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Teachers and the Death of the American Worker

Is the pushback we're seeing against Chicago's striking teachers just another symptom of the demise of the American worker?

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The Chicago teachers' strike is yet another referendum on the failing education reform agenda that is destined to strip teachers of their professionalism and to further stratify the education system of the U.S. so that affluent children (mostly white) gain even more advantage in their schooling than they have in their lives over children living in working class, working poor, and impoverished homes (disproportionately people of color).

It is a political lie to claim that the Chicago teachers' strike is the fault of lazy and greedy teachers supported by their corrupt union. It is a political lie to ignore the central demand of those teachers—a stand against test-based teacher accountability.

But neither the political elite nor the corporate elite will eventually lose in this debate because a public embracing of the corporate agenda and rejection of the striking teachers is a self-defeating commitment that will guarantee what appears inevitable now—the death of the American worker.

Teachers are not alone in this, but public school teachers are great American workers. I cannot fathom how we have come to a day when Americans no longer value something that cannot be more American than workers in solidarity.


Paul L. Thomas is an associate professor of education at Furman University.