Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Working for Change 9/4/2007

From Working for Change:

A Labor (Not Labored) Reading Selection

With all the leisure time on beaches and in backyards, Labor Day weekend was a good time to read...but chances are you didn't read about Labor itself. Honestly, we don't blame you. Pick up the wrong book and you'll find something either too dry or way over your head in wonkishness, neither of which makes for a fun time.

That's why it's great that David Sirota put together a reading list -- worth checking out for anyone who wants to find a fulfilling route into the firmament of the movement.

Today, on Open Left, Reading Liberally posted in the same spirit: with a guest essay by UFT blogger Steve Perez on the new biography of teachers' union leader Al Shanker, entitled Tough Liberal. Shanker's powerful role in shaping the union in the 60s resonates to today:

...Education is still in the public sphere and a function of government. Contrast this to our deregulated energy system and the rampant union busting of the 1980s. Shanker's reform proposals have guided the changes in American schools for the past 25 years. The right's push to privatize schools and their opening salvo in that fight, private school vouchers, has failed to gain traction.

But it was a mixed victory. Even Shanker felt that many of his proposals were distorted in an attempt to make schools more like assembly lines and teachers like cogs in charge of quality control. Witness No Child Left Behind, where national testing goes from being a yardstick to help schools discover what they could be doing better to being the sole focus in the classroom.

Tough Liberal isn't a general introduction to Labor...but for today's progressive, Perez contends its a relevant and riveting read.

Al Shanker operated on a public stage. He wasn't afraid to engage in public fights for what he believed in: protecting teachers and improving schools, as well as the larger ideas of democracy and school as a place where children learn how to be full participants in democracy. He constantly wrestled with how best to do that, and how best to make his argument to teachers and the broader public.

Bloggers face the same challenge of how to influence public debate and public policy.

Thanks to Steve Perez and David Sirota for suggesting some non-laborious labor reading...there has to be more to read than John Grisham on the free day union's won for all of us.