Peter Greene says that Bill Bennett’s blast against teachers’ strikes boils down to this: Teachers, Know Your Place!

Bennett and his co-author complained that teachers were hurting the children, and worse, using their perivileged role for “financial gain.” Oh my, they said, as they clutched their pearls!

Greene responded:

“Yes, it’s the old Think of the Children argument, which plays better than the real argument here, which is that teachers should know their roles and shut their holes. This paragraph also captures the belief in really low expectations for school (just teach ’em readin’ and ‘rithmetic). And the special hypocrisy of charter fans arguing that schools should not use children as a way to make money.

“But see– only such confusion would “drive mass school closures and disruptions right in the midst of a critical time in a school year.” One wonders when a better, unimportant time in the school year might come; one also enjoys the irony of choice fans decrying “disruption,” which is usually one of their favorite things. I thought disruption was supposed to be a good way to break moribund institutions out of their terrible rut.”

Peter Greene really takes the Bennett piece apart and shreds it.

Here is a small sample. I suggest you open the link and read it in its entirety.

“First, abrupt school closures interrupt and damage student progress. “Teaching time does matter, and we should be very reluctant to interrupt it.” Boy, that line makes great reading as I sit here in the middle of Pennsylvania’s two-week testing window, during which my classes are suspended and interrupted so that we can give the BS Test. I might also direct Bennett to the problem of charters that close without warning during the year.

“Bennett and Flak try to hit a quotable line here: “When coal miners strike they lay down their equipment. When teachers strike, they lay down their students’ minds.” So, in this analogy, my students have pickaxes for brains? My students are my tools? No, this is not a winner.

“Second, the old “if you want to be treated like a professional, act like it.” Which is a crappy argument, because you know what professionals do? They set a fee for their services, and if you want to hire them, you pay it. My plumber and my mechanic and my doctor and my lawyer do not charge me based on what I feel like paying them– they set their fees, and if I want my pipes fixed, I fork over the money.

“Bennett will add the old “teachers get summers off” argument for good measure. Fine. If you think we should have year-round school, do that. But don’t diss me and my professional brethren because you’re too cheap to pay for a full year’s worth of services. Yes, teachers can use the summer to “pursue their financial goals or other endeavors,” and I’m not sure what your point is. If you want more money, go get a job at the Tastee-Freeze?

“And also (this second point turns out to be several points that seem to add up to “teachers are a bunch of lazy unprofessional money-grubbers anyway”) Bennett wants to play blunt straight-shooter, saying “let’s be honest” and admit these strikes have been about “pursuing financial ends.” Which is unprofessional and unseemly.

“There is a time, place and manner for these fiscal discussion. Strikes during the school year are not it.

“Oh, bullshit. The teachers of Arizona and West Virginia and Oklahoma and Kentucky and Colorado and North Carolina have had all the discussions so very many times in a wide variety of places in every imaginable manner, and for their trouble they have gotten bupkus. Worse than bupkus– they’ve gotten disrespect and abuse and in the meantime they’ve gone back to their moldy classrooms to do their professional best to work in a crumbling environment without enough resources. Bennett doesn’t list the times and places and manners that would be more appropriate because he knows damn well whatever circumstances he describes, those teachers have already tried.

“Third, Bennett argues that some of these strikes have been about misdirected anger or invalid complaints, but teachers just want to “maneuver a sweeter deal.” Yes, those damn scam artists, striking on a lark just to make a buck.

“I give Bennett credit for just one thing– usually when folks start flinging these arguments around they try to cushion them by saying that teachers by themselves are just swell– it’s those damned unions. But no– Bennett and Flak go straight for the classroom teacher jugular.”