I am superseding several topics that I was considering writing about today to mention the debacle unfolding in Wisconsin. Since the whole thing is so much of a mess that I am unsure what I support, I'll just explain my thoughts on the situation.
Let me first make clear that I am against teacher unions. Partially because I believe that they have grown into impersonal systems that actually care about the teachers that they represent almost as little as the entities with which they negotiate. Granted, their business is getting good things for teachers, so they may treat them better than their adversaries, but in the department of being humane I am skeptical. My distaste is more because I do not believe that teaching should be the sort of profession that requires a union.
Unions represent labor that has been robbed of its power due to ease of replacement. Because individually the laborers lack power, they band together to regain equal bargaining footing with management. However, teachers are highly trained individuals tasked with preparing our youth to take their place in society, a mandate of almost unparalleled importance, that they should need a union seems ludicrous. Unfortunately, the actions proposed by the Republican party clearly demonstrate the continuing need for unions due to the systematic and unbelievable disrespect that educators receive in our culture.
If we want to get rid of the unions, and I am all for that goal, the solution seems to be treating teachers in such a way that the majority of them feel no need for the crude protection that a union offers. Attempting to gut the union of its power through statutory methods is about the farthest thing I can think of from a move designed to make teachers feel comfortable. Additionally, what business is it of the government how teachers decide to organize themselves to perform their bargaining?
Now on to the politicians. In order to prevent the legislation from passing, the democrats have fled the state. Although they do not possess sufficient numbers to prevent the passage of this bill, they have enough members to prevent congress from being in session in their absence. This is the worst form of partisan politics that I can think of, on the part of both parties. Granted I am not a big fan of our two party system, or our government in general, this seems particularly egregious. Because they have such a majority, the republicans have no need to work with the democrats, should congress be called to session. Collaboration flies out of the window in such conditions, and the thought of consensus building becomes laughable. On the other hand, while this might be the only way for the democrats to stall this despicable bill, while they are absenting themselves from government, no other governing is occurring.
In this situation, although I am ideologically more opposed to the republican position, I cannot fault their behavior any more than that of the democrats. However, because they do hold almost all of the power in this situation, the impetus to compromise and restore government to working condition lies squarely on them. While both sides are behaving like spoiled children, in my opinion, neither has stepped outside of the rule of law. This is the fundamental weakness inherent in a system of power invested in abstract, universal laws, although they guard against capricious rule, they also lack the compassion and humanity that is sometimes necessary to pull us through tough times in more or less one piece. Even if both sides play by the rules, sometimes life calls upon us to be better than the rules, and play according to our respect for each other as fellow human beings.
These events highlight two serious problems in our society. Firstly, we are losing sight of the importance of excellence in education, and losing the excellence of our education at the same time. Secondly, our political landscape is ossifying into a two party battlefield, which has consequent detriments of radicalizing each side, eroding the ability of our government to represent the interests of the nation, and distracting attention from important matters that are not current "hot topics." Should we fail to overcome either of these issues, then let me be the first to offer my apologies to whomever, if anyone, comes in to clean up the mess that the United States seems determined to make of itself.