Sketches from the Chicago Teacher Strike: Rosa Parks

There’s a little bit of fantasy here, but probably not too much.

Rosa Parks on Chicago Teacher Strike, art from Fred Klonsky

It coulda happened, right?

Drawing by Fred Klonsky, from his blog.

So, is the Chicago Teacher Strike illegal?  If so, why — and is it just that working people not be allowed to strike for the benefit of the students?

8 Responses to Sketches from the Chicago Teacher Strike: Rosa Parks

  1. […] Sketches from the Chicago Teacher Strike: Rosa Parks […]


  2. […] “Sketches from the Chicago Teachers Strike: Rosa Parks,” Millard Fillmore’s Bathtu… […]


  3. JamesK says:

    Wagon writes:

    But the problem seems to be the strike is not over more libraries or playgrounds…it is about increasing pay and maintaining low accountability.

    Let me know when you bother to figure out that under the rules in that state the teachers could only strike if it was for higher pay.

    In other words, they had to use the subject of higher pay to be able to strike at all.

    You’re blaming them for going in the back door when they’re blocked from going in the front door?


  4. Wagonho says:

    But the problem seems to be the strike is not over more libraries or playgrounds…it is about increasing pay and maintaining low accountability.

    This is where the unions mantra “its for the students’ always falls apart. It never actually seems to be about the students. If it was they would strike to change the system in ways that would make it more successful. More pay and benefits helps the students…how?

    I disagree with David on the “ineducable” They are ineducable under the default conditions, which represent the combined low expectations of the teachers, parents, and city. No one wants to do the hard work to change anything, but only the teachers are getting paid so everyone dumps the blame on them. All three are perfectly willing to warehouse the next generation of welfare recipients, but the city and parents don’t want to admit it.

    Many schools have a long tradition of turning around such children…but no one wants to send their kids to military academies and Catholic schools. I’d suggest trying to educate the children to what they need rather than what we want. Dump the computers, much of the math, and history, and focus on interpersonal skills, work habits, and general trade skills (welding, automotive repair, electrical etc.). Prepare them for some form of realistic career, some skills that would allow them to climb up just one rung of the ladder, rather than trying to leap for the top.


  5. JamesK says:

    Then there is the fact that teachers aren’t the only variables at play when it comes to how successful a student is.

    I had an above high school reading level going into junior high. Why? Well it wasn’t because of my was because my parents made damn sure to read to me when I was younger and damn sure that I loved to read.


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    I almost agree with what you’ve written, David. But I think you give too much credit to metacognition of a concept that is, while partly accurate, morally repulsive.

    Condi Rice mentioned this problem in her speech at the GOP Convention: We can very accurately forecast educational achievement of a group of students merely by looking at the Zipcode in which they live. In the months I spent in the bowels of education reform and research at the U.S. Department of Education, I was struck (as were many others) by the single most important predictor of student achievement: How many books in the home of the child. It wasn’t that knowledge osmosed out of the books; it was that parents who either have an educational background, or the curiosity about the world to substitute for an educational background, read books, and that would change the life of the child in the way the parents put the kid to bed as a baby and toddler — perhaps with Goodnight, Moon! — to the nursery rhymes and games the parents played, to the travels the family took (Yellowstone? Gettysburg? Las Vegas? DisneyWorld?), to the support tools available to the child doing a report on visiting the capital city of a state the child has never visited.

    Poverty affects especially how much time parents can spend with a child, in quality interaction, shrinking that time to a minimum, and often shrinking the quality to a minimum, too.

    So those of us who have taught in the low SES schools, where 90% of our students get a free lunch, and for half of those it’s the only nearly-decent meal they have a chance at all day long if they choose to take it, understand the barriers.

    Understanding that, however, we also realize that the children are far from ineducable. Often they are very, very bright — they just lack the background in academic topics to do the work at high school and college levels. That is neither their fault, nor something we can correct quickly and easily while teaching to whatever test it is that the poobahs, the Wizards of Smart, determine the results from should dictate the fate of the teacher.

    A teacher who does not have in her pocket an extra library to set up for the students, or who does not carry a team of other teachers and a social worker to reduce the student load and deal with the other problems that hamper education, is unlikely to be able to consistently make academic advances in all students, with the school administrators and GOP set against her success.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    I was looking at a chart yesterday that showed 16% of the schools in Chicago have no libraries. Many of the schools have inadequate or no playground facilities for younger students. In short, the schools are not equipped to be schools.

    Are the teachers responsible for that? I don’t think so.

    And then there is this reality: No has devised a method that accurately tracks which teachers are the “good ones,” and which teachers get results in the classroom. So the evaluation system proposed, doesn’t work.

    => Teacher ratings can’t tell good teachers from bad ones
    => Now I understand why Bill Gates didn’t want the “value-added” data made public

    The union has performed great service to Chicago’s students, parents, and the nation.


  8. David xavier says:

    What the teachers are striking against: the prospect of teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores. The teachers refuse to accept a system in which their career, their salary, their future is determined by their ability to educate the ineducable.

    Of course 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?

    But to be fair it 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? The teachers 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.

    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.

    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.”


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