September 18, 2012 will be remembered in Chicago as a day of infamy. Corrupt city officials and union bosses won. Teachers, parents, and kids lost.
On September 10, teachers walked out. Core issues were at stake. Most important is saving public education. An American tradition is disappearing.
It's being commodified. Corporate predators are gaining control. Contract terms agreed on do nothing to stop them.
On Tuesday, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) House of Delegates voted to suspend strike action and resume classes. By 9:00AM Wednesday morning, they reopened across the city.
Primary and secondary education in Chicago and across America is a shadow of its former self. An article written two years ago next month compared earlier America with today. Rewritten parts are below, saying:
A personal note. I grew up in Boston from the mid-1930s - mid-1950s through college. Post-graduate work followed military service.
Times were different, good and bad. Eisenhower was still president. Unemployment was low. Anyone wanting work found it. Financialization hadn't taken hold. Industrial America was strong. Most jobs were high pay/good benefit/full-time ones.
Most years the economy grew during a post-WW II expansion. Inflation was low. The average new car cost $1,500. A typical home was under $10,000. College was affordable.
Harvard's 1952 full year tuition was $600. Four years later it was $1,000 - for a full, two-semester year. Anyone could attend evenings for $5 a course and get a Harvard degree for about $175.
My mother did it that way. On June 14, 1956, we graduated together in the same class. We were Harvard's first ever mother and son to do it. Perhaps no parent and child did it since.
America was unchallenged economically. Its manufacturing base was solid. It offered high paying/good benefits jobs. No longer.
Union representation was high. Today it's a shadow of its former self. Southern and northern US cities were segregated. They still are.
All 1960s civil rights gains plus most good jobs and benefits are gone. Alaska and Hawaii additions grew America to 50 states. The Korean War left an unsettled armistice. Six decades later, things haven't changed.
Cold War politics settled in. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) prevented WW III. Censure ruined Joe McCarthy. By May 1957, he was dead at age 48. He's not missed or mourned.
The CIA's first coup deposed Iran's democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh. A generation of terror followed. A year later, America toppled Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. Decades of genocide followed. Indigenous Guatemalans suffered horrifically. They still do.
Throughout the decade, few followed Vietnam events, France's defeat, and America's growing involvement. Palestine wasn't occupied. Israel was mostly out of sight and mind.
Times indeed changed, and not for the better, including in education.
June 14, 1956 reflected a different time. Thousands filled Harvard's yard that day. Dignitaries showed up. Jack Kennedy delivered the commencement address. Senator JFK. It was 1956.
He was thoughtful and scholarly. Politicians don't talk that way today. He said political parties and politicians only think of winning. Truth and honor are sacrificed for political advantage.
His entire address was full of scholarly references. He quoted Lowell, Milton, Bismark, Goethe, Macauley, and others. He had intellect and showed it.
He reminded listeners that long ago books were politicians' tools, not their enemies. Locke, Milton, Sydney, Montesquieu, Coke, Bollingbroke and others were widely read and quoted in political pamphlets.
"Our political leaders traded in the free commerce of ideas with lasting results" long ago. He named Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams, his son John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster among others.
He said when freedom is endangered, politicians and intellectuals "should be natural allies, working more closely together for the common cause against the common enemy."
He ended saying "if more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live on this commencement day of 1956."
He also said one of his contemporaries spoke of Jefferson as a man for all seasons. He called him "A gentleman of 32, who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin."
He was also a statesman, third US president, and supporter of public and university education. He said "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
"...whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right."
He called education fundamental for democracy. He believed ignorance and sound government can't co-exist. He said government must provide education.
Only popular government can safeguard democracy. "Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree..."
"Democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment...it cannot function without wise and honest officials."
In free societies, everyone "should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental conditions...Children of the poor must be educated at common expense."
On December 2, 1806, in his State of the Union Address, he urged Congress pass a constitutional amendment mandating federal support for education. He said:
"An amendment to our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all people."
He never got what he wanted. It's our loss today. He believed primary and secondary education were vital. He wanted them kept public. He had six objectives. He hoped they'd create a more productive, informed electorate. They included:
(1) "To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
(2) To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
(3) To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
(4) To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
(5) To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
(6) And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed."
Hopefully he meant "she" as well as "he."
He devoted his later years to education. He wanted to create an "academic village." In 1819, he founded the University of Virginia. He envisioned a new kind of university. He wanted emphasis placed on practical affairs and public service.
It was America's first nonsectarian institution of higher learning. It was the first to adopt an elective course system. He called founding the university one of his greatest achievements.
He did it late in life. He planned its curriculum, recruited its first faculty, and designed its "academic village." In 1825, classes began with eight teachers and 68 students.
Kennedy also believed in the importance of education. He said "Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource."
"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation."
"A child miseducated is a child lost."
He supported keeping primary and secondary education public. He proposed aiding them with federal grants. He stressed investing in our youth from grade school through post-graduate studies. Imagine what he, Jefferson, and like-minded leaders would say today.
On September 19, the Chicago Tribune headlined "Teachers, students return to Chicago public schools," saying:
On Tuesday, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) House of Delegates members voted to end strike action and return to classes.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president Karen Lewis pressured them to accede. She should be hung in effigy, fired and replaced. Instead she practically gloated saying:
"We feel very positive about moving forward. We feel grateful that we have a united union, and that when a union moves together, amazing things happen."
Sugar-coating sellout doesn't wash.
Mayor Emanuel was no better. He called the deal "an honest compromise."
It was sellout. Money and power won. Teachers, parents and kids lost. At issue is how long will it take before they know? Then, what'll they do about it?
Short-term, it's too late. Across America, ordinary people are losing out consistently. Human, civil and worker rights are being lost. A previous article said Occupy Wall Street is right. The only solution is world revolution. Nothing less will work.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.