American public school educators have been insulted, mocked, punished, shamed, blamed and threatened by politicians, Bill Gates, corporations and the media for a decade. Their professionalism has been reduced by name-calling, scripted curricula, “common core” standards and the publication of standardized test scores. Their schools have become the playthings of billionaire bullies and hedge fund managers with public school treasure being surrendered to shady privatizers and charter school conglomerates. American public school teachers have watched more of their students come to school hungry and without proper medical care. They’ve watched public education be dismantled by unqualified clowns in NY, Louisiana, Chicago, Michigan and Wisconsin. American teachers have seen their benefits cut, right to organize eliminated, working conditions deteriorate, supplies dwindle and pensions disappear.
And what have American educators done about this?
Nothing, aside from a handful of really clever blog posts.
I am writing this really clever blog post from Melbourne in the great state of Victoria, Australia. The new conservative state government here in Victoria wants to introduce a pay-for-performance (merit pay) scheme for public school educators and has offered a raise.
Such a contract offer would be like Xmas in Philadelphia!
How has that offer been received by Victorian public school educators?
THEY SHUT DOWN THE ENTIRE F-ING SYSTEM TODAY!
That’s right. 25,000 teachers stayed home, 10,000 marched on Parliament and they closed 150 public schools. Parents were politely alerted in advance to make other plans for the day. Many principals supported the strike and even marched with their colleagues.
Teachers here in Australia are not human piñata or professional victims. They stand up for themselves, their students and their communities.
Teachers here have medical insurance, secure pensions and enjoy long-service leave.
Please take a look at this news clip where teachers swarm the city and speak of how they feel insulted by the government.
They have promised more strikes in the future.
From the ABC
TEACHER: It’s very divisive to talk about performance pay cuts, particularly when you’re dealing with children. They are not products; we’re not part of a corporate empire and I’m here to support my colleagues and really to get justice for the students.
TEACHER 2: There’s no research basis to performance pay and really what we’re trying to do in schools is work as teams to improve student outcomes. It’s not going to work with performance pay.
Walking distance from where I write this article is a memorial to the 8-hour workday being codified into law in 1850. Melbourne has a proud tradition of labor rights and rights enforcement that American educators could learn from. As an Aussie friend reminds me, “The refusal to withhold one’s labor is a fundamental human right. Otherwise, we are slaves.”
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.