Editorial: Chicago teacher strike sheds light on education contradiction
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 21:09
If you read the news, you would know that teachers have been striking in Chicago. And if you know anything about Chicago and her school systems, they’re both terrible. Chicago has a historically underfunded school system. While it may be a chicken and egg argument, Chicago is also an incredibly violent and dangerous city. So it should be no surprise that the underpaid and underfunded Chicago public school teachers are on strike.
The actual straw that broke the camel’s back is a new ordnance declaring that Chicago teachers have to comply with standardized testing scores or be dismissed. Naturally, this is an unacceptable way to rate the future of our country in one of the biggest cities in the nation. Not only has standardized testing proved to be an unreliable indicator of how well students are learning, but there are too many other factors at play. A particular neighborhood’s level of violence, homelessness, health conditions, diet, family connections, along with a whole host of other social factors, is too complicated and too chaotic to be able to rate the one decently stable factor in a Chicago students’ life.
Naturally, as a public school and an institution that values the work teachers do (especially in a place where public school teaching can be considered a dangerous occupation) we support the teachers’ strike.
It’s a well-known fact that public school teachers are underpaid. It’s also well known that children have to be at school. especially when classes start in early September (i.e., now). But, the strike has closed down many schools rather unexpectedly. On the first day of the strike, roughly 350,000 students were not in school. Many schools stayed open to at least give children somewhere to go, but police officers typically reserved for desk jobs were pulled onto street-duty in anticipation of the oncoming onslaught of child-propelled violence.
Many parents responded angrily. Many parents have had to unexpectedly take the day off from work. Some parents simply can’t afford to take the day off and have to leave their children unattended at home. Others publicly asked why Chicago teachers had to choose now to strike. Why couldn’t they do such a thing in the summer?
Why? Well the answer is clear: the point of a strike is to make an impact on society. When construction workers go on strike, it becomes clear how much we need people to build our buildings to work in. When dockworkers go on strike, it became clear we need them as a stronghold in our nation’s commerce. When teachers go on strike, it becomes clear we need them to teach our children.
How often have we been told to “stay in school”? How many times are we told, “knowledge is power”? It is a sad double standard that the American youth is encouraged to get educated, but teachers are treated as the lowest of our public servants.