“I will advocate for the kids when they have the money to bankroll my luxurious traveling and speaking schedule,” said Michelle Rhee at a recent meeting with her wealthy Wall Street investors.
Okay, admittedly that quote is made up and Rhee has never made that kind of statement (as far as I can tell). Unfortunately, she does not admit to using a quotation against teachers unions despite its fictional existence.
Rhee told to a group of people that former American Federation of Teachers President Al Shanker once said, “When children start paying teachers unions dues that’s when we will start protecting students.”
The new film “Won’t Back Down” uses the same quotation and paints a picture of corrupt teachers unions. One’s out for themselves and not caring about the students they educate day in and day out.
We went to the Library of Congress to search for the alleged quote in the Congressional Record since the free online database only goes back to 1989. Shanker is not on record as making the statement any time between 1979 and 1986. If the union boss uttered those words in 1985, or even a few years before then, as the Meridian Star suggested, it didn’t happen at a congressional hearing.
Shanker did mention something slightly related on Aug. 1, 1985. Here he is talking about trying to weigh in as a union representative on the need for education reforms:
“Typically the school board said this: ‘You’re a union. We’ll be happy to talk with you about the salaries and working conditions teachers want. But we will not talk to you about anything that’s good for children, because you weren’t elected to represent the children. Professional issues are not subject to negotiation.’ ”
Shanker was expressing frustration with the notion that teacher and student interests don’t go hand-in-hand. It’s quite possible that union critics twisted his words 180 degrees to claim that he doesn’t care about the needs of schoolchildren.
Guess what? Teachers unions typically do care about and represent the interests of the children they teach!
The Chicago Teachers Union is currently on strike against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education for reasons that pertain directly to the conditions in which they must teach and students must learn. They fight for a reinstatement of gym, art, and music classes. They want smaller class sizes so they can give more direct attention to students. They want heating and air conditioning in their classrooms so young kids are not passing out from 95 degrees or shivering because it is nearly freezing.
The local media might be focusing on the union’s desire to see laid off teachers brought back but they miss the point of the move. More teachers means more learning opportunities for the students. It means more options in school and more chances to engage. It means more mentors and positive role models while lessening the chances they will just be lost in the crowd.
But the bottom line here is for Rhee. The quotation is false. Stop using, apologize, get on with the facts. Or does that make it too hard for you to sell your corporate education reform agenda?
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.