The Chicago strike is bothering me…because of what is NOT being reported as bothering anyone else! #WhatIfWeekly

The strike in Chicago is bothering me. What if the biggest part of the story were the foregone learning of the students?!

Now, I am not a labor expert, and I am not very knowledgeable about unions. I have an empathetic heart for teachers, and I certainly support our nation’s teachers being treated as professionals.

I am not a Chicago teacher, so I do not claim to know a thing about what it is like to walk even a step in their shoes.

I am no expert on parenting, yet I am a parent for two boys of my own. My heart is sympathetic for the parents of those 350,000 students in Chicago who are stuck in a lurch about what to do with their children as a result of the strike. I know how hard it is for my wife and me to find childcare sometimes, and we have it EASY! I have never had to face whether I would be unpaid or lose my job vs. being able to care for and supervise my children.

What’s bothering me? The way the story is being reported! One of the biggest issues seems to be the childcare issue. I understand that. One of the biggest issues seems to be the treatment of the teachers in their professional contracts. I understand that. WHY ISN’T ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES THE FOREGONE LEARNING OF THE STUDENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE MISSING SCHOOL?! Is school just day care? Is school just for the adults? Nothing I have read so far – and I include just a sampling of the articles below – even mentions what the students are missing in the way of learning from foregoing a day of school…days of school! What does that say about our educational priorities…our news priorities…our narrative priorities?

If you can find an article about the strike that mentions the foregone learning of students – the opportunity cost to their education because of missing these days of school – please put the link in the comments! I would love to read that reporter’s or affected individual’s perspective.

(Reuters) – Thousands of public school teachers marched in downtown Chicago on Monday and parents scrambled for child care during the first teachers’ strike in a quarter century over reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and endorsed by President Barack Obama’s administration.
(http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/us-usa-chicago-schools-idUSBRE8870DL20120910)

Thousands of Chicago teachers rally on first day of strike
By Nick Carey, CHICAGO | Mon Sep 10, 2012

Teachers’ Strike in Chicago Tests Mayor and Union
By , Published: September 10, 2012

In Standoff, Latest Sign of Unions Under Siege
By , Published: September 10, 2012

In Chicago, It’s a Mess, All Right
By JOE NOCERA, Published: September 10, 2012

10 thoughts on “The Chicago strike is bothering me…because of what is NOT being reported as bothering anyone else! #WhatIfWeekly

  1. Hi Bo:

    I think that you, as always, have artfully balanced some traditionally provocative and contentious points of view, conceded possible limitations of your point of view, and brought an important question to the table — but, at the same time, I think this line of reasoning can miss the fundamental irony of the Chicago teachers’ strike: that the striking teachers are taking a stand AGAINST ‘foregone learning’ during the rest of the days, months, and years ahead that are the consequence of policies incompatible with effective learning.

    I’m not sure whether the question of ‘foregone learning’ during the days of the strike is underrepresented in most accounts in the national press: I think most positions critical of the strike imply that teachers have unfairly victimized students. What I’m quite sure has gone underreported is the resistance of the teachers and their union to a somewhat arbitrarily extended school day, to 15+ days (as I understand it) of high-stakes standardized tests, to teacher and principal evaluation being tied to standardized tests, to ‘merit pay’ schemes that ‘reward’ teachers with higher test scores than others, and other practices — often promoted by corporate ‘edupreneurs’ — that are, on most educators’ accounts, utterly incompatible with student learning or effective teaching.

    Thus, I think the question could just as easily be, “What about the ‘foregone learning’ during weeks of standardized tests?” . . . “What about the ‘foregone learning’ because of rapid teacher-turnover?” . . . “What about the ‘foregone learning’ because of public schools being underfunded and shut down?” . . . And I think many teachers in Chicago would suggest that THESE practices reduce the concept of daily education in a Chicago public school than little more than ‘daycare.’

    I don’t know, but I suspect, that there isn’t a Chicago teacher walking a picket line today who isn’t fully aware of the stakes, and the toll, of this strike for the learners and their families. Surely parents and guardians are hideously inconvenienced by the strike. The teachers’ faustian bargain, though — again, from my limited point of view from a relatively cozy position on the margins — is that resistance to policies that victimize students throughout the year is somehow worth it.

    (There are a number of great resources on the Chicago strike on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog at http://ow.ly/dCXyZ on Valerie Strauss’s blog at http://ow.ly/dCXoV .)

    • Chris, you are always so thoughtful and balanced in your writing, and I learn immeasurably from you as I read how you treat an issue and the people among the issues. Thank you for your great example and modeling.

      I hesitated to write anything about the Chicago strike because my POV is so limited. However, I decided to take the risk so that I could learn more in discussion with my PLN, colleagues, and readers. Your contributions to my learning here have already proven invaluable, and I appreciate the links to the myriad resources at Larry and Valerie’s publications.

      At this point in time, I have only read about half of the links on Larry’s post. I found none of the deep-issue topics on LEARNING from the national media sites. This was one of my main points in the original post…maybe my only main point. I had to read blog posts from individual teachers before I got to any real discussion of the deep-issue topics of LEARNING that undergird the issues in Chicago right now.

      I thoroughly and completely agree with all of your points about “the question could just as easily be, “What about the ‘foregone learning’ during weeks of standardized tests?” . . . “What about the ‘foregone learning’ because of rapid teacher-turnover?” . . . “What about the ‘foregone learning’ because of public schools being underfunded and shut down?” . . .”

      WHERE ARE THESE QUESTIONS AND ISSUES ADDRESSED in the national media coverage of the situation?! Why is our professional-journalist coverage so lacking in the more critical narratives about LEARNING in schools? The main points of every article are about teacher pay, job security, etc. The main points of every article are about child care concerns. Please understand that I am very pro-teacher! I am very pro-parent! [I hope these never become mutually exclusive positions!] But first and foremost and I pro-learner and pro-student. And I was trying to exercise my voice in saying that we MUST turn our national, professional attention to the focus of LEARNING…not just TEACHING. LEARNING is getting lost in the story!!!

      To repeat: LEARNING IS GETTING LOST IN THE STORY! Our newspaper and media consumer need to be able to read these deep-issue topics of learning concerns. I was trying to point that out, and I think you did an even better job at writing your comment to point that out.

      Why aren’t our professional news sources doing a better job of writing the LEARNING narrative that people need to know to fully appreciate and understand what is really at stake – beyond even teacher pay, job security, child care, etc.? To understand how education and schooling must transform to create the next chapter, which is more about learning than about teaching. When is that going to happen? What will it take? How can I help be more a part of the solution?

      Thanks for the dialogue here. I am indebted to your support in my own learning in this regard.

      Sincerely,

      Bo

      • Hi Bo:

        And I am all the more indebted to your example and leadership in my learning! It wasn’t my intent to overlook the key question you’re posing about the national media’s attention — or, rather, INattention — to questions of learning. I also hope I didn’t imply any challenge to your support of teachers, learners, or families: I can’t think of anyone more vocally ‘pro-learning’! And I am sorry if any of my comment suggested I might feel otherwise!

        In any case: I agree that some individual teachers’ posts (versus mainstream news coverage) are perhaps the most illuminating. As for the national press, I think some of Valerie Strauss’s WaPo posts address some dimensions of ‘the learning question’ (such as http://ow.ly/dDnfI) and Stephanie Simon’s Reuters piece touches on a few such matters as well (http://ow.ly/dDns7). But these are isolated pieces that stand for themselves, and no doubt the preponderance of coverage skirts the central questions about learning in favor of reflexive and simplistic framing of old arguments — which, in turn, miss the key questions about learning that constitute the 90% of the iceberg under the surface of the media coverage.

        Thanks Bo for poking this most important bear! I am with you: if now’s not the time to poke it — with teachers from the nation’s third-largest district on strike over these questions — then when IS the time?

      • Chris, you owe me NO apologies. I am sorry if my capitalization and energetic flow implied that my tone was anything other than co-authoring this learning with you…in a collegial and collaborative manner.

        I don’t think you overlooked my key question. You illuminated more of the core of what I meant to say. Often times it takes collaborators sharing flashlights to get enough shine on the issues. I am very appreciative of our co-learning and your superb resource gathering/sharing. Any challenges you offer are welcomed, and I think my response was strong about pro-teacher and pro-parent to avoid mis-reading by other visitors to the blog who might not interact with me as regularly as you do.

        The bear needs some significant poking. I am re-reading That Used to Be Us by Friedman and Mandelbaum, and I am a FRUSTRATED OPTIMIST! I think the U.S. citizenship deserves for the professional media to cover the LEARNING issues below the surface. I think our country must re-focus on LEARNING over all of the other important and related issues, including the most closely related in schools – teaching.

        Now is the time!

  2. Wow, you’re right. I went off on your scavenger hunt and found very little. One CNN op-ed article highlights the focus on kids in its title (http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/11/opinion/moe-unions-teachers/index.html) but not the cost in learning lost.

    Like you, I don’t know all the nuances to this argument, but I do believe that our national focus on so many things other than learning has led us to this day. If schools are primarily child care repositories, we’ve underestimated our problem.

    • Holly, thanks for the comment and the link to CNN. I have explored just about every link that is embedded in the article you cited in your comment. I am getting a more complete perspective because of your dialogue with me here. Thank you. Now, I am going to explore all that Chris has offered. Of course, this is a very complex issue, but I continue to believe that our national media could do a much better job at including elements of “student learning” in the coverage. Surely, that has to be one of the most critical pieces of the story and the desired outcomes.

      • The real problem may be getting individuals to move beyond the hard wired connotations they sometimes unconsciously bear when they hear “unions,” “strikes,” “evaluations,” and even “teachers.” Each word drags with it a history for many people that precludes them from even wanting to explore the situation in depth.

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