Much news coverage of the Chicago teachers strike, now in its third day, has included the eye-popping average Chicago teacher salary number (circa $76,000 before benefits), mounting parent frustration at 350,000 kids out of school, and that teachers rejected a 16 percent pay raise over the next four years in an era most people are glad to have a job at all.
Ricochet member Nathaniel Wright had a beautiful post explaining these fiscal realities soon after the strike began. Both the city’s big papers, the Sun Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as the New York Times, have run editorials telling teachers to stop acting worse than their usual charges.
But what a lot of people are not considering is evidence that the Chicago Teachers Union is not striking especially over material demands, although those are included. Leaders and members alike are telling us they’re striking over ideology, as I noted in talking to the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Union members see their strike as a symbolic stand, with nationwide implications, against a sea of recent efforts to introduce conservative-leaning reforms.
“The revolution will not be standardized,” CTU President Karen Lewis told the striking crowd. “The assault on public education started here. It needs to end here.”
“Let’s be clear—this fight is for the very soul of public education, not just only Chicago but everywhere,” Lewis also said.
This message is important to conservatives and the general public, because it reveals what insiders have known for decades not just about unions but about public schools in general: The entire structure is heavily progressive. This is part of the reason why 47 percent of Chicagoans support the strike and why, as the general Ricochet angst of late bemoans, our country seems inexplicably to support President Obama despite his similarly obvious hack of a job.
In the progressive world of education and outward, results do not matter. Attitudes do. Meaning well matters, regardless of what your good intentions accomplish. Despite literally thousands of studies that demonstrate standardized testing does accurately gauge learning and improve student performance, the government education establishment hates standardized tests. Tests make it obvious schools’ progressive teaching methods are a massive failure, which provides impetus for people and lawmakers to introduce alternatives to the progressive government education monopoly (see: vouchers).
So a state law requiring teachers to be measured partly by student performance is a major sticking point to the CTU, and excuse enough for them to make a vainglorious “last stand for [unfettered government] education,” with no care for the devastating effects on poor kids. Chicago public schools, and public schools nationwide, have taught many students the progressive idea that it’s “too hard” and “unfair” to be held responsible for results, as this indicates:
"I had a teacher my freshman year who tried really hard to help me out, but when it came to testing, I couldn't really focus," [Victor Alquicira, 16,] said [at a Chicago strike rally]… "Test-taking is not an accurate way to reflect a teacher's performance." …Some students carried signs like "Don't test me bro!" and "Testing does not equal learning."
I actually don’t support layers of testing mandates because they are a really unwieldy way of measuring a teacher and school. They let you approximate education quality, but once you get closer what schools really need is accountability to parents and taxpayers, which actual school choice provides much more appropriately.
Nevertheless, if we are to have a government school monopoly, it seems reasonable to me and most legislators to require some basic results (government testing benchmarks basically indicate one level above brain-damaged). The alternative, which the union and its crazed allies such as commentator and anti-testing advocate Diane Ravitch want, is unlimited spending with no concern about results.
As I understand it, that’s currently the Democratic Party platform in not just education, but everything.