I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, March 10, 2012

War Against Teachers = War Against Women

Digby has been on a tear over the last couple of weeks about this idiotic battle conservatives are waging against women's health and reproductive rights. And while there are fringe benefits to this nonsense - such as the enormously satisfying spectacle of Rush Limbaugh imploding -  I am ultimately left agreeing with Digby that this sign sums it all up:


Or, as Cory Rubin, quoted by Digby, puts it:
The priority of conservative political argument has been the maintenance of private regimes of power—even at the cost of the strength and integrity of the state. We see this political arithmetic at work in the ruling of a Federalist court in Massachusetts that a Loyalist woman who fled the Revolution was the adjutant of her husband, and thus not be held responsible for fleeing and should not have her property confiscated by the state; in the refusal of Southern slaveholders to yield their slaves to the Confederate cause; and the more recent insistence of the Supreme Court that women could not be legally obliged to sit on juries because they are “still regarded as the center of home and family life” with their “own special responsibilities.”

Conservatism, then, is not a commitment to limited government and liberty—or a wariness of change, a belief in evolutionary reform, or a politics of virtue. These may be the byproducts of conservatism, one or more of its historically specific and ever-changing modes of expression. But they are not its animating purpose. Neither is conservatism a makeshift fusion of capitalists, Christians, and warriors, for that fusion is impelled by a more elemental force—the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. [emphasis mine]
In other words: conservatives are all about putting "inferiors" in their place. I don't know about you, but when I look at the War on Teachers through this lens, the whole thing is suddenly crystal-clear - especially when you consider that three-fourths of all teachers are women.

Now, before I go any further, I can already feel the concern trolls stiffening their spines; let's deal with their inevitable objections. No, not all of the corporate reformers are misogynists. Yes, Michelle Rhee is a woman (so is Phyllis Schlafly). No, the entirety of the reformy movement is not sexism.

But there is little doubt left in my mind that the War on Teachers is running parallel to the War on Women, because the arguments the reformy-types make against the teaching profession so closely parallel the arguments conservatives make against women's self-determination.

Take the ridiculous notion that somehow the teachers unions have duped their members into blindly following their lead. This is a favorite trope of Chris Christie:
Christie told reporters today in Trenton that the NJEA’s record spending “comes as no shock,” and that the union collects more than $100 million in dues each year that goes into a “political slush fund.” Giordano and union President Barbara Keshishian are “abject failures” as leaders, Christie said.
“I feel badly for teachers who pay their dues every year in order to have that kind of garbage put on the air,” said Christie, 49. “There’s a desperate need for change in leadership over there. They should be replaced, but apparently only a palace coup will do that.”
He "feels badly" for teachers; the poor dears can't see they're being suckered. No wonder he reminds me of Ralph Kramden, patronizingly patting Alice on the head as he tells her what's best for her. Alice, of course, was ten times as smart as Ralph, and could see through his hair-brained schemes the minute they were hatched. In the same way, teachers know that Christie is completely full of it: he cuts teacher pay, slashes benefits, pushes to eliminate workplace protections, and personally insults teachers (he can't help himself). Yet he condescendingly claims it's the unions that are the source for teachers' current woes.

It's telling that he never pulls this crap with the police unions, or the firefighters, or even the CWA; he's only gone to war with the NJEA. Why is that, do you suppose?

Maybe it's the same reason he called for the press to "take a bat to" Loretta Weinberg, a 76-year-old grandmother and State Senator. Maybe it's the reason he called NJ Senator Valerie Huttle a "jerk." Maybe it's the same reason he tried - and failed - to humiliate teacher Marie Corfield in public.

Maybe it's the same reason he told a teacher in Rutherford that if she didn't like how he was assaulting the compensation of teachers, "You know what, you don’t have to do it." No, of course not: women don't have to work, do they?

Christie's condescending tone is merely one example of many throughout the reformy movement. "Teachers simply can't be trusted to police themselves." "They just don't work as hard as everyone else." "Their work with children is easy." "They don't live in the 'real" world."

Again: do you ever hear this stuff being said about other professions? Would we ever suggest that doctors or accountants or pilots should not be driving the development of policies to police themselves? Do we hear assaults on police and firefighters for their work ethic?

I know this is an odd argument for me to make because I'm Jersey Jazz-man. But I find it simply undeniable. The reformy types wouldn't be nearly as ambitious in their attempts to destroy the teaching profession if the majority of educators were men.

Which begs a question for my fellow teachers, both men and women:

Are we going to continue to put up with these conservative freaks trying to put us in our place? Or are we going to stand up and fight for ourselves, our students, and our dignity - the dignity of all of us?

ADDING: Darcie - who else? - adds in the comments:
I've been saying this for years Duke!  
What percentage of firefighters are women? 2% 
http://www.spokesmanreview.com/news-story.asp?date=031702&id=s1117497 
And police officers?
In 2007 in the largest cities women accounted for only 18%. 
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/wle8708.pdf 
Guess we know why they go after teachers and not firefighters or police, huh? 
Yep.

10 comments:

darciecima said...

I've been saying this for years Duke!

What percentage of firefighters are women? 2%

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/news-story.asp?date=031702&id=s1117497

And police officers?

In 2007 in the largest cities women accounted for only 18%.

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/wle8708.pdf

Guess we know why they go after teachers and not firefighters or police, huh?

Duke said...

You know the rule: you post it here, I can steal it! Adding to above - thx Darcie!

darciecima said...

Steal away my friend!

Anonymous said...

Every time I bring this up, I get a grin and a shake of the head from men AND women. Well, not every time but close enough. Thank you for this.

calugg said...

Absolutely! And here's a bit of historical context: In 1933, the father of educational sociology, Willard Waller opined in standard his college text,

"Education is a profession for second rate men and unmarriageable women."

Duke, you're correct. With public school teacher bashing, it's all about gender. But that's always been the case in the US. *SIGH!*

And the Michelle Rhee's and Phyllis Schlaffly's GAIN POWER by being just as bigoted as their boys. Schlaffly, in particular, had the most NON-Traditional careers. But very few folks point this out.

Duke said...

Prof Lugg, I didn't know that about Waller - interesting. Schlaffly has largely disappeared from the American consciousness, but I'm old enough to remember her hypocrisy and moral tut-tutting. Rhee is, in many ways, her successor.

I'll have another post tomorrow on this; thanks to you-know-who, I have some fascinating numbers to share that really put a fine point on all this.

Everyone, thanks for commenting and reading.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Brilliant. Flat-out brilliant. And thanks for saying it. When I started teaching, in the 1970s, there were almost no women band directors, and the ones there were had no personal lives, struggling to prove that they could run powerhouse music programs.

Until the mid-80s, Instrumentalist magazine ran a column called "The Band Director's Wife" written by Bill Moffatt's wife, who opined on such things as running the band phone fanout and what a BD Wife ought to carry in her emergency sewing kit on band trips.

Conservatives go after the low-hanging fruit first, sad to say.

Duke said...

Nancy - dear lord, I've never heard about that column. That's amazing! I've got to find a copy of that.

More tomorrow.

StacyGK said...

Well put. Women's work is never as important or worth the same sort of pay as men's work.

Anonymous said...

The Glass Ceiling still exists today! So sad...