A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Archive for August, 2011

Draft Aunt Doris

As many of my readers know, my 99 year old Aunt Doris, for many years an engaged member of her union at Gimbels department store, remains interested in my work as a union leader. Although some days she can’t remember what she ate an hour before, she always remembers to quiz me on my union work at each of my visits.

A few days ago, I found myself talking to her about what I and many others see as the war against the middle class. I told her of the Verizon strike which the workers have framed as a defense of the middle class, of the continuing high rates of unemployment in our country. I talked,too, of the thousands of teachers whose jobs have gone to budget cuts, tax caps and such and of how working people are suffering, hoping for a positive turn to the economy, making concession after concession to their employers trying to survive. While I’m never completely sure Aunt Doris is completely following my rants, I’m often reminded that on things important to her, her 99 year old brain is more than engaged. At my comments about the hoped for turn in the economy, Aunt Doris grimaces at me and says, “How is the economy going to turn if they keep putting people out of work and taking benefits away?”

Maybe the austerity hawks in the Congress need to hire Aunt Doris as their economic advisor.

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A Reminder of What We Used to Know

My summer reading has included Adam Goodheart’s insightful history of the beginning of the Civil War, 1861. It is an especially timely read in light of the gridlock in Washington over the size and scope of government. From time to time, American seems to lose track of the importance of government and how much poorer and more difficult life would be without the things that we do collectively through our government. President Lincoln, of course, faced this question over the issue of slavery. Here’s how he saw the fight to preserve the American government. “On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is , to elevate the condition of men – to lift the artificial weights from all shoulders – to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all – to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life…”

We could use a president who used the bully pulpit to teach this lesson to this generation of Americans.

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