Uncommon Sense

January 14, 2019

Why Would Teachers Strike?

The teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are going to strike. Why would they do that? As all union officials know (I was one previously), strikes are “lose-lose” propositions, so their only justification is that without one, the losses will be much greater.

In reasonable school districts, teacher strikes just do not happen, that is because of mutual understanding and respect. On the other hand LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who came to the job with no background in education, commented to a reporter regarding the strike that “There are ways to educate kids that don’t rely on a physical body.” In other words, teachers are not necessary.

I wonder if the good superintendent would have the same attitude were he to need a substantial surgery, or were facing a threatening lawsuit, or whose tax forms were in terrific disarray? Would he have said “There are ways to operate on people’s bodies that don’t rely on a doctor.” or “There are ways to defend yourself in court that don’t rely on a lawyer.” or “There are ways to straighten out accounting messes that don’t rely on accountants.”?

Were this gentleman a skilled negotiator he would have realized that uttering such a statement, especially to a reporter and no matter how much he believed in it, had no “up-side.” It not only doesn’t produce any positive effect for “his side” but it mobilizes those on the “other side” against you. If you want labor peace, start with respect (it is easy to grant, not so easy to earn) and understanding (The rule for negotiators is: “seek first to understand before being understood.”).

I am not totally opposed to non-educators being selected for these positions, but I am against stupid people being hired for such positions.


  1. Our kids are using an all computer based curriculum. Really Steve, about 1/2 the teachers just sit on their asses ( what they do is chaperone after familiarizing the kids with the computer and program) I have a son with an IEP and when he asks the teachers for help, they show him where to look on the computer. Unfortunately all of us are not self learners like you and I, and actually need a teacher. What we get with contracted curriculum, standardized tests, and a laptop is chaperones. If what we have here is the norm, maybe the superintendent is on to something.
    Here we have tenured, lazy asses collecting a paycheck and our district is broke. Wtd? Something has to change.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jim- — January 14, 2019 @ 9:39 am | Reply

    • Yeah, but was it the teacher’s decision to go with computer-based instruction? If not, they are usually doing what they were told.

      I have known thousands of teachers in my life and they are quite like most people with a few exceptions. There are some very energetic, inventive types and some real slugs. Since this is the same pattern in most endeavors of its kind, I don’t see how that is escapable in the near term. Plus nobody ever got rich being a teacher. It is not like they are like hedge fund managers pulling down a billion per. It is also the case that each of us spent a whole lot of time working with teachers and thinks “we could do that job.” Some could, many of those wouldn’t like it.

      I argue (and argue, and …) that teaching and learning are social activities. When the social gets wrung out of the system, the depth of the product will become quite, quite shallow. Students need teachers and other students to interact with. Very few of us can go to a library and learn all we need to know. We need the social impetus provided by the structure of classes and class work and classroom interaction in most cases. The military knows this and bases their very effective training programs on such ideas.

      On Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 9:39 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 14, 2019 @ 9:48 am | Reply

      • I agree Steve. Maybe I don’t know the whole story in LA for certain, but I don’t mind seeing this pot stirred a little either. We keep falling further behind, especially STEM students, and we keep doing the same things. (Venting time) Liberal arts education has turned into career training for quick cash. More information available than ever before, and less knowledge by a long shot. Even in medicine, what was once done by the family doctor is now referred to a specialist. I’m afraid that’s the future of everything. Sub class careers. Now we have Dr’s, PAs, LPN, doing with less education what was once a drs role. In 87, my son got his big toe sewed back on at a rural clinic in at a small town in the cascades. Now it would be a life-flight and a team of replantation specialists. Versatility is losing ground. Of course insurance lawsuits, and the litigious culture has some impact too. Wait, where am I? Lol

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by jim- — January 14, 2019 @ 10:09 am | Reply

        • The whole thing about there being a shortage of STEM graduates is bogus, too. (There are arguably issues regarding diversity in STEM hires, but a shortage of applicants, no.)

          There is, in fact, a large pool of unemployed STEM grads looking for work. I suggest that a contributing factor to the meme that there is a shortage is that employers only want to pay low wages, so they low ball all new employees and a lot of them defer (because they can’t live and pay off their school loans at those salaries.) Employers then claim that they have X unfilled positions and then argue for there being more visas available for foreign workers. This benefits them by having less costly employees now and by suppressing wage increases later. It is not as if the economy were going full tilt boogie and they needed those employees now. Busnesses are not expanding capacity rapidly and can afford to take a slow strategy to higher profits.

          On Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 10:09 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 3 people

          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 14, 2019 @ 11:09 am | Reply

      • And your first point…Critical. Teachers can’t even teach the way they’re best at teaching. Contract curriculum killed creativity. A teachers best methods may have to be left at home.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by jim- — January 14, 2019 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  2. As a former educator myself I say, sometimes ya’ gotta fight back and this is one of those times.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by inspiredbythedivine1 — January 14, 2019 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  3. If you want labor peace, start with respect (it is easy to grant, not so easy to earn) and understanding (The rule for negotiators is: “seek first to understand before being understood.”).

    I am not totally opposed to non-educators being selected for these positions, but I am against stupid people being hired for such positions.

    Could not agree more Steve! I sometimes use this quick quote to make the same point in similar circumstances, primarily in psych, A&D, marital, or family counseling: “Think twice. Speak once.” It’s a rare social art these days, isn’t it?

    On “…stupid people being hired for such positions” I’ll use a similar analogy. I’ve been saying ever since at least the first Gulf War, that no U.S. legislative official without any deployed combat experience in U.S. armed conflicts should NOT have any final say or power to deploy our Armed Forces, i.e. “boots on the ground.” Here is one example. Please bear with me Steve.

    As the 1997 Bosnian-Serb conflict was still ongoing, newly elected President Clinton and the National Security Team were frequently convened to decide what to do. One of those meetings exploded into heated argument between Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, and others after Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked Powell this:

    “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

    General Powell responded this way as written in his autobiography:

    I thought I would have an aneurysm. American GI’s were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board. I patiently explained [to Albright and team members] that we had used our armed forces more than two dozen times in the preceding three years of war, peacekeeping, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. But in every one of those cases we had had a clear goal and had matched our military commitment to the [political] goal. As a result, we had been successful in every case. I told Ambassador Albright that the U.S. military would carry out any mission it was handed, but my advise would always be that the tough political goals had to be set first.

    Former NSC member Tony Lake, and member during Vietnam, supported Colin’s position and helped deescalate the debate by saying “You know, Madeleine, the kinds of questions Colin is asking about goals are exactly the ones the military never asked during Vietnam.

    So to your profound and very true point Steve, STOP GIVING STUPID PEOPLE — not qualified to speak or intervene — the ability to create a or exacerbate an already volatile, disastrous situation! With that… I can think of countless more examples in my lifetime and many of them in offices today they NEVER should’ve been appointed or elected into!

    Thank you Steve. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by Professor Taboo — January 14, 2019 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

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