Anger Management

July 20, 2011 | Blog

I am appalled by this malicious attack on teachers and teachers’ unions by Jay Greene. He claims that teachers are engaging in mob-like behavior, are seething anger and are intimidating politicians. The irony is that I’ve met few teachers who are nearly as angry as Jay himself comes across.

But when the public face of the teacher unions is the Army of Angry Teachers, they no longer seem like Mary Poppins and begin to look a lot more like longshoremen beating their opponents with metal pipes.

Giant mobs of yelling protesters and blogs filled with tirades may increase the intimidation politicians feel, but it seriously undermines the image of teachers as an extension of our family.

Jay’s “mob” is my “democratic gathering”. Here in Wisconsin (the featured photo on Jay’s blog post) there was an organic outpouring of disgust and determination as a result of Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining and public employee and teachers unions — and his decisions to balance the state budget on the backs of public workers and by gutting public education while steering tax breaks to corporations and providing massive funding increases to voucher schools.

Jay is mad that teachers are mad, but they have every right to be, especially in a state like Wisconsin. Have you visited Wisconsin in the past six months, Mr. Greene? Have you actually talked to teachers here? Have you seen and heard the thousands and thousands of protesters that have no vested or financial interest that nonetheless turned out en masse to speak out on behalf of others? (Clearly, these are rhetorical questions.)

This *is* what democracy looks like. The allowance of such an outpouring of opposition is why our nation was founded. Apparently, Jay’s preferred answer to the Palin-esque question of “How’s that redress of grievances thing workin’ out for ya?” would be “It should not be allowed.”

Wisconsin teachers have not and should not lie down and take the beating they’ve received here. Their right to bargain has been stripped. They’ve seen massive cuts to their pay and benefits. They’re now working in public school systems that have had resources sucked out of them. They’re standing up for their rights and for a far different state of Wisconsin than has emerged under the leadership of Governor Walker and his legislative Rubber Stamps.

Have teachers and their unions always advocated for and prioritized the best educational policies? Sure they haven’t. Has any one education group or interest? (Greene’s free market approach to education certainly doesn’t represent sound policy.) Reforms can only succeed when teachers are full partners in their creation and implementation. And I will fight for the right of their voices to be heard in policy debates, in schools, and, yes, at the bargaining table.

It seems that Mr. Greene would prefer that teachers simply shut up.


  1. Reply

    Jay P. Greene

    July 21, 2011

    Hi Liam,

    I think you mis-read my post. I don’t think there is anything wrong with teachers getting angry abut policies they dislike. And I don’t think there is anything inappropriate with them organizing, protesting, and chanting angry slogans. The right to assemble is an essential part of freedom and is protected by the U.S. Constitution as much for teacher unions as for any other organized interest group.

    But that’s the point — teacher unions are just like any other organized interest group. And the more that the general public and media elites come to believe that education looks a lot like the scramble for benefits and interests that occurs in other enterprises, the less willing they will be to exempt education from the rigors of choice and competition that they apply to those other enterprises.

  2. Reply

    Jason Pickart

    July 21, 2011

    Hi Professor Greene,

    Bearing your follow-up comment in mind, how would you propose the teachers act out in a way that doesn't create this perception that you talk about that is so detrimental? I go to school at UW and I was here for all the protests, and if anything they were too peaceful. Sure, some of it got a bit messy, especially with the doctor notes for "sick" teachers, but that's not very surprising given the fact that the protests involved thousands of uncoordinated people, many from across of the state of Wisconsin.

  3. Reply

    Liam Goldrick

    July 21, 2011

    Jay - I don't think I misread it at all. Quite honestly, it is one of the more obnoxious missives I've read in some time. Calling teachers a "mob" and other choice pejoratives is so way over the top, I hardly need to point that out at all.

    As Jason is wise to note above, your stance would appear to leave teachers two choices: (1) accept the beating, shut up, and avoid your criticism OR (2) stand up for what they rightly see as an injustice (not just the loss of bargaining rights, but also a huge economic hit that others with greater means are not being asked to take) and get pilloried by you. Quite the Hobson's choice isn't it? I'm glad they've taken a flyer on #2.

    I disagree with your notion that a majority of the public will conclude that education should be treated just like any other "enterprise." Public education is too powerful a concept and a right -- although free market types are doing their best to chip away at it. What is going on in Wisconsin cannot be easily dismissed as a "scramble for benefits." It involves tens of thousands of people (like my family) that would see no economic benefit from standing up for teachers. And teachers themselves are advocating for much more than just wages and benefits, but also things like supportive teaching conditions (things like leadership, collaborative time, differentiated roles, etc.) that research shows are strongly associated with effective teaching and student outcomes.

  4. Reply


    July 22, 2011

    If Jay does not want to be "misread," he should write a follow-up "what I meant to say." Certainly, any "reasonable person" (in the legal sense of the term), would have read his piece as Liam did.

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