This morning, I posted the following on my Facebook status:
Unfortunately, editorials in influential newspapers cannot be dismissed so easily. So let’s take a closer look.
The editorial begins unpromisingly:
Teachers’ strikes, because they hurt children and their families, are never a good idea.
Notice how it is the ‘idea’ that is problematic, thus indicting the agent of the strike i.e., the union. A more promising start might have been:
City administrations should never let negotiations with teachers get to the point where they feel compelled to strike.
Because, you know, city administration policies can also hurt the ‘children’ that the New York Times is so worried about. Let’s move on. (The next sentence, incidentally, undermines the seriousness of the situation by putting it down to a personality clash between Rahm Emanuel and Karen Lewis.)
The Times is quite sure that the union is opposed to ‘sensible policy changes,’ ones that,
[A]re increasingly popular across the country and are unlikely to be rolled back, no matter how long the union stays out.
Well. I hadn’t realized aping bad policies implemented elsewhere was such a good idea. And perhaps the Times could evaluate these ‘sensible’ changes for us? Thankfully, it does tell us that Mr. Emanuel rescinded a 4-percent pay raise last year, and that he, in keeping with the current fashion of diminishing organized labor in every way possible, by-passed the collective bargaining process to implement a longer school day.
The Times’ ‘why don’t you follow the lemmings’ query is on display again when it comes to noting the union’s resistance to ‘an evaluation system in which a teacher’s total rating depends partly on student test scores’:
Half the states have agreed to create similar teacher evaluation systems that take student achievement into account in exchange for grants under the federal Race to the Top program or for greater flexibility under the No Child Left Behind law. Such systems are already up and running in many places.
The Times does not stop to consider that such evaluations and ratings might be flawed and that the CTU’s stance might make more pedagogical sense. No sir; this is a fait accompli, fall in line!
The primary beef, in any case, over and above everything else, is that the union is ‘holding the city hostage’ by not bringing forward its ‘legitimate suggestions’ (if any) for improving the evaluation system in the right way. I hate to break the news to the New York Times, but the power to strike is organized labor’s weapon of last resort, one only to be used when faced with a recalcitrant and obdurate management. That same management, if not confronted with that threat, can all too easily stonewall its way into a resolution that favors it alone (and not the city’s students).
The editorial continues,
What stands out about this strike, however, is that the differences between the two sides were not particularly vast, which means that this strike was unnecessary.
But it is only the union that is required to make concessions.
Moreover, Ms. Lewis, who seems to be basking in the power of having shut down the school system, seems more inclined toward damaging the mayor politically than in getting this matter resolved.
Pardon me, I thought this was about a ‘personality clash’ between two folks. Why is Ms. Lewis’ personality the only one to be indicted?
If the strike goes on for much longer, the union could pay a dear price in terms of public opinion.
And the editorial page of the nation’s most prominent newspapers is helping that process get started.