(Trash Boat)– For the first time in 25 years, the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike this Monday, September 10th. The CTU, which covers the third largest school district in the nation, has kept up to 350,000 students out of school for the past three days.
The CTU firmly stands against several proposals that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed for over the past several months. His proposals include an extended school day, an elimination of a 4% pay raise for teachers, and a new teacher evaluation model. The Union’s outrage seems to be most directed towards the cancelled pay raise, and the updated teacher evaluation model.
I think we can all agree that ideally, people should pursue teaching positions with noble intentions; they should choose a career in teaching because they are genuinely devoted to educating the youth. Therefore, when teachers go on strike, and prevent their own students from receiving an education, there is something just profoundly alarming about it. Who, if not they, are dedicated to education? What does this protest say about the state of our nation’s education system, and the priorities we have?
There is a line of thought, in fact, that argues teachers should not be overpaid, or else they might be more interested in their salary than their students. I strongly disagree with that line of thought, and support the CTU for fighting for higher pay. I recognize that Teachers Unions in this country are nearly impossible to negotiate with. There needs to be, in my opinion, more cooperation between the workers and administration. But when it comes to teachers’ salaries, rarely do I not support an increase. If we want a better education system, we need to invest in it. And that investment should go in large part towards teaching staff.
I mean, imagine if we told doctors that we were going to start paying them less because we wanted them to be more committed to healing the sick than getting big fat paychecks. What would happen? Probably, the best doctors would go find higher paying jobs. And then we’d be left with some sick people. We can’t expect regular people to be so filled with a sense of duty that they would forgo more lucrative career options for the sake of helping the nation. You can hardly underestimate the importance of socioeconomic status nowadays. Where is the shame, then, in having your economic aspirations trump your academic, or even emotional ones?
I have met many students at Amherst who would be incredible teachers. They have all the qualities you might look for in an educator: energy, empathy, conviction, and so on. Yet these students have no interest in becoming teachers because it does not offer the kind of lifestyle they’re looking for. That is the real shame of our country’s education system. Getting a teaching position should be like getting into medical school: highly coveted, bitterly competitive, and extremely selective. And a teaching position in an underprivileged school district should be even more sought-after.
If we could achieve that, maybe our teachers unions wouldn’t have to fear teacher evaluation models. Maybe they wouldn’t feel such pressure from standardized testing. Maybe we could trash standardized testing altogether!
Now I seem to be getting swept up in my own utopian ideas. But hey, you gotta dream, right?
Your one and only,