Why are they striking?

Did you ever envision a time when people making $76,000 a year plus massive benefits and with a three month summer vacation would go out on strike? But that’s what the public school teachers in Chicago have done.

Of course none of the stories have mentioned it, but could it be that the reason the teachers feel they deserve such extraordinary remuneration is the unbearable stress they undergo as a result of “teaching” a “student” body that is that 40 percent black and 44 percent Hispanic?

Here’s a hint of what Chicago’s public school “students” are really like. As reported by NBC Chicago,

And after a violent Chicago summer, police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he’s “emptying our offices” to patrol the thousands of unsupervised kids on the streets.

Meaning, if Chicago’s Minority Urban Youth are not constantly occupied and distracted, they immediately turn to violence.

And guess what? Lucianne Goldberg, not exactly a maven of racial realism, has put the same message on her main page:

Chicago teachers to go on strike after failing
to reach contract deal

If kids don’t get an education they will grow up to
shoot each other in the street … oh, wait….

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

The article says:

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he’s “emptying our offices” to patrol the thousands of unsupervised kids on the streets.

That means the strike can’t be permitted to go on for too long, or it will be too obvious that the (hundreds? thousands?) of police officers performing “administrative duties” don’t actually do anything when they’re in the office and shouldn’t be employed.

If the countless policemen and teachers across America who only administrate, and never enforce the law or teach children, were fired tomorrow, who would even notice? One doubts that the quality of law enforcement or education would decline.

Brad C. writes:

You stated:

Of course none of the stories have mentioned it, but could it be that the reason the teachers feel they deserve such extraordinary remuneration is the unbearable stress they undergo as a result of “teaching” a “student” body that is that 40 percent black and 44 percent Hispanic?

You have hit the nail on the head. If you read between the lines, you discover the student demographic is the source of the strike. From reading news articles, you might get the impression the decrease in the cost-of-living adjustment from four percent to two percent was the source of the strike. This article makes it clear the teachers’ union is digging its heels in at the prospect of teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores.

Look, the striking teachers aren’t exactly a sympathetic group. They are typical whiny public sector employees. But they are drawing a line in the sand here because they know that if their job security is based on objectively measuring educational outcomes, they are finished. To require them to produce an educated student body is to require the impossible. This quote from the article hints at the real issue:

FairTest policy analyst Lisa Guisbond called Chicago’s strike “the tip of the iceberg of teacher frustration with so-called ‘reform’ policies, which place the blame on educators for problems largely caused by the impoverished settings in which their students must live.”

“Impoverished settings.” Got that? This is the elephant in the room: they are dealing with a mass of students who are simply ineducable. Standardized testing, for all of its faults, does provide an objective measure of student achievement. Public educators justify themselves by emphasizing procedure rather than educational outcome. That is, they define educational achievement by such things as number of hours in the classroom, teacher certification, etc. On this view, you are “teaching” history for one hour by putting on a video for the students. But if you define educational achievement in terms of knowledge of the relevant subjects and mastery of the relevant skills, then you will see the well-documented “achievement gaps.” Teachers could be terminated for failing to overcome these achievement gaps. But this would be to require teachers to overcome natural differences in student learning ability. Hence, the cheating scandal in the Atlanta school systems.

The teachers know this. They KNOW it. Here is the message they are sending with the strike: “This is our way of reminding you that our primary role is to provide taxpayer-funded daycare. We will accept a two percent cost of living increase rather than a four percent increase, but we will NOT accept any method of evaluation that bases our employment and career security on whether students are actually learning.”

Ed H. writes:

One of the things these “teachers” are demanding is that students” performance should not be taken into account when awarding salary increases and benefits. This is odd.

They justified their initial salaries by claiming that they are “changing lives,” “opening doors,” “shaping young minds,” “broadening horizons.” But they want nothing to do with this rhetoric when it comes time to look at results. By any verifiable standards, like graduation rates, test scores, or basic literacy, there is little real education to show for all the trillions wasted. Instead we find that amongst black urban youth, graduating seniors are reading at about a 6th grade level. “But don’t blame us!!!” scream the teachers, and thereby admit that, in effect, their charges are ineducable, and their own existence is rather pointless. All the money spent on salaries, new buildings, science labs, computers, field trips has produced so very little. And if there is so little to show for so many, why should we keep trying, or at least keep trying at this level? Why not reduce the education system to a size commensurate with real potential outcomes? Why not confront these teachers with the implications of what they themselves are saying. At very least it would be an excellent tactic at the bargaining table. Instead of trying to make them happy with more money, simply say, “I am sorry you just aren’t worth it, after all you have said so much yourself.”

LA replies:

Ed’s comment was sent before Brad C.’s comment was posted, but it makes a perfect complement to it. Brad focused on the unfairness to teachers of basing their salaries and career prospects on whether they can educate the ineducable. Ed switches the terms of the discussion around and says: Since the “students” are in fact ineducable, why is society paying teachers so much for the students’ non-existent and never-to-exist education?

This kind of unexpected dialectical unfolding of insights is an example of why blogging is so great.

September 12

James N. writes:

Although I detest public employee unions, since their “contracts” subvert legislative authority, I have been sympathetic for years to the bind teachers find themselves in. Society has chosen to lie—massively, shamelessly, and persistently—in the face of all evidence about what is possible with organized education.

This has gone on for two generations, and the only response of the culprits is to lie more, and to double down, as with the recent attempt to make Algebra II a graduation requirement from which no “child” will be left behind.

Until mandatory education ends at 8th grade, there is really no way out of the mess that has been created. The poor teachers are taught by liars, are evaluated by liars, and are required to lie, and to cheat, to keep their positions.

It’s worst, of course, for the students with mismatched expectations. Anybody who’s been to high school knows how angry advanced classes make the stupid. (it makes the boys angry, the girls just get pregnant).

The massive farce of public education after Grade 8 stands revealed by high stakes testing. The Chicago teachers, bad and misled as they may be, are right to resist evaluation for not doing the impossible.

Thucydides writes:

Students are not educable or uneducable, but rather have differing degrees of educability. Even students of below average IQ can benefit to some extent from a properly managed education, and we ought to try to educate all students to whatever degree they are capable of being educated. The tragedy of our education system is that it is doing such a poor job with those of limited cognitive ability. Smart kids can to some extent get past poor teaching. [LA replies: Of course. When I use the word ineducable, I do not mean the word absolutely, but in relation to our expectations and demands of what they can learn.]

It is of course absurd to pretend that all students can be brought up to some uniform standard. Some will always perform below “grade average.” We don’t live in Lake Wobegon. If the teachers were objecting to being measured on everyone performing to some uniform standard, it would be reasonable. However, teachers could reasonably be graded on whether students at varying levels had made some progress during the school year.

I suspect however that they don’t want any assessments, period.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 11, 2012 07:50 AM | Send

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