This post will probably get me into a tiff with several of my friends who are teachers, but they already know my attitude, and most won’t read this blog anyway.
Not so many years ago teachers’ unions were small and weak. Teachers considered themselves professionals, and as such they commanded widespread respect, individual contracts for 9 months of work, and judging by the high supply compared to overall demand, they were not underpaid.
Having attended 12 schools during my growing-up years I had a sampling of various schools and districts throughout the country. The quality of my education varied from mediocre to excellent, but on the whole I think it was adequate. Those of us who wanted to go on to higher education were reasonably well prepared. Classes were, on the whole, well disciplined and academic standards were upheld. I graduated from high school in 1961.
Then, starting some time in the mid to late 1960’s, a time when childishness, irresponsibility, and rebellious tantrums were widely celebrated in the popular culture there was strong growth of teachers’ unions. Teachers exchanged their status as professionals for the status of assembly line workers and truck drivers — “working stiffs” in the left-wing union argot. If memory serves me, there were two main unions, one backed by the AFL-CIO and the other by the Teamsters Union, an organization with a reputation for corruption and thuggery. By the early 70’s the unions had acquired control over most of the nation’s educational systems. From that time to the present the cost of public education has skyrocketed and student performance has slumped. The unions persistently called for and got higher pay and benefits for their members and fiercely resisted calls for performance evaluations and systemic reforms. Now the teachers unions are major contributors to Democrat politicians, along with trial lawyers and the environmental activist organizations. The Democrats elected with their money have returned the favor with ever-sweeter union contracts. That is where we are today.
Against this background we have the uncivil behavior of unionized teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere. So it is no surprise that the reputation of teachers as respected “professionals” has been wiped out. Nationally those industries that have been most thoroughly unionized have self destructed, witness railroads, steel mills, automobile manufacturers, and others. Now the public school teachers are doing the same thing, and other unionized public employees are next in line. There is a lesson in here somewhere, but don’t expect teachers to teach it.