Why do teachers “identify” with their unions?

Yesterday I wrote an article describing how the teachers’ unions have affected practice — directly and indirectly, negatively and positively — simply by what they choose to advocate and/or include in collective agreements.

Unfortunately, as a result of that article and follow-up comments, I also discovered another teacher-union negative effect — namely, that classroom teachers are now so personally linked to their unions that they see criticism about what their unions do or have done as criticism of themselves.

Not good. Linked in that way puts them in a type of symbiotic relationship (in the psychiatric sense), a relationship the union could clearly exploit. Moreover, it would have the desired result that the rank and file do exactly what they are told, no questions asked. 

Which goes a long way towards explaining why so few educators dare to speak out — even when they are retired. It’s not the professional ethics we were taught. It’s the fear of being shunned by colleagues and their union masters. 

As such, when they visit here, all too often they resort to minimizing what I write that questions their assumptions about their unions and in the case of yesterday’s post, to not deal with what I actually wrote. 

The reality is that teachers are teachers. They are not their unions. As such, they need to allow for informed and reasoned criticism about what their unions do — without taking it personally.

The “teacher-union effect” on schools

This article is about the teacher-unions effect, negative and positive, 0n schools throughout Canada, the U.S. and Britain. No doubt, however, the issues would apply to other developed nations as well. Therefore, while I will primarily use Ontario examples, I will include international links where possible. The main thing is that the issues discussed are generalizable.

To begin with, let me state that I believe that most public school teachers are doing an excellent job, are dedicated to their students and work above and beyond the call of duty. Let me also say that most teacher union officials truly believe that, when they include areas of practice in their bargaining, it is in the best interest of their members and, by default, their students.

Well, unfortunately, there is no such default position, because when teachers’ unions do primarily what is in the best interest of their members, it is often not in the best interests of students and the taxpaying public — as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is currently promoting.

Here then are some of the intended or unintended consequences of the teacher-union effect on schools. I say some because I don’t touch on such government policies are pupil/teacher ratio and class sizes. Rather, I look at: 

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