new civility on display in Madison, Wisconsin has given me as a teacher pause. As a teacher I have to be held to the utmost level of integrity, do I not? I spend 8 hours a day with other people’s children; often more time than the parents do. I encourage students to work hard, be honest, and disciplined. As a history teacher I point to the nature of our democracy where majority rules, and that elections are to be taken serious as they indeed, as our esteemed President noted, “have consequences.” Yet in Wisconsin teachers have decided to use what is a teachable moment, and demonstrate that lying, banter, and at times, incivility should be used when one does not get what one wants. But none of this should be surprising when we look at how educators are taught today and how they are encouraged to be exemplars of Social Justice and to teach for Social Change. (If you want more on Teaching for Social Justice please click the category tag above). For example, one e-newsletter I receive was very clear on how we should interpret and use the Labor unrest in Wisconsin. The publication offered this quote:
“If teacher unions want to be strong and well-supported, it’s essential that they not only be teacher unionists but teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement of teachers for their rights.”
– Howard Zinn in an interview with Bob Peterson for Transforming Teacher Unions
“…teachers of unionism”? Really!
Today’s teacher unions and educators in America, in public schools, are failing their students and for multiple reasons; some of which have nothing to do with the teachers. But some aspects of this failure have to do with bad teachers and ones that have agendas. Take the literature that is being promoted by the late Howard Zinn and other radicals. In some Universities and Colleges we are producing activists and not educators, and this explains what is happening in Wisconsin. Those who willing lied, took phony sick notes from unscrupulous doctors, and railed against the democratic system, are sending students the wrong message and setting the wrong example. You want to protest, do it after school or on the weekends. Want to organize peacefully, fine. In trying to come up with an editorial on this subject I found another teacher who also had issues with what was happening in Wisconsin, so instead of my own words I’ll let her speak:
To the editor:
When did getting one’s political way justify lying, cheating and disrupting the legal political process? As a teacher and a parent, I always found that example was the strongest teaching tool there was. I will speak only to the teachers and politicians in Wisconsin since those are the people with whom I am identified. What kind of example are you setting?
I was horrified watching teachers accept “sick” notes handed out indiscriminately on the street. In effect they are saying, “I’m well enough to stand in the cold and protest politically, but I’m too sick to be in my classroom.”
What would that same teacher call a student’s note of that sort? A lie. That lie also breaks the contract those teachers signed with their schools and the taxpayers who fund them. Cheating. One teachers’ union official was filmed saying, “Our first interest is in educating our children,” yet he supported abandoning classrooms in favor of seeking political ends. Might I add hypocrisy to my list?
Finally, the duly elected officials, elected by a majority of all the people in their districts, are so afraid of or complicit with this vocal sector that they abdicate their sworn duty to uphold the constitutional law of this country and go into hiding, disrupting the lawful process.
I won’t comment on the merits of either side of the political argument, but when the belief that the end justifies the means becomes prevalent, the rule of law disappears. Historically, the next step is anarchy. From the title of an Alan Paton novel, “Cry the Beloved Country.”