STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – I was deeply troubled when video surfaced last week of striking Strongsville, Ohio teachers heckling substitute teachers who were applying to be their temporary replacements.
Over 300 teachers are on strike because the school board is refusing to give them automatic raises, and the school board undercut their mass temper tantrum by hiring substitutes to keep schools open.
The substitutes, complete with police escorts, had to endure heckling and jeering by the strikers. The unionists often followed alongside the substitutes, berating them and yelling in their faces as they headed to the local police department for mandatory background checks.
The entire scene had that 1957 Little Rock/school integration “walk of shame” feel to it.
Ironically, one striker yelled at a black substitute, “Rosa Parks would be ashamed!”
Perhaps, but her shame probably would have been aimed at the obnoxious striker.
It marked a bottom-of-the-barrel moment for me as a five-year education reform activist. Are these people on the picket lines steel workers or degreed professionals? The irony of the American Federation of Teachers’ slogan – “A Union of Professionals” – could not be more profound.
Sadly, many of today’s public school teachers have embraced a hard-core mentality and defiant attitude toward anyone who disagrees with their demands or tactics. They have the influence of their union leaders to blame for that.
The unions carefully arrange adversarial environments, pitting teachers against administrators. They constantly remind everyone that teacher “morale is low,” and complain that realistic salary offers from cash-strapped school boards are a sign that teachers aren’t “valued.”
That often leads to childish behavior, like having “votes of no-confidence” on a superintendent or school board, picketing outside board members’ homes and workplaces, or wearing all black clothing to school to display their displeasure.
Grow up. Let the kids be the kids. You be the adults.
Sadly, unionized teachers throughout the nation have made sure the debate over public schools is centered on their desires rather than student needs. Does anyone really think the striking Strongsville teachers were yelling at the substitutes on behalf of the students?
But asking the adults to act like adults may be too much. The examples of teacher union pettiness and intimidation – dare I say bullying – are all too frequent.
In 2012, in the midst of a fight with the Chicago Board of Education over a plan to close failing schools, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey held a bullhorn in front of the TV cameras and declared his union would “expose” the billionaires pushing for school reform in the city, then told school board members, “We’re coming after you!”
Earlier that year, teachers in the Eagle Point, Oregon school district went on strike and heckled replacement teachers. The protesters did their best to disrupt classes by shouting from the nearby sidewalk.
In the fall of 2011, CTU President Karen Lewis gave a speech to a group of “social justice” teachers in which she mocked –in a bullying fashion – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s lisp. She was forced to apologize.
That same year, members of the Michigan Education Association protested outside the insurance business of then-State Rep. Marty Knollenberg because he supported Gov. Rick Snyder’s education reform agenda.
Three months ago in Lansing, Michigan, a group of union members at the state capitol protesting Snyder’s “right to work” legislation violently tore down the tent of an organization that supports right-to-work, trapping some people inside.
At a California “Tax the Rich” protest, a teacher said she thought the home addresses of billionaires should be made public. She didn’t say why, but presumably it wasn’t to add them to her “holiday card” list.
Earlier this week in Strongsville, a teacher was arrested after allegedly swerving his vehicle at another vehicle filled with replacement teachers. Fliers were also passed out in the neighborhoods of replacement teachers, asking residents if they knew that a “scab” lived among them.
And let’s not forget the ugliest mass temper tantrum of all, which occurred in Madison, Wisconsin two years ago this month. Union protesters banged drums, issued death threats, tried to tip over buses full of legislative staffers and climbed through the state capitol windows, all in an effort to preserve union power.
We should be able to expect more
The late author and activist Saul Alinsky always insisted that the ends justify the means.
If protesting outside a board member’s house, and frightening his children in the process, means securing a bigger raise, then do it. If scoring better contract terms means tracking board members to their health clubs – to make them “feel the same stresses we have” – then what are you waiting for?
Ethics be damned; bring on the victory. Decency is for suckers.
The sick part is that our nation’s largest teachers unions have been embracing Alinsky and his temper-tantrum approach for years.
The National Education Association has Alinsky’s books on its “recommended reading” page. Union groups teach his tactics and put them into practice virtually every day.
The tactics are frequently effective, but they don’t impress anyone. Do union leaders ever worry about public relations? Do they realize that their tactics often leave taxpayers and parents shaking their heads in disgust? Do they really think making public fools of themselves will strengthen the labor movement in the long-term?
But somehow that type of logical thinking never occurs to them. Like a spoiled child in a grocery store, they throw themselves on the floor and kick and scream until their humiliated parents buy the candy bar. Mission accomplished. That’s all that matters.
But pride should come into play at some point. Why would self-described “professionals” conduct themselves in such an unprofessional manner? And what are their actions teaching their students?
The situation is undoubtedly worsened by school boards across the nation that routinely give in to the labor tantrums. That means the unions can be counted on to apply the same tactics when their new contracts expire.
I’m the parent of three young children. Like many parents, I know that rewarding a child’s temper tantrum or other bad behavior is sending a very bad message.
The worst thing anyone can do is reward the behavior. It’s reinforcing the idea that continued application of the obnoxious behavior will lead to the desired outcome for the child.
This isn’t some complicated psychological study – it’s common sense.
Maybe I am expecting too much from the union “professionals” who are contracted to deliver services in our schools. After all, they organize themselves in industrial-style unions, just like blue-collar workers. The irony is that many blue-collar union workers conduct themselves with more dignity, even when they’re on strike.
But I still can’t shake the nagging feeling that we, as taxpayers, should be able to expect something more from people who earn their living from tax dollars and have so much influence over our children every day.