11 September, 2012

What Isyemille Thinks About the CPS Teachers' Strike of 2012

I do not describe myself as a political person. I’m not terribly well-versed in the political rhetoric or economic jargon that so often spatters the media. If you quiz me on current political events, national or otherwise, it is possible that I will fail. I don’t often pay attention because what I hear either doesn’t make common sense, or because I simply do not believe it. Most people who know me will agree that my belief structure is rooted in some sort of social romanticism, skeletoned by my disdain for inequality and lack of humility.

As someone who voted for a third party in the last national election, I do not see eye to eye with the current socio-economic landscape. I do not like using words like “freedom”, “democracy”, or even “America”- the latter being because I was taught that the name “America” refers to an entire continent and not the simply the country between Canada and Mexico. Sadly, these words more often than not ring empty to me.

I will however, describe myself as a current college-level student, a mother, and an aspiring teacher of bilingual education. It is because of this self-description that I have been paying attention to the CPS/CTU battle both before the strike, and even more so now. It affects me as someone who wants to be an educator within the public school setting, as the mother of a child who will one day be of school-age, and in general as a resident of Chicago.

Due to my current responsibilities as a single, working, schooling mother, I have not had the opportunity to participate or at the very least, witness, the teachers’ picket lines. I am hopeful that I can make the time to do so in the next few days. I have great admiration (another word I tend to use sparingly) for the people organized in this current strike. It gives me a sense of action and decision. It makes me feel like something important is happening, and that it is happening because people are collectively making it so.

Putting the educators’ arguments and demands aside for a moment, it is my opinion that the CTU has demonstrated to the city of Chicago (and beyond), that the notion of the union is not dead. I believe that this in itself is remarkable and am hopeful that a focused change comes from the difficult decision to walk out of the classroom and on to the sidewalks. There has been an abhorrent lack of attention to the public classroom in this city (and all across this country) for many years. With some luck, the attention this strike gets will be funneled there, in order to help the teachers in turn be able to help their students grow, achieve, and improve.

I believe in public education. I believe in it because I believe that no person should be able to put a monetary value on a child being taught to read, analyze, ask questions, and learn freely. This is NOT an American right- this is a human one. While not educated within the CPS system, I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school, all over the United States. I have every intention of putting my son through public schooling when he is of age, and would love to teach in public schools as well. It is a comfort to know now that the educators (and others) of this city are able and willing to make demanding choices in order to change the current, stagnant status quo.

I prefaced this editorial by explaining my apolitical outlook. Whether or not the teachers are demanding too much (I don’t believe they are), or the Mayor is acting cowardly is not what I am discussing. I cannot begin to claim that I have an in-depth understanding of the CTU or how it functions, the difficulties that the CPS faces, or the politics of this city. I am simply observing with my own biases and perspectives. For me, the simple fact that the CTU stuck to its conviction and was not intimidated by the consequences and criticisms that are sure to be avalanching upon it, is inspiring enough. I am hopeful that they are able to build on the momentum of the first day of this strike in order to achieve their goals and resolve things in order to perpetuate an environment that benefits both those being taught and those who have the task (and privilege) of educating.

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who cannot learn”- Alvin Toffler.

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