A snip of the long interview:
JS: There was such a strong presence of women at every level in the strike. Obviously part of that is because most teachers are women, but do you think there were specific ways that women’s leadership and women’s strength played a role in the Chicago events?
KL: I do. I think it’s part of the clash between myself and the mayor. I don’t think he’s used to anyone like me who can tell him no. I said, “Look, I want to work with you, but we have to have some modicum of respect here.”
I am a woman, so I don’t know what’s it’s like to be a man. I’m black. I don’t know what it’s like to be white, and being black is infinitely more problematic than being female; that’s my experience. But I’m looking at an assault on social services. Who provides those? This mayor closed down mental health clinics, curtailed library hours. How are you picking out social workers, librarians, and teachers? By and large, these are occupations that are done by women.
In the CTU today, all of our area vice presidents are women; we have a preponderance of women on our executive board and a preponderance of women in our house of delegates—because that’s the nature of teaching.
And it’s also why, by and large, teachers have allowed so much of this so-called “reform” to be done to us. Because we do want to be the “good” kids, we do want the approval. I say to the district, “Whatever you’ve told us to do, we’ve done. You said, ‘You need to get a master’s degree because that will make you a better teacher.’ So in droves we’ve gone and gotten master’s degrees. We’ve taken extra courses, we’ve taken extra endorsements, we’ve gotten national board certification.
We’ve jumped through every single hoop.” But what is clear to me and to us as leadership is that they will never be satisfied. They will continue to move the bar until it is impossible to reach. Like No Child Left Behind: 100 percent of children have to be proficient. Really? They say we have low expectations. No, I don’t have low expectations. But I’m very clear that 100 percent of children are not going to be proficient for a variety of reasons, least of which is bad teaching.