Standing Up For Teachers

Update: Chris Wehner has responded to my post in the comments section below. He takes issue with just about every point I made, but I stand by what I’ve written. What troubles me most about Wehner’s post is the claim that the work of Howard Zinn and the Social Justice movement somehow explains what is going on in Wisconsin. Wehner makes no attempt to address this claim with any substantive evidence. On the lighter side, many of you will be interested in his new Civil War blog.

I haven’t said anything about the ongoing teachers strike in Wisconsin, in large part, because I am not a member of a union and the reasons for the strike have little to do with the focus of this blog.  On the other hand, I make it a point to highlight the good work that my colleagues are doing in history classrooms across the country.  We have enough bad press out there.  It is with this in mind that I read Chris Wehner’s disgraceful editorial in which he summarily dismisses every last teacher taking part in this strike with one swift back of the hand.

Before proceeding let me state that I am not suggesting that one has to agree with the goals of the protest or even acknowledge the rights of labor and collective bargaining.  My guess is that if I knew everything going on behind the scenes there are aspects of the protest that I would disagree with as well.  All in all, this seems to be as much about politics as it does about managing a budget.  There is blame on both sides.

The new civility on display in Madison, Wisconsin has given me as a teacher pause. As a teacher I have to be held to the utmost level of integrity, do I not? I spend 8 hours a day with other people’s children; often more time than the parents do. I encourage students to work hard, be honest, and disciplined. As a history teacher I point to the nature of our democracy where majority rules, and that elections are to be taken serious as they indeed, as our esteemed President noted, “have consequences.” Yet in Wisconsin teachers have decided to use what is a teachable moment, and demonstrate that lying, banter, and at times, incivility should be used when one does not get what one wants…. You want to protest, do it after school or on the weekends. Want to organize peacefully, fine.

Apart from one quote Wehner makes absolutely no attempt to explain this rampant “lying” and “incivility” which supposedly characterizes the protesters.  On what grounds does Wehner condemn every single teacher who has picked up a sign or spent the evening in the capitol building?  He leaves absolutely no room for the possibility that many of these folks are honest and hardworking people, who are doing something that they truly believe is worth fighting for – for themselves and even for their schools and students.  Again, I am not suggesting that you must agree with their goals, but why must they all be condemned?  Even more outrageous is the suggestion that these teachers should conduct their protests after school hours and on weekends.  Is there anything in the history of labors’ struggle that would suggest that an after hours/weekend walkout ever worked?  What version of U.S. history is Wehner teaching?  Finally, since when did an election negate the right of citizens to engage in peaceful protest?  Isn’t this part of the “nature of democracy”?

According to Wehner, however, the real source of the trouble behind this protest is the boogeyman of social justice.

But none of this should be surprising when we look at how educators are taught today and how they are encouraged to be exemplars of Social Justice and to teach for Social Change.  Today’s teacher unions and educators in America, in public schools, are failing their students and for multiple reasons; some of which have nothing to do with the teachers. But some aspects of this failure have to do with bad teachers and ones that have agendas. Take the literature that is being promoted by the late Howard Zinn and other radicals. In some Universities and Colleges we are producing activists and not educators, and this explains what is happening in Wisconsin. Those who willing[ly] lied, took phony sick notes from unscrupulous doctors, and railed against the democratic system, are sending students the wrong message and setting the wrong example.

We’ve heard it all before from Wehner and others.  The late Howard Zinn and radicals in higher education are corrupting our young teachers and turning them into social radicals “and this explains what is happening in Wisconsin.”  This is as outrageous and irresponsible a claim that I can imagine in this context.  Once again, Wehner provides next to nothing to support his claim apart from one quote and references to emails that he has received from various organizations that are engaged in this enterprise.

Even if you believe that these teachers are “setting the wrong example” why do we have to bring in the issue of Social Justice?  Are we really to believe that the majority of k-12 teachers from every subject area are motivated by the Social Justice agenda?  Are we also to assume that the other civic employees, who have joined the teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are also driven by this as well.  Wehner turns individuals into robots without any thought on the matter.  He takes a reasonable disagreement over whether these people have the right to strike and be away from their classrooms and dismisses them without any serious attempt to understand their motivation.

It goes without saying that our education system has some serious problems, some of them are the result of the influence of unions and poor teaching.  However, for every bad apple in our school districts I can point to many more, who are honest, hard working, and struggling to help their students with very little financial support.  What ultimately troubles me about Wehner’s editorial, as well as other things he has written on his blog about the teaching profession, is that he seems to be completely unaware of this.  He would have us believe that teachers are engaged in a plot to turn our students into revolutionaries and overthrow everything that is sacred about America.  It’s as if teachers are to be feared.

I don’t know how anyone in this profession can operate with this mindset.

35 comments… add one

  • James F. Epperson Feb 28, 2011

    I probably have an idyllic view of my late mother, who died 25 years ago, but that romantic part of me believes that this proper conservative lady would be mad as hell at Gov. Walker for trying to *bust* the teachers union which has conceded on the financial points.

    My apologies if this is an overly personal post.

  • Brian Schoeneman Feb 28, 2011

    Kevin, you aren’t helping our case by referring to this as a “strike.” It’s not a strike. Public sector workers do not have the right to strike. It’s a limited sick out, one that is unauthorized by the union and one that could very well cost some of these teachers their jobs. The teachers shouldn’t be doing this, and doing so only undermines our argument.

    The protests, on the other hand, are perfectly justified and it’s critical that folks recognize that what Walker is doing has little to do with what he has claimed is the justification – namely, the Wisconsin budget crisis. That issue was resolved the minute the unions all agreed to concessions. The right to collectively bargain, however, is what Walker wants to talk away, and that’s just ridiculous. How can anyone – especially someone who calls himself a conservative – want to take away the ability of workers to exercise their first amendment rights in the workplace?

    The civility issue, however, is a legitimate one. We aren’t going to win this battle by behaving the way those on the left have criticized the Tea Party for behaving. There are more than enough unions who are pouring people and resources into the protests that these teachers don’t need to fake being sick in order to make their voices heard. That’s what solidarity is all about.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 28, 2011

      Brian,
      Thanks for the correction. You make some good points. This post is in response to claims made by a fellow blogger and not an overall response to the protest itself. Do you agree with Weiner’s explanation as to why these teachers are protesting? Thanks again for the correction.

      • Margaret D. Blough Feb 28, 2011

        Brian-There are states, including Pennsylvania, where teachers and other public employees do have the right to strike, however that has been severely eroded in recent years. In addition, given current economic conditions in the state, there’s not much point to it.

        I think it’s instructive as to how little relationship there is between any economic issues and Walker’s agenda that he is more interested in removing the right to negotiate over working conditions than he is over wages.

        I come from a family of educators, both rank and file and administration. My mother was part of the grassroots movement that turned the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) from a sleepy little professional organization into a union and its lobbyists helped pass Act 195 which gave teachers and other public employees the right to strike in Pennsylvania. She also became so far as I know, the first woman chief negotiator for a teacher’s union in Pennsylvania (AFTER her district became the site of the second legal teacher’s strike in the state.) At one point someone who vehemently opposed this said that dedication should be enough for teachers. Her reply was that one couldn’t eat dedication. I have worked for the UMWA. As an attorney for the Commonwealth of PA (I’m retired now), I worked for management, but, fortunately (since I couldn’t have worked for any other kind), a management that fully accepted and was comfortable with a workforce that was largely unionized and/or civil service. There is nothing that makes me more irritated than claims that either or both ties employers’ hands and means that poorly performing employees can’t be disciplined, especially can’t be fired. This is simply not true. It does mean that, as part of a progressive discipline system, there are rules that must be followed; fortunately, following those rules works either way: either the employee improves or, if the employee doesn’t respond, that forms the basis of proving just cause. That is even more true for tenure. Teachers do not start out with tenure. If a poorly performing teacher becomes tenured, then management has a lot of explaining to do.

        As for Mr. Wehner, he should remember that the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which has been applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment, includes protecting the right of peaceable assembly and the right to petition government for the redress of grievances.

  • Brian Schoeneman Feb 28, 2011

    No, I don’t buy it. I understand his concern – it’s an oft quoted concern about teachers in the conservative circles in which I run – but I think it has less to do with what’s going on in Wisconsin than the simplest answer: teachers are in danger of having a major right taken away from them.

    People get their dander up when folks talk about taking away rights. The right to bargain collectively has been a right enjoyed by public sector workers in Wisconsin for over half a century – it’s an older right than the abortion rights that generate massive protests in DC and screw up traffic every year. And to working families it is more important, because it affects all of them. All these teachers want is a seat at the negotiating table and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    I think Weiner has a point about how the protests are being handled by some – clearly they’re not helping their case by engaging in unlawful sick outs – but that’s a vocal minority. As Walker himself has said, the vast majority of teachers are still in the classrooms working even while the protests are going on.

    I agree with you that there are bad actors on both sides, but I’ve also been vocal that I think Walker is overreaching with this effort and he should have taken the concessions and declared victory.

    Demagoguing teachers, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs and other public sector workers is bad policy and bad politics.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 28, 2011

      Thanks for the follow up, Brian.

  • Crandall Marsh Feb 28, 2011

    As a fellow A.P teacher (European History) who attended rallies here in Michigan, who watched the protests in Madison carefully, I take issue with the notions that the teachers (and state workers) were guilty of lying and incivility. Wehner stands on the other side of this issue so he regards any protests as lacking in civility. The fact was that the protesters were quite civil and peaceful. They were strident in their complaints, which obviously rubbed Wehner the wrong way. As far as the “phony sick notes” I can tell you that in our district if you are absent due to sickness more than one day you must produce a doctor’s note! The note does not have to excuse you, it only has to state that you saw a doctor. It is a ridiculous rule that was demanded by the school board.

    I personally have missed one day in 16 years. I bring this up because the administration and the college board (A.P.) are constantly setting up conferences and workshops during school hours. I have repeatedly complained that these are taking me away from valuable teaching time, especially for A.P. I have asked for weekend conferences, workshops during vacation, etc. I found that I encountered the most opposition from the administration and the school board. Our union was willing to take up the issue. I was eventually forced to attend several conferences,which for the most part were a waste of time, by the administration. They were more concerned with appearance and public relations than my students. They wanted the powers that be to take note of their best teachers attending these various workshops and seminars. Through the years I have found that the board and the district administration are indeed more concerned with image than substance. They simply want things to appear great, not actually be great.

    Wehner’s rants against social justice are a dead giveaway of his own agenda. It is painfully obvious his reactionary views are front and center in his lesson plans. In other words he is guilty of exactly what he condemns. I’m sure he looks at it as a way of balancing the evil radical forces he sees permeating the landscape of teaching. He should take not that there were a large number of conservative teachers at our Michigan protests. They understood that this is clearly an issue about union busting.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 28, 2011

      Crandall,

      Thanks for adding your voice to this issue. I don’t make any claims as to what Wehner does in his classroom. My problem is that he makes the wildest assumptions about what others do in theirs based on the flimsiest of evidence.

  • Dale Snyder Feb 28, 2011

    There is political banter on both sides going back and forth, thats undeniable. Whichever union side you stand on, one thing is clear, the behavior of the teachers and Democratic Senators is nothing short of horrendously shameful.

    Unions in general are a ticking time bomb in this country and there are issues that need to be discussed. However any productive debate and conversation is lost by the childish actions of the teachers and Democratic Senators.

    It is of course is not fair to generalize all teachers as good or bad. I have known an abundance of both. One thing is for certain, the ‘strike’ has definetly brought to light a slew of the bad ones. Any teacher who would abandon his or her responsibilities to the children for a week or more to participate in this, should never have become a teacher and should be fired on the spot. They of course won’t be and you can thank the union for that.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Dale. First, it goes without saying that if you look long enough you are going to find a few bad apples. I assume that is true for any large gathering and especially one that is so emotional. That said, I disagree that a decision to protest during school hours suggests irresponsibility on the teachers part. It would be interesting to know the average amount of time that teachers are taking from the classroom for this. I do believe that these people have an obligation to stand up for their right to engage in collective bargaining.

    • Dale Snyder Mar 1, 2011

      Just curious, what kind of ‘right’ is collective bargaining? One of the liberal ideals I find almost funny is how they somehow rationalize anything and everything they want as a ‘right’. I’ve never heard of collective bargaining called a right before. It of course is not in the constitution. I suppose people have a right to freedom of speech and in that they can state things they want but no where is mandated that anyone has to reply to it.

      The key word in collective bargaining is bargaining. For years union government workers have had it good, very good. Their compensation package has almost always been far more than what their industry in general pays for everyone else. Tax payers can no longer afford to pay a select group of people far more than everyone else(The reasons for which the unions won’t address) In comes the bargaining. What Wisonsin is proposing is extremely reasonable.
      -Requiring workers to contribute to their pensions and healthcare. (Far less than everyone else)
      -Limiting collective bargaining to salary(Still more than everyone else)
      -Requiring approval for pay raises exceeding inflation(Most people are taking pay cuts or losing their jobs)
      -Ending mandatory collection of union dues by the government.

      You talk of wanting examples of “rampant lying and incivility”? No where in those things do I see “Union busting”, “An attack on working people”, “Scott Walker punking workers”
      or where “He’s leveling threats at the very people who make this state work,” Or any of a hundred headlines all over the net. Wisonsin has a $137 million deficit for the current fiscal year alone.

      I have twice been a member of AFL/CIO unions, the corruption was horrible. Todays organized unions are totally disfunctional. They exist merely as an extension of The Democratic Party and to make certain people millionaires. All using certain workers as leverage. American salaries are free falling, the unions refuse to address the reasons why and continue to support politicians who facilitate that free fall instead of truly standing up for workers. If they can’t stand up against the issues that are killing wages for everyone but instead demanding exorbitant compensation for an elite few, they are no different than oil lobbyists. They need to be taken down, they have failed miserably

      • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

        Dale,

        You are welcome to your view of the legal right to engage in collective bargaining. My post is not, in any way, focused on this issue. Rather, it is focused on claims made by Chris Wehner as to what is motivating public employees across the country to protest the actions of the governor of Wisconsin. Clearly, thousands of public employees believe that Walker’s actions do constitute a threat to their right to engage in collective bargaining. I apologize for not wanting to engage you further, but that is not the focus of this post. Thanks for the comment.

        You are more than welcome to comment on the supposed influence of Howard Zinn and “Social Justice” on the protesters.

      • Dale Snyder Mar 1, 2011

        Chris, I actually read your blog, I see NOTHING you are being accuses of. Everything you wrote is right on. Common sense is absent in regards to the Wisconsin issue. Too many Union supporters (Democrats) feel the ends justifies the means. Unions no longer function as they were intended, they have simply become a lobying group, not for workers but for The Democratic Party. Democrats recognize this. Most people protesting this care about as much about workers as they do trash on the ground.

      • Jonathan Dresner Mar 1, 2011

        It’s called “freedom of assembly.” Pretty sure it’s in the first amendment. Lots of neglected rights in that one.

  • chris Feb 28, 2011

    Mr. Levin, as usual you cannot help yourself, I know. You never read, you react with passion as that is your way. You do not think. I wrote:

    “Those who willing lied, took phony sick notes from unscrupulous doctors, and railed against the democratic system, are sending students the wrong message and setting the wrong example”

    This is evidence of the lying, do you say otherwise? I saw it on TV, doctors writing notes. I saw interviews with teachers, did you not?

    What example does this set do you approve of this?

    Teachers lied and left schools and cost taxpayers maybe millions in substitutes/school closings.

    Is this what teachers do?

    Your reaction has less to do with knowledge, than politics. You are a liberal, and a fine one at that.

    I did not condemn all teachers!

    Misspell my name all you want.

    I work everyday in a public school, stand up for the teacher!? I do it every DAMN day, Mr. Levin.

    Now, we agreed to leave each other alone, remember that!?

    But you still, still cannot help yourself and taking me to task for things I did not saw. I did not condemn all teachers! I suggested reasons for the protests which to me ARE SHAMEFUL

    Teachers lying about being sick and taking students to protest.

    Let them protest on their own time, I wrote that. I HAVE NO ISSUE WITH PROTEST!

    Just don’t take someone’s child there and encourage them to be like you!!!

    Tell you what, do you agree or not? Re-read my post and prove that I said people could not protest and that I condemned all teachers!? I wrote “Those who”………………

    Also, I have a Civil War blog now, would love to correspond over that some day:
    http://www.soldierstudies.org/blog/

    Cheers
    CW

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      I apologize for spelling your name incorrectly, but I stand by my post. Other than that I stand by what I wrote. You made some pretty ridiculous accusations about what motivates the protesters and I responded. You simply have no evidence that the boogeyman of Social Justice is behind this. It seems to me that you should take some responsibility for what you wrote.

  • chris Feb 28, 2011

    Crandall, WHERE DID i SAY:

    “Wehner stands on the other side of this issue so he regards any protests as lacking in civility.”

    where!!!!?????

    Q

  • chris Feb 28, 2011
  • chris Feb 28, 2011

    Margaret , you wrote:

    “As for Mr. Wehner, he should remember that the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which has been applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment, includes protecting the right of peaceable assembly and the right to petition government for the redress of
    grievances.”

    Once again, a non-reader…. you did not read what I wrote.

    And I just bet you felt that same way with those nasty Tea Party protests.

    C

    • Margaret D. Blough Mar 1, 2011

      >>And I just bet you felt that same way with those nasty Tea Party protests.<<<

      Have trouble with being consistent very often? You lecture someone about not being sufficiently familiar with your position and then you make broad, unfounded assumptions about her.

      Actually, I did feel the same way about the Tea Party protests, at least the mass public ones. The law is very well established on what does and doesn't cross the lines of acceptable conduct in public protests, and, so long as the Tea Party protests do not cross those lines, I absolutely support their right to protest. I also have the First Amendment right to express my total and absolute disagreement with their positions. I have difficulty with them disrupting public meetings and preventing others from having their say, and I would object to that behavior coming from somebody with whose positions I otherwise agree.

      P.S. I did read your entire editorial before commenting on it. I find your willingness to jump to conclusions about me based on apparently nothing more than your biases troubling, particularly in an educator.

      • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

        I also don’t believe that the Tea Party movement was motivated by a racist agenda, though I could easily find videos, photographs, and interviews that would certainly allow me to draw such generalizations.

  • chris Feb 28, 2011

    Continued from here:
    http://www.blog4history.com/wp-admin/comment.php?action=editcomment&c=18698

    “On what grounds does Wehner condemn every single teacher who has picked up a sign or spent the evening in the capitol building? ”

    I said NO SUCH THING. “Every single teacher”!? Really, Mr. Levin. As a historian you should WATCH YOUR WORDS. Is that what you really meant?

    I have no problem with peaceful protest, wrote as much.

    Which he then agrees with by stating:

    “Even more outrageous is the suggestion that these teachers should conduct their protests after school hours and on weekends. ”

    Outrageous? Really, that says more about Mr. Levin than anything. He is not a public school teacher and does not understand that as a public school teacher we need to be in the classroom with 32+ kids! Schools shut down, and that is not fair and not why we are there. Because as a TAX PAYER I want all teachers including myself in the classroom working, Mr. Levin.

    WE ARE NOT protesters but educators sir.

    Mr. Levin writes:

    “He takes a reasonable disagreement over whether these people have the right to strike and be away from their classrooms and dismisses them without any serious attempt to understand their motivation.”

    Conduct the protest on your own time! Yes, hard for Mr. Levin to imagine.

    Finally Mr. Levin attacks me: “What version of U.S. history is Wehner teaching? ”

    You know what Mr. Levin, I have never, ever suggested that you teach improperly, how dare you attack me. How dare you.

    Go ahead, pat yourself on the back and believe how you are so much better than I.

    Then you have the gall to say; “I don’t make any claims as to what Wehner does in his classroom.”

    Mr. Levin you are shameful.

    Finally, Mr. Levin spews:

    “It goes without saying that our education system has some serious problems, some of them are the result of the influence of unions and poor teaching. However, for every bad apple in our school districts I can point to many more, who are honest, hard working, and struggling to help their students with very little financial support. What ultimately troubles me about Wehner’s editorial, as well as other things he has written on his blog about the teaching profession, is that he seems to be completely unaware of this. He would have us believe that teachers are engaged in a plot to turn our students into revolutionaries and overthrow everything that is sacred about America. It’s as if teachers are to be feared.”

    He must forget I work in the public school sector. I also never said that all teachers are any such way, and yes I am very concerned about certain institutions and I have always made that distinction.

    In typical fashion, Mr. Levin is running wild with what I did and and didn’t say.

    I wonder how much time Mr. Levin has spent in a public school classroom? What gives him the right to say such bold statements from the confines of the private school he teachers from.

    Mr. Levin attacks my character and suggests I am not a good teacher and he knows nothing about me, clearly, as he doesn’t even seriously read what I write.

    Chris Wehner

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      I have no doubt that you are a good teacher. This has nothing at all do with that. I have spent very little time in public schools, but I fail to see what that has to do with anything. I can’t remember the last time I read something positive about your fellow teachers on your site.

      Perhaps you should re-read your own post.

      • Crandall Marsh Mar 1, 2011

        Mr. Levin,

        As you pointed out in response to my post you would never make any claims as to what Mr. Wehner does in his classroom. Yet you post that you have no doubt that he is a good teacher?
        On what grounds?

        Mr. Whener states: “Yet in Wisconsin teachers have decided to use what is a teachable moment, and demonstrate that lying, banter, and at times, incivility should be used when one does not get what one wants.” That is where you claim incivility. (Notably without proof.) If you are on the side of the unions side of this issue why not mention it in your post? We can only work with what you write.

        • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

          Crandall,

          As I stated in the post this has nothing to do with Mr. Wehner’s conduct in the classroom. I have no reason to believe that he is nothing other than a competent and passionate educator. My issue is with his claims about what motivates the protesters in Wisconsin. He claims not to have generalized, but his own words (as you quote here) suggest otherwise.

  • Bob Swartz Feb 28, 2011

    Kevin, just about a week ago I made a comment that I wouldn’t be able to comment on your blog because I’m not adequately knowlegeable about the Civil War. Then, along comes a topic for which I AM qualified to comment.

    I am a recently retired Wisconsin state employee. I was not a teacher so I am not in a position to discuss that perspective of the issue, which has dominated this discussion. As a retiree, I will not be substantially affected by the Governor’s Budget Repair Bill. But, I have “been to the hill” and can comment on aspects of the situation.

    I feel state employees have had a pretty good deal. I wouldn’t argue that it has been better than it would have had to be to be fair. I took the job because state employment offered relative security and good benefits. But, state employees DON’T have the prospect of bonuses, raises and perks. We are there in good times and bad and our compensation doesn’t improve in good times. No state workers or teachers got rich off of the “DOT.COM bubble”. We often guide or review the work of consultants who make a much higher salary than us. I think my last contract was zero increase and we actually took a 3% cut, due to furlough days imposed. The idea that state workers have not “sacrificed like everybody else” is not true.

    In the current situation, the governor demanded retirement and health insurance contributions and the unions have agreed to them. These financial concessions will do little to solve the budget problem. The Governor has criticized previous administrations for deferring the solution of the problem by using “accounting tricks”. But how does he solve MOST of the problem? He will basically re-finance so that he pushes the debt farther out. Essentially, the heart of HIS solution is the same as previous administration solutions.

    I think it is telling that he lacks support from the very municipalities and school districts that he says he is trying to help. La Crosse county agreed to union contracts last week to avoid the chaos that would ensue trying to negotiate AFTER his bill is passed. Today, the Wausau City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning his bill. Fire fighter and police unions were exempted from his union busting, but when you walk around the capitol, you will see them, in uniform, protesting in solidarity with teachers and other state workers.

    The Governor has said the protesters are from out of state. Very few are. Indeed, in the phone call in which he got “punked”, he revealed that it was all about union busting and his team had considered using “trouble makers” to discredit the protesters. And to whom did he say these things? To a person he THOUGHT was an OUT-OF-STATE billionaire supporter who opened and office in Madison the day after Walker was innaugurated.

    All the protesters I saw were very civil and I saw not ONE PIECE of litter on the whole Capitol Square. I am PROUD to say I marched in protest of this bill and that I did so along with the many honorable teachers, fire fighters, police and other state workers who oppose the Governor’s actions.

    I’m sorry to have gone on so long. Your blog is supposed to be about the Civil War 150 years ago and not the current one. As always, you are absolutely fair-minded in your approach to this matter and I truly thank you for allowing space for it to be discussed in this forum.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Bob. Perhaps you can also respond to Mr. Wehner’s claims that children are being pulled from school to join teachers in protest. Is this taking place, and if so, to what extent?

    • Bob Swartz Mar 1, 2011

      My only comment would be that I did not see a lot of children when I was there. I was only on the hill one day and it was a Saturday so, if I HAD seen children, it would not have been relevant to his accusation. I will relate one little story relating to school children. I was standing in line at a store. Nearby was a father, mother and their daughter, a girl of maybe 15-16. The father was lecturinging the girl very harshly. He said something like, “If I missed work for three days [there was a snow-day or two about the time of the "sick-in"] I would be fired. Those teachers pay almost nothing for retirement and insurance……”, etc. Clearly, the daughter had expressed support for her teachers and the father was feeding her the Tea Party line. The girl was almost in tears. I looked at her for a long time and planned to give her a “thumbs up” if our eyes met, but they didn’t. I later regretted being so passive and wished that I had called-out to her to thank her and tell her she was on the right side in this. So, that was my ONLY contact with the issue of students being “pulled out of school”. A girl in tears over supporting her teachers.

      • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

        Thanks again for the comment, Bob. I am sure that I would have no problem finding evidence that school kids are being encouraged to take part in the rallies by their teachers. I would go even further that to do so without explaining both sides of the issue is irresponsible to say the least. At the same time I don’t know how much can be made from it. No doubt, you could find plenty of students who are there because they support their teachers. Thanks for sharing this story. I can certainly sympathize with the father given the state of the economy. Perhaps he is out of work. At the same time from what I understand the teachers have made certain financial concessions. What is left is whether their right to collective bargaining will remain intact.

  • Craig Mar 1, 2011

    It’s most unfortunate that the governor picked the wrong time of year for a swim in the Tennessee River.

  • Anonymous Mar 1, 2011

    I think you are entirely correct that the words “social justice” set Mr. Wehner off for some reason. Take this post on Egypt, for instance: http://www.blog4history.com/2011/02/social-justice-in-egypt/ One can imagine Mr. Wehner at his chalkboard, drawing a line from “Muslim” to “Sharia” to Social Justice” (or is that the Glenn Beck show?). Yet because the Egyptians used the words “social justice” on their sign, Mr. Wehner ignores that the sign incorporates both the Muslim crescent and the Christian cross! In other words, the sing is telegraphing that the revolution is both Muslim and Christian (ie, Egpytian).

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      I don’t want to turn this post into a commentary about Mr. Wehner’s other posts. Feel free to post these thoughts on his site if you feel it is necessary. Once again, I don’t imagine Mr. Wehner doing anything in his classroom since I’ve never seen him in action. I also don’t take these kinds of comments seriously when the author hides behind anonymity. Mr. Wehner doesn’t do so and neither do I.

  • Dale Snyder Mar 1, 2011

    Mr. Levin, I have carefully read your article and Mr. Wehner’s post. It is very clear that you have simply used this article to take a shot at someone you have philosophical differences with. I’m quite sure you will deny this so it’s really not worth debating. I despise organized labor as it exists today. I spent many years with a major AFL/CIO union as a Stewart and the corruption, greed and hypocrisy I witnessed was enough for 5 lifetimes. I however am not discussing collective bargaining as you requested just analyzing his post and your follow up to it.

    I am trying to be as objective as possible. I feel Mr. Wehner’s post was beautifully written. He substantiated everything he wrote very well given it’s just a blog post. Without a doubt everything said could be discussed at much greater depths. However his post was just a summary on the Wisconsin situation and the political agenda of many teachers. Social Justice, teacher’s unions and Howard Zinn are all things you could consume hours debating, his reference to each was just in passing as you would expect from a brief blog post.

    What I don’t like that I read was your repeated attempts to twist his words to make a case for yourself. You try to insinuate that he has contempt for all teachers or at least all teachers who have protested. There is NOTHING in what he said to even imply that. From my reading it is very clear his contempt was for teachers who abandoned their students and who are setting a bad example for children.

    You state “We’ve heard it all before from Wehner and others. The late Howard Zinn and radicals in higher education are corrupting our young teachers and turning them into social radicals “and this explains what is happening in Wisconsin.” This is as outrageous and irresponsible a claim that I can imagine in this context. Once again, Wehner provides next to nothing to support his claim apart from one quote and references to emails that he has received from various organizations that are engaged in this enterprise.” It’s a two paragraph blog page for God’s sake, what he posted was a great example for only mentioning Zinn in passing. It is my observation also that far too high a percentage of teachers today are social radicals. Your blog is a great example. In as much as you are advocating that Mr. Wehner should provide even more background for his claims, you offer NONE for yours. What examples have you given documenting how teachers are teaching political diversity? You attack a blog for what you consider not enough background material when your own blog post has nothing!!?!?

    In fact I came across your blog doing Civil War research. It appears you have a VERY blind and politically correct understanding of the war. Many people from NJ do. That however was not what really struck me. I came across this blog post of yours http://cwmemory.com/2010/04/20/scv-camp-in-harrisonburg-virginia-issues-proclamation/

    You made the statement “It looks like the Col. D.H. Lee Martz Camp #10-Sons of Confederate Veterans is not going to allow Gov. Bob McDonnell’s amendment to his Confederate History Month proclamation stop them from grossly distorting the past.” No conversation, no backing up your feelings, no links, no discussion, no history, no facts, no nothing. You were trying to convey that the write up was ridiculous without leaving yourself open to being ripped to pieces by a real Civil War historian. What you accuse Mr. Wehner of, you do in spades.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2011

      Dale,

      Thanks for confirming what I find problematic about Mr. Wehner’s post. He failed to provide much of anything to back up his claims about what motivates Wisconsin teachers. Unfortunately, you haven’t helped one bit.

      As for your response to my earlier post I have nothing more to say beyond what I have written about the debate concerning Confederate History Month. Thanks again for reading CWM.

  • Craig Mar 8, 2011

    I’d like to learn more about the 11th Wisconsin. They would have shared many of the same experiences as the 12th Wisconsin. I think I wrote a comment a few weeks ago about the letters written to the West Bend Post by Charles Waldo, describing the 12th’s activities in northern Louisiana and southern Mississippi before during and after Vicksburg. It looks like the 11th spent a substantial portion of the war at Morgan City in the Atchafalaya Swamp, south of Baton Rouge, about halfway between New Orleans and Lafayette. The swamp is bisected by a land bridge and Morgan City is the main town on that land bridge. I would guess during the Civil War it was the only way to get from New Orleans to Lafayette without a boat.

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