Saturday, September 15, 2012


My thoughts have been swirling lately. Murders in Libya. Strike in Chicago. The High Holidays. First week of Hebrew School. And The Little Jewess had to go to the ER. (She's fine now.)

Issues big and small, and I don't see anything that ties them together. I guess I should start with the big ones, and there's plenty been written by Humanists about the events in Libya and Egypt this week, so I'm going to start with Chicago.

For those who don't know, Mr. Jewess is a Public School Teacher. My parents were also Public School Teachers and I was one briefly. I just want to make my biases totally clear here. But I also think that Unions are generally fighting the Humanist fight.

Unions have brought us minimum wage, weekends, Family Leave, sick time and safe working conditions. They ended child labor and sweatshops. And in this case, the Chicago Teachers Union is fighting not just for a fair wage for professionals with Master's Degrees, but also for reasonable class sizes, safe, clean schools and textbooks available on the first day of school. (Sorry--that last was one of the "concessions" they won from the City before the strike began.

Imagine trying to teach in a 100 degree classroom with a leaky roof and no textbooks. Imagine 45 kids who may or may not have a safe place to sleep, who may or may not have had breakfast, who may or may not have a quiet place to do homework or any books in their houses. Forty-five. And then on top of that, you have a City that is looking to shut down any school it can to privatize it, and your school will only stay open if your kids do well on some test. How many of these children have seen a relative die violently? How many have lost a parent to drug addiction? How many spent time fending for themselves before a relative found them and enrolled them in school? (I take these examples from my own experience teaching in New York City, but I expect they translate to other cities. In any case, they're real examples.)

You want to bond with these children, give them the love that they need to succeed, give them the little bit of attention they need to feel good at something so that they have the strength to push through to learn the things that are hard, but there are forty-five of them and if they don't pass this test your job will be gone, your school will be closed and then what?

And so you strike. You strike for the rights of the children to have a decent place to learn and a shot at success.

You can call the teachers greedy if you want. I can't. I've been there.

I stand with the Chicago Teacher's Union.

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