An Arizona lawmaker wants to send teachers a message: If they bring politics into the classroom, they’re risking their jobs. | Sun-Times file photo

Steinberg: Hello class, I’ll be your teacher today

SHARE Steinberg: Hello class, I’ll be your teacher today
SHARE Steinberg: Hello class, I’ll be your teacher today

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Good morning class.

Settle down, please.

I know there’s a lot of us here — 330,000 Chicago Public Schools students, shut out of school Friday due to the one-day teachers union strike.

Which means the teachers will be walking picket lines, and you’ll be, well, somewhere. Hundreds of schools and churches will open their doors, and you might go there to get out of harm’s way. Though I’d imagine a good number of you are parked on the sofa at home, killing time as only kids can.

So forgive me for intruding. I thought I’d try to shoehorn a little education into your day. You can play Call of Duty: Black Ops III all afternoon.

So, hello, I’m Mr. Steinberg.

Believe me, I don’t want to do this. Teaching is hard.

I did pause to ask myself whether this makes me a scab — “scab” is a historic labor term for someone who undermines a strike. The Chicago Teachers Union announced it is monitoring school entrances, threatening to fine any teacher who goes to work today. This was necessary, as opposed to the choir of solidarity that greeted the 2012 strike because, well, times have changed. In four years the economies of Illinois and Chicago have gone from menacing to calamitous, and the union pushing to the front of the line, well, it sparks mixed feelings.

So flexibility being a survival skill in unions nowadays, I can be a proud member of the Communications Workers of America and still instruct what few students actually drop their eyes upon this today. I’m not on strike.


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If you’re the sort who reads papers — and you obviously are — you might have heard terrible things about unions from our governor, who allowed the state finances to seize up over the past 10 months, due in part to his drive to cripple unions. Even though unions are the reason your parents work an eight-hour day instead of 12 or 14, the reason they work five days a week and not six, the reason you are going to school at all and not working in a thread factory. Though we seem to be drifting back to those days. The weakening of unions over the past quarter century has allowed for the hollowing out of the middle class, the infection of corporate money into our political system, and the growing crappiness of our lives in general. Our politicians, trying to stave off the inevitable reckoning, spent money they didn’t have, failed to adequately finance pensions funds, while slashing taxes for rich people. So now government entities across the board are hollowed out shells. It isn’t just schools.

One thing that won’t happen today is that the police won’t descend upon the strikers and beat them. That used to happen in Chicago. And heck, might happen again, if we’re not careful. If you’re not careful. Because you are going to own this city some day, or a little part of it, if only a bed and a desk. And while adults always screw up the world before they toss it to the next generation then crawl off somewhere warm to die, we’ve really screwed up Chicago, at least financially. The only real solution is for the school system to declare bankruptcy — that is the one thing Bruce Rauner is right about — and it might be already, except Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want it to happen on his watch.

A bit of math: the Chicago Public Schools are $6 billion in debt. That represents about what it costs to run the entire school system for a year. A figure that our collective leadership has utterly failed to address. Maybe you kids will figure it out. You’ll have to, because we sure aren’t.I guess that’s the main lesson for today: Adults are stupid. But you probably already knew that.

OK, that’s the bell. Class dismissed.

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