Over at Perdido Street School, guest blogger Harris Lirtzman has a fascinating piece on teachers and the American political system that is required reading. Basically, teachers have been left without a home as both major parties have pretty much abandoned the public schools and the teachers. For example, New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie wants to punch us in the face while almost all of the Senate Democrats, including the sainted Bernie Sanders, voted for the Murphy Amendment which Diane Ravitch said would intensify the federal test the kids and then punish the teachers accountability system in our schools.
Harris makes the case that we need to vote Democratic to preserve what little we have but focus our energies on rebuilding our unions in order to activate our members so that the politicians will have to pay real attention to us at some point. Here is the final part of his informative essay.
Education progressives who have an understanding of practical politics in this country will recognize what most progressives learned in 2000. Any education progressive who says now that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties has not been watching what's been happening in this country since 2000 very closely.
The Republican Party, with whom teachers have aligned themselves on education policy issues, caught rabies in 2004. The Republican Party, wherever it has been able to, pursues an agenda that means death for every other thing that educational progressives support. Any educational progressive who is not a “single issue” radical will support the Democratic Party whoever its nominee is and abandon the insanity of the Republican alliance that will have returned education policy to the states, where progressive education policy goes to die its own death, in return for momentary relief from federal testing and accountability mandates.
Unfortunately, the story does not end will for educational progressives. Except in small parts of the country where individual Democrats care enough about educational progressivism to make it an issue, educational reformers will be able to pursue the same goals they have for the last two decades.
If the cost of political engagement for educational progressives is that we are forced in the end to make a “Sophie’s Choice” between our own progressivism and the fuller range of progressivisms that we support then I say let us leave politics behind.
Let us reform our unions, if we can. Let us fight to protect teachers who are able to survive the education reform movement in their workplaces. Let us preserve collective bargaining and dues check-off. Let us develop a robust range of mutual support capabilities to preserve teaching as a proud profession. Let us think about new strategies that the weakness of our political position demands—particularly building strong and vital alliances with other parts of the progressive movement, especially with people of color—and let us focus on the long, hard, unglamorous work that might turn the vast majority of apolitical teachers into education progressives.
Let us think about almost anything except how "educational progressives" can find a home in or be saved by the American political process.
Because we can’t and because we won’t.
It is not a pretty picture that Harris paints but can anyone argue with the conclusion?