Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Be Informed. How the CTU Strike Reminded Me to THINK for myself


This Chicago Public School strike has demanded something of me that I haven’t had to give in quite some time in areas outside of my education and personal interests. I have had to research, make myself informed and develop my own opinion. I’m not lazy, that word implies a lack of effort across multiple facets, but what I have been is comfortable and trusting in people thinking for me. (Ok, so I just don’t want to be considered lazy…sue me).

With the slew of negative media backlash and supportive CTU citizens and friends I was forced to figure out where I stand with respect to the issues. All that said, I wasn’t quite well versed on all of the issues. Why are we striking? Why am I not getting paid to do this? Why aren’t the kids in school right now?  Is there any truth to what the other side is saying?  Why didn’t they just get this resolved earlier so I could sign the contract without even reading it and just know that I could reference it if needed?

With all those lingering why questions I had to do something. If I was going to take a stand and be a part of this movement, I had to be educated on what I was doing and why.

I tend to learn best through externally processing information. That is, I can read it, digest it, but I usually can come to a higher form of understanding by bouncing my idea off with someone else. I was so blessed to speak with some people who immediately supported the strike, reminding me of the importance of unions, the roles they’ve played in advocating change, and empowering me that the protest I was a part of is/was purposeful.

My conversations then lead to people who as my friend supported me, but offered some dissenting questions that truly challenged me to think about where I stood in relations to the people who were speaking on behalf of me (Karen Lewis) and where I stood with all of the issues that the CTU were rallying for. At some points, I didn’t have answers to their questions, and I had to go out and seek that information and then form an opinion for myself.  Through these conversations I learned the importance of thinking about how my actions impact others. I was reminded of the value in not putting blind faith in someone else to speak for you, rather to research something and think for yourself.

Lastly  I spoke with people who were vehemently opposed to the CTU strike. Some were respectful, and some weren’t. I learned the importance of maintaining your dignity, and not giving the other side anything nasty to say about you. To disagree with respect.

I read objective flowcharts which outlined the changes in the CPS teacher contracts over the years. I read articles that my co-workers posted  on Facebook which helped to articulate our sentiment in a way that others hadn’t. I read articles that were posted by one of my best friends, who just happens to be Mayor Emmanuel’s press secretary. I watched press conferences, read the literature that CTU handed out, spoke with my students and their parents during this strike.

Throughout all of these conversations, my mind was stimulated. I was in a state of cognitive dissonance…my thoughts, opinions and beliefs being affirmed, altered and changed. On some issues I strongly agreed with the CTU and felt justified in my strike participation. On other issues, I could see the merit in the CTU dissenting opinions.

The point of this post isn’t to give you a run down of where I personally stand on the issues, because I’m not an expert, I’m not in the negotiating room, and I’m still learning and understanding this contract.

The point of this post was to share the fact that I got informed. Please remind yourself to get informed. We’re voting on November 6th. There are preachers, rabbis and thought leaders in our places of worship,  on our TV screens and in our books telling us (with good intent I assume) how to think  and live our lives. Take into account what others are saying…but remember to get informed for yourself.

Today, I voted at my school on whether or not to continue the strike or end the strike. My vote was based on my understanding of accepting the new clauses of the tentative agreement, the previous contract, and the learning I had acquired over the past week with this strike experience. When I cast my vote, I felt really good. I felt like I made an informed decision

1 comment:

  1. This is such a complex issue and it is important that you examined multiple sides and facets through research, dialogue, and experience. This excellent article by Alex Kotlowitz states "if you asked 30 of his colleagues why they were striking, you’d get 30 different answers". Glad to know that you will be one who can give an informed answer!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/can-great-teaching-overcome-the-effects-of-poverty.html

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