Friday, December 2, 2011

Scab Teachers Undermining Their Own Colleagues

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Teachers, like all other workers, must sell their labor to earn a living. Like all workers, they must make considerable compromises and sacrifices in order to ensure that they get a paycheck each month. The primary difference between teachers and other workers is that the public (and many teachers themselves) believe that teachers’ rights and working conditions should be subordinate to the needs of their students.

Image from
Workers who cross the picket line, thus undermining their coworkers’ solidarity and their struggle to improve working conditions, are known as scabs. The term could accurately describe any worker who deliberately undermines working conditions or solidarity. An example would be teachers who relinquish their contractual rights by volunteering to work longer hours (see here, here and here). They are scabs because they weaken the standing of their coworkers who still want their hard won protections. They are scabs because they are giving away their labor to the bosses for free or at a discounted rate compared to their peers. They are scabs because they deliberately aligning themselves with the bosses and against their own interests and those of their coworkers.

Unfortunately, in education, such behavior is relatively common. This is due, in part, to the fact that many teachers are willing to try anything, regardless of how much extra work is required if they are told it will help their students. Ed Deformers exploit this weakness by bombarding teachers and the public with a plethora of ill-conceived reforms that lack credible evidence of efficacy, (but which show strong likelihood of increasing their profits) under the guise of improving student outcomes.

One way the Ed Deformers do this is through astroturf organizations that masquerade as real grassroots organizations (see here, here and here), creating the illusion that regular people are empowering themselves to create change. The New York City-based Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) is an example of this. Ostensibly a grassroots movement made up of innovative young teachers willing to challenge the orthodoxy of the stodgy old unions, E4E has been funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to the tune of $1 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

E4E has now opened shop in Los Angeles teachers, calling for the linking of teacher evaluations to student test scores and ending seniority protections. Because the group is made up mostly of young teachers, it could be argued that their demands to end seniority have more to do with creating job security for themselves at the expense of their veteran colleagues, than serving the interests of their students.

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