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Bhaskar Sunkara on the media's CTU strike coverage

Bhaskar Sunkara gives his take on Ryan as all show and no substance, but this piece really shines when he begins to analyze similar distractions in debate about public sector unions:

Just look at the recent Chicago Teachers Union strike, which prompted a quick editorial from the New York Times. Called “Chicago Teachers’ Folly,” it claimed that “Teachers’ strikes, because they hurt children and their families, are never a good idea” and then placed much of the blame for the strike on a “personality clash between the blunt mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and the tough Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis.”

What’s politics and the battle of ideas when we have personalities to dissect?

TheTimeswasn’t alone. Slate’s Matt Yglesias and frequent Klein collaborator Dylan Matthews also tried to find the middle-ground in a conflict between a “blunt” neoliberal Democratic mayor and a “tough” public sector union. Even theNation’s Melissa Harris-Perry pitied the children stuck “between the leaders and teachers who are supposed to have their best interests at heart but who seem willing to allow this generation to be lost.”

Empirically, the pundits’ dismissal of the CTU, which had widespread support in Chicago, were unjustified and misleading. Wage and benefit issues were never at the center of the strike. It was a response to a “reform” movement that blamed failing schools solely on bad teachers rather than poverty or other structural issues. The CTU offered a compelling countervision—functioning, well-funded schools with smaller classes and less standardized tests. It was a vision that could’ve been debated on its own terms, but it wasn’t: these “ideas” weren’t discussed by the ostensibly idea-loving commentariat; big-shot blowhards and their egos were…

[I]nstead of countering this argument by asserting that public employees also produce goods and services, and should have a say about the conditions under which they work, Beltway liberals like Matt Yglesias drew the ever-so-reasonable conclusion that:

CTU members get what they want, that’s not coming out of the pocket of “the bosses” it’s coming out of the pocket of the people who work at charter schools or the people who pay taxes in Chicago.

In other words: union members, according to Yglesias, enjoy whatever privileges they’ve earned at the expense of the middle-class taxpayers of Chicago. It’s a subtly nefarious move: Yglesias, the “liberal,” is pitting one largely Democratic group (the CTU) against another (the vast majority of tax payers and charter school employees in Chicago), in a way that right-wingers couldn’t do better themselves.

This sort of red herring argument always comes up when laborers agitate for better conditions (or in this case, better conditions for the students); even the ‘liberals’ in the discussion frame the course of events as the conflict originated as a dispute between two headstrong personalities, and that concessions to labor are at the expense of the middle class. It’s a complete distraction from the arguments that are being presented and their specific merits, in favor of a side show that’s tightly controlled by corporate media. 

Filed under labor ctu matthew yglesias

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This is what happens when you get your news from Fox (and other corporate sources). You get lied to, then you look like a fool.
The average salary for a middle school teacher in Chicago is $55,000. If you have a doctorate and 16 full years of experience, you can make up to $88,680 at a maximum. You pretend  teachers don’t “deserve” their current salary, but the people of Chicago disagree. 47% of people in Chicago support the strike, with only 39% in opposition. Beyond that, the idea that “most college students could easily master” teaching “right out after they graduate” is patently absurd. They could certainly do the job, but they’d do it poorly, with high turnover, and at the detriment of students. There’s a reason we incentivize experienced teachers with money- better, more experienced teachers offer better opportunities to the children they teach.
Of course, all of this is based off of an absurd but unstated assumption of yours: that this strike is primarily about salary rates and compensation- another indicator that you’re a Fox viewer, since it’s clearly false and would only be perpetuated by dishonest news mediums. The reason for the strike is much more closely tied to working conditions: the teachers work an hour and half more now, with no additional compensation. They work in overcrowded classrooms that don’t have air conditioning, and their evaluations are based on standardized test scores (which are compared to wealthier students with A/C and schools that aren’t falling apart). Their benefits are being cut, and they’re cutting the training programs that Chicago teachers need to remain efficient and effective at their job.
I urge you to educate yourself about this issue and to turn off your television: it will only give you rotten, distorted information that leads you to foolishly misinformed ideas like those above. Fox, CNN and MSNBC are all owned by businesses that would happily spill blood to keep wages down and workers complacent- trusting their reporting would be absolutely absurd. 

This is what happens when you get your news from Fox (and other corporate sources). You get lied to, then you look like a fool.

The average salary for a middle school teacher in Chicago is $55,000. If you have a doctorate and 16 full years of experience, you can make up to $88,680 at a maximum. You pretend  teachers don’t “deserve” their current salary, but the people of Chicago disagree. 47% of people in Chicago support the strike, with only 39% in opposition. Beyond that, the idea that “most college students could easily master” teaching “right out after they graduate” is patently absurd. They could certainly do the job, but they’d do it poorly, with high turnover, and at the detriment of students. There’s a reason we incentivize experienced teachers with money- better, more experienced teachers offer better opportunities to the children they teach.

Of course, all of this is based off of an absurd but unstated assumption of yours: that this strike is primarily about salary rates and compensation- another indicator that you’re a Fox viewer, since it’s clearly false and would only be perpetuated by dishonest news mediums. The reason for the strike is much more closely tied to working conditions: the teachers work an hour and half more now, with no additional compensation. They work in overcrowded classrooms that don’t have air conditioning, and their evaluations are based on standardized test scores (which are compared to wealthier students with A/C and schools that aren’t falling apart). Their benefits are being cut, and they’re cutting the training programs that Chicago teachers need to remain efficient and effective at their job.

I urge you to educate yourself about this issue and to turn off your television: it will only give you rotten, distorted information that leads you to foolishly misinformed ideas like those above. Fox, CNN and MSNBC are all owned by businesses that would happily spill blood to keep wages down and workers complacent- trusting their reporting would be absolutely absurd. 

Filed under chicago education strike teachers unions CTU Chicago Strike Teacher Strike