Carmel Martin Foolish to Fight Unions

20 May

Since the Great Depression Adolph Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, and assorted right wing South American despots have been the loudest voices fueling a backlash against the labor unions. Last week, the right-wing gained an unlikely new ally: Carmel Martin. Ms. Martin wrote an opinion piece for the Chicago Sun-Times calling the teachers unions foolish for opposing Common Core.

Ms. Martin’s attack on labor unions is shortsighted. The unions represent an opportunity to set a higher bar, and replace America’s flawed economic system that lavishes huge rewards on capital, while often exploiting workers. Only by supporting unions can we hope to better equip our students for future jobs in the global economy.

While Ms. Martin’s decision is troubling, we’re lucky to have seen some recent push back against the supposed education reform that has infected the nation. Both the mayoral election in New York City and Newark are clear repudiations of top down mandates and test don’t teach education policies. Parents are clearly asking for a new era of leadership in education.

But Ms. Martin has gone against the wishes of these parents and called for abandoning best practices in order to adopt these hackneyed education standards devised by David Coleman, a man who has never taught a day in his life. It is irresponsible to ignore the voices of the Chicago teachers who everyday teach on the city’s front lines.

In shutting up student voice, too often we get dictatorial mind-numbing professional development. Our students deserve far better and so do our teachers.

At the end of the day, Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, Pinochet’s coup in Chile, and Carmel Martin’s opposition to the Chicago Teachers Union are not going to be what ensure our teachers can prepare their students for success. Hyperbolic alarm bells, anti-teacher slogans, and scare tactics will get us nowhere. High expectations are great, but without adequate funding, stable school environments free from threat of closing and turn around, and safe neighborhoods all the professional development in the world will not make much of a difference with most children. Higher expectations to compete for American jobs in a 21st century economy are great, but we can’t get there with a 19th century top down model that ignores teacher voice. We know that in the end standards don’t prepare kids for success, teachers do, so maybe it’s time to listen to the teachers instead of attempting to silence them. Isn’t that just what Hitler did?

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