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

Sunday, August 9, 2015

When You Punch Teachers Unions, You're Punching Teachers

Fortunately, I was outside of the country when Chris Christie sank to his latest new low:
The New Jersey governor was on CNN on Sunday, where host Jake Tapper asked, “At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” (Why would Christie get that question? Because he has made it known he likes to deal with bullies by punching them in the face, an approach that would work well in the Oval Office, no?) According to this story by my Post colleague Lyndsey Layton, Christie did not hesitate with a response: “Oh the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.” 
If you're at all shocked or surprised by this, you haven't been paying attention to Chris Christie. The man insults teachers as easily as you and I breath. 

A few commenters have suggested that Tapper baited Christie with the question. Keep in mind, however, that Christie's original use of "punch in the face" was back in 2012, when he was referring, once again, to the state's largest teachers union, the NJEA.

It's clear at this point that Christie really doesn't give a damn about New Jersey anymore (assuming he ever did). Two of the most critical problems this state faces -- pension liabilities and school underfunding -- can only be solved through deliberations with the NJEA. It's fine for Christie to get tough and stake out his positions on the issues. But when you engage in gratuitous and idiotic insults like this, there's simply no way the groups you are lambasting are going to join you at the negotiating table. 

By taking this tone, Christie has for all intents and purposes announced that he couldn't care less about fixing New Jersey's most pressing issues; his only concern now is how to play to the extreme-right Republican base. And at this stage in the race, sitting down with the unions would probably hurt his ambitions more than help -- better to keep flapping his gums about his union hatred and hope he somehow steals the spotlight from Donald Trump.

So we can expect more of this stupidity in the months ahead. Which is fine by me: considering how unpopular Christie is in New Jersey, the more he hates on the NJEA, the better the union looks.

That said, there is one point that the NJEA and all of its members ought to push back on:

One of the ways that Christie and his apologists have tried to justify his incessant union bashing is to protest, when called out on his blathering nonsense, that he doesn't have a problem with teachers themselves, but only with their union. Here's an example from the fall of 2012:
New Jersey Education Association secretary treasurer Marie Blistan says public schools are the gateway for kids to reach their fullest potential, but Christie, “Has put targets on teachers’ backs. He has made teachers the enemy of the general public. He is also working very hard to separate private and public unions……….He is putting us in a position where we all need to fight for our own memberships and while we’re all fighting each other, in 14 months he’s going to come in a get re-elected. It’s his scheme to get re-elected and we cannot let that happen. We cannot let that man separate us.”
Blistan also took aim at Christie’s “New Jersey Comeback.”
She says, “It is in fact nothing more than a fabrication of an over-active imagination and it is a disgrace.”
At the same press event, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg took a swipe at Christie Too.
He said, “I say if the Governor wants to fire a public worker, he ought to start by firing himself.”
It bears noting that Christie has always spoken highly of teachers, if not their union. He has never said the “New Jersey Comeback” is completed, rather he says it has just begun. [emphasis mine]
That's a "news" report from NJ 101.5, Christie's favored media outlet. Here's Christie himself in 2010, courtesy of Defend NJ Education:
"...despite criticizing teachers about being unwilling to sacrifice pay and benefits in a tough economy, he differentiates between the NJEA and its members. 
"I love teachers. . . . Teachers don't dislike me," Christie said in a Fox News interview June 23. "The teachers union dislikes me. And there's a real difference between teachers and the teachers union." But teachers aren't feeling the love. They back their union, and it backs them." [emphasis mine]
Google it yourself and you'll find lots of variations on this theme: Chris Christie loves and respects teachers but loathes their union. What you won't find, however, is anyone challenging Christie to take his argument to its logical conclusion.

Because either the teachers union is doing what its members want it to do, or it isn't. If it is, Christie is just flat out being evasive: his real problem with the union is that it's working on its membership's behalf, doing just what they want it to do. Which means that Christie's isn't just battling with the union's leaders; he's also at war with its members.

But if the members somehow have allowed the union to advocate for a host of things teachers don't actually want, that speaks just as badly about those members. Does Christie think teachers are so naive that they've allowed themselves to be played for saps by union leaders? If so, why would he want people that gullible educating children? Or maybe he thinks we're all just apathetic, and we're letting the unions do whatever they want without our noticing -- even advocating for things we're really against.

Others have tried to make the case that the things unions advocate for -- better pay, better working conditions, better benefits, full funding of pensions, more autonomy, better evaluation systems, full funding of schools, smaller class sizes, due process rights -- are actually things that teachers secretly don't want. 

That is, of course, absurd on its face. If anything, the teachers that disagree with their unions are critical because they want their unions to fight even harder for this agenda. The idea that there is some silent majority of public school teachers who actually want less pay, more pension cuts, less school funding, the end of tenure, and more school "choice" -- meaning more non-unionized charter schools full of inexperienced teachers -- is so ridiculous it's not even worth arguing.

Chris Christie doesn't hate the NJEA because it advocates for things teachers don't want; he hates the union because it is fighting to preserve and enhance the rights, compensation, and professional authority of educators. If anything, the change teachers want from their union is for it to become more aggressive in fighting off Christie's destructive policies.

It's well past time for Christie to have to start owning his hatred for teachers, and not just their unions. Every time he says he wants to punch the union, we teachers should remind the public that we are the union. He wants to punch us.

Which is why he is unfit to be president, or governor, or hold any other high office.

I'll start by punching the kindergarten teachers, and work my way up!

ADDING: Russ Walsh throws down the gauntlet:
Of course the teachers union has no literal face, and the leaders of both major teachers unions, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a of the National Education Association are women. I don’t think even a Republican candidate for president could get away with punching a woman in the face. Belittling them, yes. Berating them, yes. Taking away the choice of what they do with their bodies, yes. But not striking a woman, especially with a Hillary running on the Democratic side.
So, taking all this into consideration, I would like to step up and offer Christie my face to punch.
I am well qualified for the job. I have been a public school teacher and administrator for 45 years. I have been the president and the chief negotiator of my local teachers union. I have been sharply critical of Christie’s education policies on my blog. I deserve that punch in the face. I have earned it. Not only that, I live just a stone’s throw from the State House in Trenton, so I could meet the governor there at any time, if he ever happens to get back to New Jersey.
Have you seen Russ? He's about as big as a tree; I don't think Christie could reach his face. 

ADDING MORE: Marie Corfield cuts to the heart of the matter:
Aside from the fact that he's wrong about that endorsement (AFT endorsed), Christie's national education policy includes punching three minority women in the face: NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia (Hispanic), Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss (African Americans). And I'm sure he probably wants to punch AFT President Randi Weingarten, too. Nothing says leadership like abusing women!

So, why does Christie hate women—particularly women educators—so much? He says,
Because they’re not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I’ve got the scars to show it. But I’m never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.
Ahhh... if only the facts bore that out. You see, out of the 70 new business items we wrote and approved at the RA last month, the majority had to do with social justice (including poverty, racisim and discrimination), LGBTQ issues and improving educational outcomes for students. And by the way, what's wrong with advocating for greater benefits and pay? Corporate executives do it all the time. So do the major sports teams' players associations (aka, unions). But I guess that's ok so long as you get to hang in the owner's box during the games. Yes, nothing says happy, productive workers like slashing their salaries and benefits!
Listen, girls, you gotta understand: when CEOs demand more pay, it's because they're playing a man's game:
Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John, a sure indicator that the glass ceiling remains firmly in place in corporate America. 
Among chief executives of S.&P. 1500 firms, for each woman, there are four men named John, Robert, William or James. We’re calling this ratio the Glass Ceiling Index, and an index value above one means that Jims, Bobs, Jacks and Bills — combined — outnumber the total number of women, including every women’s name, from Abby to Zara. Thus we score chief executive officers of large firms as having an index score of 4.0.
It's just so... unseemly for you gals to be asking for better pay. Negotiating hard just ain't ladylike.

Now go make Chris a sandwich...


Jack Covey said...

It’s one thing for corporate reforms to spew this venom to adults. As far as I know, Christie is the only one who does it to kids (perhaps Eva M. does, too.)

Check out this link: (make sure to hit the expand icon next to the volume, to see it full frame)


In the 2010 video, Christie takes this one grain of truth—some teachers taking two days off for for the NJEA convention—and extrapolates that to all New Jersey teachers as a way of condemning them as lazy, selfish, who care more about “having a party” than they do about their students… that they also have all this time off for vacations, instead of helping their students…

.. and he’s telling all of this… TO A CROWD OF STUDENTS ???!!!! At the very beginning of the video, he even tell the kids that they need to “stand up” to their teachers.

Christie bloviates to kids that if their teachers “cared more about all of you learning, they’d be in school, baby. That’s right. They wouldn’t be down there having a party, which is all this (NJEA convention) is. It’s a party!”

Comments that are not on video include Christie further trashing their teachers, by telling the students present that their teachers belong to “greedy teachers’ union”, and that’s why they don’t have enough supplies in their classroom—not that Christie just cut $1.3 billion from the state’s education budget, so he could pay for tax breaks to the rich.

See this link for the quote about “greedy teachers union” causing no school supplies:


Jack Covey said...

Watching this shows how Christie would make a good Iago in a production of Shakespeare’s OTHELLO—a full-figured version of the Venetian villain, to be sure. Much like Iago’s verbal evil turns Othello against his loyal wife Desdemona—“I shall pour the poison into his ear so that she repels him”—Christie endeavors to get these students to find their teachers equally repellant, and then turn on them as the Moor did on his love.

There’s a Latin phrase ‘in loco parentis” to describe teachers. This means “in place of the parents”, as in, other than the parents, these adults are the most important people in the kids lives. Especially with kids from distressed home lives, teachers can take on a quasi-parental roll. Indeed, they are with kids seven hours or more every day, sometimes spending more time with them than those childrens’ parents, if those parents work long hours.

Therefore, what Christie is doing is beyond despicable. He’s poisoning these children’s minds against their teachers to advance his own selfish political interests, and the interests of money-motivated corporate reformers. It’s child abuse.

To the parents out there, here’s a thought hypothetical experiment:

How would you like it if some politician or authority figure started talking to your children like this when you were not there to defend yourself (or punch the fat creep in the mouth)? Think of this person going a group of siblings:

“You mom and dad are so lazy and selfish! They don’t care about you, only about themselves. They care more about leaving you for two days to go to a party… and they’re always taking vacations away from you… you don’t have any nice things because your parents are greedy… because they’re horrible… ”

Just think of how, in the hypothetical scenario above, that would undermine those siblings’ relationship with their parents, how it would create a void between parent and child, and cause a resentment that ruptures that relationship… and leads to them not respecting or following those hypothetical parents’ authority.

Jack Covey said...

The attempts to drive a wedges between groups:

between teachers on one side, and parents/students on the other is one of the linchpins of corporate reform

between one group of teachers and others... getting them to turn on their union leaders...

This is part of the gameplan.

Another corporate reformer that engages in this is Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois. On TV, he basically says parents are just too gullible and stupid, and too easily manipulated by their children’s teachers… and that’s why 75% of Chicago citizens over all, and an even higher percentage of parents with kids in public schools backed teachers in the 2012 teacher strike, and were opposed the corporate reform Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Here’s that post. It’s from an old 2012 interview back when Rauner was merely Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “advisor” :

In the 2012 video below, a pre-governorship Rauner blathers about the “tragedy” in Chicago that “hundreds of thousands of students” have been having their “futures damaged” simply because they are not yet attending privatized, non-union charter schools, instead of those traditional public schools filled with corrupt incompetent union thug teachers.


It’s from an incendiary 2012 TV forum back when Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was merely Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “advisor”, (though back then he was hinting at his eventual run for governor in 2014).

It’s from Chicago’s PBS affiliate’s show “CHICAGO TONIGHT,” moderated Carol Marin, who was awesome.


When asked why he thinks that 75% of Chicagoans supported CTU in the recent strike, Rauner basically implies the parents and general public are simply too stupid or at least too gullible, so they got taken in by union “misinformation”, and cannot realize how evil teachers’ unions are.

( 02:26 – 03:00 )

CAROL MARIN: “And yet, there were parents standing with teachers on the picket lines. What meaning do you take from that?”

BRUCE RAUNER: “That the union has been… uhh… aggressively marketing and running a huge PR campaign of misinformation. Many parents don’t really understand what’s going on inside their schools As long as their child feels safe, and their… their teacher is a pleasant person, they think things are all right. The tragedy… the tragedy is … uhh… hundreds of thousands of children in the Chicago Public Schools are receiving an inadequate education, and their futures are being damaged because of it.”


Really, Bruce? “A tragedy” for “hundreds of thousands of children” who are having “their futures damaged”? Exaggerate much? And your claim that the parents are too gullible or too obtuse to see through, or resist manipulation at the hands of their kids’ teachers? You basically just called all those parents idiots.

Bruce, those parents are the folks who talk to their kids every ding-dong day about what’s going on in their kids’ schools… at the breakfast table… at the dinner table… in the car rides to and from school… or whenever. Those parents whose mental faculties you deride are the same folks who regularly meet with teachers in conferences, monitor their kids’ education. review their report cars, etc.. Some even volunteer as unpaid aides, or visit their schools in session, serve on and/or attend PTA meetings. These parents then talk among each other, share their opinion, compare notes on their kids’ teachers, administrators, etc…. and on and on…