Great, Mike. And drafting a resolution no less. Resolutions are fine.
Teachers’ unions function in important ways, defending the social safety net and bargaining rights for teachers, which puts them squarely in a category of activism and advocacy along economic lines. This, however, necessitates compromise and collaboration with the State in this process of bargaining, which then carries over into all matters of capitulation to the State’s, or Capital’s, vision of education (i.e., choice, accountability, competition, testing, and core curriculum).
In addition to the procurement of collective bargaining rights, the large teachers’ unions should also consider a different part of their legacy, which was important to early trade union organization. Teachers’ unions, and other unions in general, have failed to create a discourse that is an alternative and a challenge to neoliberal views of education reform. The unions have failed to adequately educate their members on the various issues at hand, they’ve failed to create a political machine that is an alternative to the major parties, and have failed to create a radical culture to oppose the business or corporate mentality pervasive in public education reform.
My critique of unions lately, for whatever it’s worth, has been based on the premise that the national organizations, NEA and AFT, are too vested in the preservation of their own large executive and bureaucratic structures to be concerned with the daily needs of the rank-and-file membership. Impose term-limits on the leadership, diminish their huge salaries, encourage more regional control and activism, and perhaps the wishes of individual members will be more likely addressed.
Look at the AFT: they are currently in very close alliance with the Gates Foundation, receiving monies from them, to pursue ventures in education reform and policy. The AFT is under the impression that communicating with Gates will change him and their ways. That’s not likely going to happen, especially when money has already changed hands.