“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Vladimir Lenin
The California Teachers Association has a glowing article about how a high school teacher in Los Angeles
indoctrinates teaches his students about the “benefits” of unions.
The question, posed by social studies teacher Dean Wood to his 12th-graders at Drew Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles, draws mostly blank stares.
“It’s a place where they treat workers bad. It’s a place where people are overworked,” one student ventures.
If this urban classroom is any indication, there is a great deal of work to be done when it comes to educating tomorrow’s workforce — and the general public — about the importance of the labor movement and what it means to be part of a union. But Wood is up for the challenge.
He calls on another student, who informs her classmates that unions protect the rights of workers. Her teacher beams his approval before talking about union benefits, contracts, negotiations, mediation and arbitration — and last but not least, strikes. Everyone, it seems, knows what a strike is.
“Do you know anybody in a union?” Wood asks. Most students shake their heads no and only a few raise their hands.
“Lots of people you know are in unions,” says Wood. “I’m in the California Teachers Association and also a member of United Teachers Los Angeles. When you leave here, I want you to interview a family member or friend who belongs to an organized labor union. I want you to find out what union they belong to, what the union does for them, and why they joined a union.”
After interviewing a union member, students must research the union their interviewee belongs to and write a paper that explains that union’s history, goals and tactics.
“Find out how this union benefits the workers it represents,” says Wood. “How does it get information to workers? What techniques does it use to gain leverage on behalf of the workers it represents? Have these techniques proven to be effective?”
Wood admits that he goes above and beyond the state standards when it comes to teaching his students about unionism. But he feels it’s too relevant to just gloss over.
“When I teach about unions, I’m honest and keep my own personal bias out of it,” says Wood. “But when they ask questions, I explain about the good things my union does for me.” [Emphasis added.]
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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