News for educational workers.

Author:Vogt, Leonard
 
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Presenting a thoughtful justification for the left in American education, Donald Lazere's Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias (Palgrave) argues that to teach students rhetoric and critical thinking, key components of a humanist education, educators must discuss and teach students to grapple with the conservative bias in academia, the media, and politics that is considered to be the status quo.

In Political Literacy in Composition and Rhetoric: Defending Academic Discourse Against Postmodern Pluralism (SIU Press), Donald Lazere calls for revival of the National Council of Teachers of English resolutions in the 1970s for teaching the "critical reading, listening, viewing, and thinking skills necessary to enable students to cope with the persuasive techniques in political statements, advertising, entertainment, and news," and explores the reasons these goals have been eclipsed in composition studies over recent decades.

Unions and Strikes

The faculty union of The City University of New York (CUNY) voted overwhelmingly (92 percent of over 10,000 unionized faculty and staff members voting in favor) for strike authorization to be used possibly in the fall in the union's continuing efforts to get a contract after five years. Even though CUNY faculty have not had a pay raise in 6 years (over which time the cost of living in New York City went up 23 percent), New York lawmakers a month earlier passed a state budget which included no money for CUNY faculty pay increases (The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 12, 2016).

On February 24, 2016, graduate workers at the Missouri University occupied the university's administrative building to demand that they be recognized as university employees and be given collective bargaining rights (Left Labor Reporter, February 26, 2016).

"The Union Advantage for Contingent Faculty" says that union representation over a 30-year career can mean an additional salary of at least $1 million for a full-time professor at public universities. For adjuncts as well, who make an average of $2,700 per course which adds up to a yearly salary of $22,000 for four courses a semester, union representation could help relieve their poverty conditions. When adjuncts have won union rights, they work under one to three year contracts and earn $7,300 per course, making their annual salary almost $60,000 for four courses a semester (The New Crossroads, April 27, 2016).

The Working Educators (WE), the progressive caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), initiated a campaign last year to inform Philadelphia parents and teachers about their right to "Opt Out" of standardized tests because the PFT leaders were not talking about the demoralizing aspects of overtesting on students, teachers or parents (www.truth-out.org, January 29, 2016).

The Chicago Teachers Union held a one-day strike and citywide day of action on April 1, 2016. According to Jacobin (April 2, 2016), the strike was not "primarily about increased school funding, pensions for teachers, or even corporate taxation, though the union is fighting for all of these. It is a strike about democracy--about who owns our society's resources and how decisions about those resources are made." Those supporting the strike were transit workers union ATU 308, AFSCME Council 31, the Black Youth Project 100, University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 and the Chicago Student Union.

In February and March of 2016, an estimated 20,000 teachers, nearly half the entire Palestinian teaching staff, defied the Palestinian Authority (PA), went on a wildcat strike, and won a pay raise they were promised three years earlier. Many of the demonstrators, some of whom were treated brutally by the PA in its attempt to keep them away from the strike, feel that the teachers' union leadership's close tie to the government is a detriment to teachers' rights (portside.org, May 1, 2016).

A Colombian academic and member of the higher education union ASPU, Dr. Miguel Angel BeltrAn, was arrested for rebellion in July, 2015, sentenced to 8 years in a high security prison, and is now on hunger strike to demand that his case be reviewed. To send a message of protest to the Colombian government, go to http://www.labourstart.org/qo/beltran.

Student Activism

The national "Fossil Free" movement is pressuring colleges to address the issue of climate change by divesting from fossil fuels. In April of 2016, 8 students at Northern Arizona University were arrested during a sit-in. At Columbia University, a six-day occupation of Low Library was held to...

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