What good does the strike do for students?

It is the customary first-day-of-elementary school ice breaker, a question that seemed once all too imaginative and today is real: What do you want to be when you grow up?

As a child shrouded by a fallacious sense of hubris, my responses to the question would have fallen somewhere along the lines of wanting to be bitten by a supernatural-power-inducing insect or an urge to simply help others. In doing so I wouldn’t have doubted that I would receive appropriate compensation for acting with such selflessness nor be reprimanded for campaigning to better the environment in which my altruism would be projected.

I wanted to be a teacher, plain and simple. After all, what could go wrong when the responsibility of educating America’s future is tangible?

Introducing the Chicago Public School system — where a 25-year-old sleeping giant has recently been disturbed. Well, at least that’s what happens when you start to ignore the vitals, or in this case, putting the needs of educators on the backburner. The recent Chicago Teachers Union strike encompasses an array of issues ranging from the understaffing of nurses, social workers and therapists to lack of effective technologies necessary to achieve state standards. The phrase “not enough” suddenly becomes cliche: not enough faculty, not enough resources and not enough care.

All of this is becoming particularly uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable at the fact that these teachers’ exclamations (clearly authentic if we think about who is in direct and routine contact with the school environment) are subordinated by an administrative macrosystem. I’m agitated that any politician or administrator would not be more understanding that a lack of teacher resources means a lack of student resources as well. I am outraged that we do not show more appreciation for those dedicating their lives to our future’s enlightenment. I assume this is where I top my agitation and my outrage — and who better to instigate it than Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

While defending his offer of pay increase over four years to the teachers union, Emanuel” classified this recent strike”:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/education/with-no-contract-deal-by-deadline-in-chicago-teachers-will-strike.html?_r=1 as “a strike of choice” even going further to say it is “unnecessary, avoidable and not deserved by our children.” It’s a statement like this that reminds me that power is not always coupled with compassion. Let me ask you, mayor, how is it “unnecessary” to protest for air-conditioned classrooms for more bearable conditions during summer school? How is a strike, revolving around the improved benefits of teachers and students in underprivileged areas, deemed “avoidable”?

The situation is all too familiar for Democratic State Sen. James Meeks, who in 2008 protested for New Trier Township High School (not so ironically the same high school Emanuel graduated from in 1977) to mass enroll students from CPS. Yet somewhere in my heart I can agree with Emanuel that this strike will in fact take away from hundreds of students’ education temporarily.

On the contrary, strikes unbolt the determinants of students’ education and put them right to their faces. Students are in no way blind to the exact protests of their teachers, but how often do they have a chance to act on these protests and create change through these protests? Though it’s the students who have the needs, it’s the teachers who have the voices. This strike is as much for the improvement of teachers’ security as it is for the welfare and protection of students in the CPS system.

When there are problems, we face them — and it is in that mind-set that I consider this strike necessary, inevitable and, most importantly, a wake-up call. If only those mediating this strike would acknowledge the future of an education they once and always will rely on. The reform I once knew embraced change, not cuts. If the education system has always been about paying it forward, it only makes sense to move accordingly.

_Adam is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at [email protected]_