I have been reading a lot of material published by the teachers’ unions and they are beginning to convince me of their ineffectiveness, ineffective because they do not do much to tear down those who manage work. They do not critique the system by which work and tiers of work are defined or the relationships that are enforced within that system. They are about employment and issues of employment but have little to say about what work is, what it means, what it should accomplish, what it should mean. They focus on pay and benefits and, to some extent, the conditions of work–work place safety, for example–but never much on such things as meaningfulness of work or joy from work, these truly critical to quality of life. They do not concern themselves with how work defines position in society and, because they do not, workers too often accept themselves to be politically impotent, people who take orders from bosses who, because of this perceived impotence, have authority that extends beyond the workplace, sometimes into the political choice a worker is allowed to make.
In education, the teacher, who serves as a role model of an educated person, their servitude communicates that educated people obey and do not advocate even when what they are forced to agree to do they know to be wrong. There is very little that comes from the unions that works to properly define teachers’ proper role within schools systems that exist in democratic societies as model citizens of democracy, people who understand the issues and actively participate in the democratic decision making process.
The consequences are highly meaningful and understood when one looks at how citizens in America go about dealing with issues of power, issues of authority, and how they go about making their choices, these critical, ironically, to how schools operate, whether it be school funding, the hiring of faculty and administrators, the curriculum and methods of instruction, the manner in which learning is evaluated, the kind of learning that is allowed.
If schools operated well, for the purpose of developing effective citizenship, unions would not be necessary because the people who work would be a force in defining the rules of work. Those who teach and belong to unions would do the cause of their unions well by teaching thoughtfulness rather than the content that inevitably, in American schools, carries the propaganda of the capitalist because it is capitalists who, for all practical purposes, run the society, hold power in the society.
The agenda of a decent educational association would be to force truth into the system and help students, and, by doing so, the society, understand the nature of humane society, the worth of human beings, and how to go about removing from society all aspects that are inhumane. Decent pay, decent benefits, decent life, would be understood as natural to the decent society, no unions needed to fight for that decency.