The annual swarm of strikes (and threatened strikes) called by public school unions arrived on schedule across the nation this fall, just as parents and children arrived at the schoolhouse to honor their civic obligation. With the teachers themselves truant, attendance was not an option for the families. Happily for the better-off parents there were familiar fallbacks; one can work at home, hire childkeepers or switch to the private sector and pay tuition.
For the rest of the nation’s families – call them “ordinary” – school strikes were a serious aggravation. As a rough analogy to their plight, imagine a military conscript who reports for duty as ordered – but finds the base empty. He knows he has to do something, but what? Of course this bewildered recruit would be the only person who suffers from that sort of foul-up. By contrast, when the teacher union decides to strike, the family itself becomes in effect a full squad of perplexed draftees – mothers, fathers, etc. – all bound both by government and by the very nature of the family. There is no substitute available for them to choose. They are legally and morally responsible for their child’s welfare – even when both parents must hold jobs to sustain the family. Eventually, of course, the strike gets settled and the mother returns to her job – if she still has one. In the meantime, however, what to do?
The state drafts the ordinary family for its own schools – there to learn only those ideas allowed to the mind of government; this the child hears five days a week, seven hours a day. What conception of human dignity could account for this deliberate humiliation? And when the state next allowed its own employees to abandon their charges without provision for the dilemmas presented thereby to the ordinary parent, just how was this good for anyone but the teacher unions and their elite? Yet again I would recall the words of my departed friend, Albert Shanker: “I’ll represent children’s interest when they start paying union dues.” With all due respect Albert, children in fact pay union dues simply by being enrolled and thereby providing jobs for union members. Continue Reading →