I hope to have something of considerable substance up about the Chicago teachers’ union strike up in the next three days, specifically looking at the empirical evidence concerning teachers’ unions, student demographics, and academic performance. (For example: complaining about the high school dropout rates at Chicago Public Schools without mentioning that 90% of Chicago’s public school students are eligible for subsidized lunch is unhelpful at best, dishonest at worst.) But I wanted to take a minute and say, simply: this is where the rubber meets the road. I think you should pay very close attention to this strike and how the usual suspects talk about it. The issues at hand here are very basic and vastly important, for the future of the left. I know that people tire of the meta discussions, but I think that it’s always important to define what we believe and who we stand with. These questions are existential in the broadest sense.
It doesn’t take a wild guess to know that I stand with the picketing teachers. It also probably won’t surprise you to know that rising neoliberal wunderkind Dylan Matthews, writing to his patron’s large readership, has come out on the other side. People are going to take sides and those sides will tell you everything– about their grasp on empiricism and social science, their respect for working people and labor, and whether they are willing to extend American abundance to public employees.
Do you think that teaching should be a high-status position that carries with it a decent wage and the chance for meaningful pay raises? Or do you want to continue the relentless assault on the profession? That is the essential question at stake here.
Update: Corey Robin is essential here.