The relationship between labor and management has been traditionally wary, suspicious, thinly-veiled. Each presume the lesser elements of the other lie just beneath the surface of a veneer of sincerity and altruism. When the door is shut, when the cat’s away, when the guard is down, comments about labor from management and vice versa reach bottom quickly, to the depths of mockery.
In education, when at its best, labor and management coincide and trust. The latter serves as a heat shield to the former, allowing the teacher to pursue goals with a minimum of “administrivia” by a leader who believes in colleagues and ardently preserves their classroom autonomy.
When it’s the pits in education, Queeg-like paranoia intrudes into the classroom dynamic. Colleagues turn against each other playing the roles of toady or malcontent.
Writ large, what’s happening in Chicago is a second-stage macrocosm of the distrusting and the dysfunctional in a business setting with the unfortunate collateral damage potential to children’s education, parental trust in their school system, business acumen and political heft. All of these elements intermingle in what will soon reach the level of social dynamite.
Chicago public school management, political leadership, business scions, union leadership, and school based education principals and classroom teachers are all intertwined now in a drama equally fascinating and repulsive to observe.
Teachers who are in closed schools are in mourning, some unabashedly involving their students in public grieving. Principals of ironically named welcoming schools may inwardly look forward to the doubling of their student population and the inclusion of faculty from those closed schools with less than welcomed embrace. Community activists, religious leaders see within this tumult the opportunity to make point and acquire access and influence. The union calls the school closing action closeted racism insisting this exercise is a social experiment to open schools to private enterprise, there is no budget gap to close there is no truth in central office public methodology, their transparency a sham, their political agenda naked and injurious to children. Business may warn the mayor’s office the need to show the steely resolve and strength that we were supposed to be getting, the Washingtonian fish wrapped in newspaper intransigence that was supposed to get things going, move the needle, or some such business idiom.
Meanwhile, kids and parents are scared or angry, teachers scared or angry. One could assume it difficult for any instruction to go on in a school slated for closing, little more for those being consolidated.
Gang lines must be respected, insist some. We should never allow criminal elements to dictate policy say others. Get real. Get tough. Get going. Get out. Get back. Get in line. Get with the program. Get out of my way. Get into it.
And you wonder why the number of people wanting to teach, or the number of teachers wanting leadership roles is in decline?