The “long, hot summer” of racial turmoil was succeeded by the short but intense autumn of teachers’ struggles. In a series of cities and states tens of thousands of teachers fought for union recognition, an improvement in school conditions, and the beginning of a voice in determining school policies.
What has led to this new militancy among the teachers, apart from such obvious tactors as grossly inadequate salaries? The teacher’s feelings that his worth as a professional goes unrecognized, and that he is being turned into a scapegoat, are partly responsible for the notorious shortcomings in our educational system. This new militancy of the teachers, in turn, provokes hostile reactions on the part of other groups concerned with education (parents, community organizations, etc.), and we now find ourselves in the unhappy situation where competing “militancies,” each with authentic concerns, struggle at cross-purposes.
Most teachers’ strikes took place in metropolitan centers, which indicates a close link with ghetto and urban problems. This also explains why feelings of outrage and even of desperation were at work. If the cities are explosive, the subject of education is dynamite. Old institutions are hard to change, and public education is among our very oldest; that is, it is most hide-bound, most bureaucratized, most burdened with conflicting interest-groups—and most in need of drastic reforms....
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