Feehery: The fight worth having with teachers' unions

Feehery: The fight worth having with teachers' unions
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“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

So said Thomas Jefferson, who is on the target list for the cancel culture warriors who dominate too much of our public discourse.

Jefferson was a big fan of public education, but I doubt he would be all that excited about where our nation’s schools are headed these days. Which is seemingly down the tubes.

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Yes, I know that’s a sentence fragment. But according to Rutgers, insisting on proper grammar is an exercise in racism.

We are engaged as a society in an exercise of reductio ad absurdum. For Aristotle, an effective way to argue was to point out how ridiculous an argument could become if taken to its logical extreme.

Some on the far left have decided to “cancel” Aristotle, thus making the point of one of the most important philosophers in Western life.

It’s not all that likely that most students are learning much about either Jefferson or Aristotle in our public schools. It’s hard to know exactly what they are learning, because most teachers seem to be firmly on the side of not teaching any more.

They are too busy protesting that they can’t teach because it is too dangerous for them to do their jobs. They protest in large groups and yell loudly at all who will listen. My guess is that their loud protests are more dangerous to their personal health then actually doing their jobs.

I don’t think it is a good look for them. And I know firsthand many parents who are trying to find alternative arrangements for their children this fall.

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Public education plays a couple of very important roles. First, theoretically, kids are supposed to learn stuff, like reading, writing and arithmetic. Second, kids learn from each other how to be members of society. Third, parents send their kids to school with the expectation that they will be safe and so it is a kind of glorified (and expensive) day care service. Finally, schools provide other social services, like lunch and counseling, especially to low-income children.

When our schools close, none of that happens. No learning, no socializing, no babysitting and no school lunches.

This is bad for everybody, but when the teacher unions refuse to do their jobs, parents have to find ways to improvise, if they can. It is easier for upper middle-class parents to throw resources at the problem than it is for working class parents. But it is a challenge for everybody.

The Democrats have taken the position that kids really can’t go back to school until we get a vaccine, which may or may not happen right after the presidential election. The unions have taken the position that they can’t go back to work until they get paid a lot more, until the Congress passes universal health care and until all charter schools are closed.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE has taken an opposite view, and rightly so. The kids need to go back to school, safely, but they need go back to school.

Mr. Trump needs some reinforcements to help him take on the unions. He should hire Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, to lead point on this and he should also bring in Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school system to assist him.

Nobody has more effectively squared off with the teachers unions than these two. Trump should bring them up to the podium every day and let them browbeat the unions into submission.

The unions have already ruined public education in this country. They need to be held to account and broken, so that our kids can go back to school and their parents can go back to work.

This is a fight worth having. But the president can’t do it alone.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).