Friday, January 21, 2005


Unions exist for the sole purpose of protecting the people that pay to be included. In the world of education, our unions do a pretty bang up job of making sure you and I make good money, don't get our sacrificial personalities taken for granted, and generally help us keep our job--even if we have done something that would get us fired anywhere else.

But I think we have been deceived into believing that the unions care about Education. While I see our unions fighting to get us better money, and I think we do mostly deserve that, I don't see them ensuring that we hold up our end of the contract. For instance, our contracts include the regular 185 day work year and the tri contract for the following:

Before the year prep and after the year wrapping up.
Supporting school/student activities (I take this as attending games, concerts, etc.)
Conferencing with parents and students.
Evalutating student work.
Preparation of material.
Planning with our departments.
District meetings.

Are we willing to say that collectively, we adhere to all of these aspects of the contract? And aren't these items intended to better our schools and benefit our students?

If our unions really cared about education, as they claim to, then they would be absolutely certain to not protect us when we fail. They would understand that simply because we are in the business of eduction, does not always mean we are successful at it. They would promote better pay only for those that deserve it, and allow for radical changes in the way education is done. Why do our unions fight the idea of charter schools? Those charter schools will fail, they might answer. It won't be any worse than the number of schools failing right now.

It is difficult to look at the union with a questioning eye. No doubt I have benefited from some of the work done by the union. But I think that our profession has also suffered harm as a result. My greatest fear as a young teacher, is that I will become protected by my union even if I am not holding up my end of the deal. And the reality is that many in our profession don't hold up their end; the result is a public that tires of hearing us whine about money. What we need as a profession is an extreme make-over. We have operated much the same way for the past century while other public employees have not enjoyed the same protection as we have.


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