Taking Teachers and Teacher Unions to Task

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.”

Anne Paradis

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8 Responses to Taking Teachers and Teacher Unions to Task

  1. Chris – I think your piece is spot on. Amazing how others in the blogosphere are now rushing to the defense of this unseemly spectacle. These “peaceful” protesters are defying police orders to vacate, reporters have been assaulted, the protesters **openly embrace socialists, anarchists, and communists, and then you have persons without a clue in the teaching profession refer to this as a “peaceful protest.” Talk about being “completely unaware” !!! Don’t let the criticism get you down. It is teachers like you that give parents and grandparents like me some hope. Keep up the good work.

    ** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9IdUJ4gLZw&feature=player_embedded#at=29

    Let’s let the video speak for itself.

    How utterly embarrassing and degrading to the profession.

  2. Corey Meyer says:

    Chris, while I don’t support everything that has been done in Wisconsin, I do not think your comments painting teachers who join the union and work to protect their jobs as you do is helpful either. I am a union member where I work, and while I would not leave work to protest, I think any worker has the right to express their concerns and make a statement as they see fit. But you seem to declare all teachers who stand up for what they feel is right as unworthy of being respected and that I think is flat wrong.

  3. Chris says:

    Corey, I do not believe a teacher should lie about being sick, organize students likewise, and then parade them in an organized protest that is IN EFFECT stating that the democratic process is not relevant. These “shameful” democrats (to quote Mr. Levin) lost an election and should own up to it and go to work and teach and legislate. That is the bottom line. What do we teach students? Oh, if you do not get your way lie and cheat? Imagine if the Republicans this past December did the same thing with the Health Care bill, a bill that Republicans argued was an overreach of legislative authority, a similar argument by Wisconsin teachers today. Set the right example respect the democratic process, do your jobs, and protest on your own time.

    Mr. Levin in his blog incorrectly calls the protests in Wisconsin as a “Strike.” He writes:

    “…because I am not a member of a union and the reasons for the strike have little to do with the focus of this blog…”

    Which it is not, of course! Very good.

    Here it is: http://cwmemory.com/2011/02/28/standing-up-for-teachers

    Mr. Levin, it seems, is talking in circles. For example, he writes:

    “On what grounds does Wehner condemn every single teacher who has picked up a sign or spent the evening in the capitol building? ”

    I said NO SUCH THING. “Every single teacher”!? Really, Mr. Levin. As a historian you should WATCH YOUR WORDS. Is that what you really meant?

    I have no problem with peaceful protest, when not on the taxer payer paid sick leave time, wrote as much.

    Which he then agrees with by stating:

    “Even more outrageous is the suggestion that these teachers should conduct their protests after school hours and on weekends. ”

    Outrageous? Really, that says more about Mr. Levin than anything. He is not a public school teacher and does not understand that as a public school teacher we need to be in the classroom with 32+ kids! Schools shut down, and that is not fair and not why we are there. Because as a TAX PAYER I want all teachers including myself in the classroom working, Mr. Levin.

    WE ARE NOT protesters but educators sir.

    Mr. Levin writes:

    “He takes a reasonable disagreement over whether these people have the right to strike and be away from their classrooms and dismisses them without any serious attempt to understand their motivation.”

    Conduct the protest on your own time! Yes, hard for Mr. Levin to imagine.

    Finally Mr. Levin attacks me: “What version of U.S. history is Wehner teaching? ”

    You know what Mr. Levin, I have never, ever suggested that you teach improperly, how dare you attack me. How dare you.

    Go ahead, pat yourself on the back and believe how you are so much better than I.

    Then you have the gall to say; “I don’t make any claims as to what Wehner does in his classroom.”

    Mr. Levin you are shameful.

    Finally, Mr. Levin spews:

    “It goes without saying that our education system has some serious problems, some of them are the result of the influence of unions and poor teaching. However, for every bad apple in our school districts I can point to many more, who are honest, hard working, and struggling to help their students with very little financial support. What ultimately troubles me about Wehner’s editorial, as well as other things he has written on his blog about the teaching profession, is that he seems to be completely unaware of this. He would have us believe that teachers are engaged in a plot to turn our students into revolutionaries and overthrow everything that is sacred about America. It’s as if teachers are to be feared.”

    He must forget I work in the public school sector. I am “unaware”? Mr. Levin is once again stating fiction. I know the struggles of a public teacher.

    I also never said that ALL teachers are any such way, and yes I am very concerned about certain institutions and I have always made that distinction.

    In typical fashion, Mr. Levin is running wild with what I did and and didn’t say.

    I wonder how much time Mr. Levin has spent in a public school classroom? What gives him the right to say such bold statements from the confines of the private school he teachers from.

    Mr. Levin attacks my character and suggests I am not a good teacher and he knows nothing about me, clearly, as he doesn’t even seriously read what I write.

    Chris Wehner

  4. Chris says:

    When self-evaluating my remarks, I can only see this comment I made as perhaps unclear:

    “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.”

    I said “when we look at how educators are taught” and note I did not say “all”, but also did not say “some” educators. Mr. Levin just could not help himself.

    I should have delineated the point. But that really is not issue, Mr. Levin read into my post what he wanted to and ran with it.


  5. Hondo69 says:

    Talk about a teachable moment . . . In a single half hour I saw 3 news stories that now seem curiously related: Unrest in the Mideast, teachers in Wisconsin and a Tea Party meeting. The first story showed a riot with burning cars, the next a crowd carrying signs screaming angry protests at government officials. What was odd to me was the car-burning crowd seemed much more calm and workman like than the protesters who appeared ready to explode.

    Then came the protester’s interviews. Each attempted to explain, “it’s all about the children”, and to illustrate the point continued on by noting how unfair officials were treating them personally. No doubt a large percentage of the viewing audience was sitting at home nodding in agreement like countless bobble-head dolls.

    The last story showed the Tea Party meeting, calm and orderly. Can you guess which group was portrayed as Nazi loving, baby killing, irrational crazies?

  6. Dale says:

    Excellent write up Chris

  7. Chris says:

    Dale appreciate your support. Had I no knowledge of Mr. Levin’s background I would be baffled by his comments. Unfortunately, it is not surprising and in fact par for the course. Thanks again!

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