I would like to have a reasonable discussion with people who can explain to me why they are convinced that organized labor is a scourge to progress, growth, and prosperity. Peter Elbow holds that we would understand our world better and make better decisions if we could play the believing game as well as the doubting game: if we could become as good at seeing where those we disagree with are right as we are at seeing where they are wrong. I really want to understand how many whose intellects and hearts I respect and honor can hold such opposing views on this topic. Many who disagree with me are my deepest and oldest friends. Please consider helping me see the world through your eyes.
Consider exhibit A: teachers. I live in a state that ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay (p. 21 here) and is at the national vanguard of a wave of legislative efforts that are driving highly qualified and self-respecting people who also want a livable life away from the work. North Carolina is a right-to-work state, where organization of government employees has been illegal since 1959. How there can be anything other than disagreement with our legislature’s continued willingness to strip out basic protections for teachers of due process and transparency in hiring, retention, and promotion decisions? At teachers’ inability to have any voice in the matter other than the amicus briefs the NCAE is permitted before these efforts proceed mostly unimpeded?
I teach future teachers every day, and am at a loss to explain this situation to them. Why should they stay? Other than their deep commitment to the twin values of the intrinsic value of every student and the public right to education: what compels them to do this work? They will do it while risking their ability to raise and provide for a family, because of the outsized demands on their time and bank accounts and emotional soundness that are “baked in” to what the profession is becoming. I work to help them think about their relation to the work in ways that are sustainable and self-caring and sane. Which holds, on an individual level. But what can I tell them when it’s time to talk policy?
So I want to believe, because I have reached the end of the productivity of my doubting. I want to make sense of this, for me and for my students. What am I not getting? And I don’t think dueling anecdotes of atrocity really move the ball here. This issue’s urgency demands sound reasoning and data, not stories to anger the base.
So let’s do it in the comments section, below. Please be civil; I’ll moderate. Many of my former and current students read this blog too, and I invite them to join the discussion as well. Anyone? Thank you.