Monday, September 24, 2012

Chicago Teachers Strike: a coda

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  In the life of every civilization - and in the life of any
truly civilized individual human - there is at least a stage
in which the belief in education transcends any economic
value, and education is valued for its own sake and its
role in making the educated a better person.

  Although the failure of the educational system in the
United States to consistently meet the economic needs
of a leading innovating nation has kept the focus of our
educational system on meeting the basic economic needs
of businesses and students in a challenging world
environment, we would still hope that teachers to some
degree try to safeguard and uphold the tradition of edu-
cation as ennobling.

  That's why it's somewhat depressing to see that the
teachers felt they had to vilify the opposition, most
notably Rahm Emanuel, in order to stand up to him.
They had many just complaints to make against him,
but to act as if he didn't want to improve the schools
and his motives were all just to cut costs is plain
nonsense:  all this trouble started because of  desire
for a longer school day and year - and because of
the aggressiveness of the reforms he wanted to make.

The most refreshing political discourse I heard all
summer was Bill Clinton's contention that no one is
right all the time and that the two political parties
needed each other.  It would have been great if the
union could have squared off with CPS aggressively
sure, but with the acknowledgement that both had
worthwhile goals they were trying to achieve.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Do the Chicago Teachers Know What They're Doing?

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Setting aside the merits of the teachers' demands, there are
among the ways the CTU handled the events of the weekend
some troubling signs that the Teachers union doesn't
know why they are striking or what they will settle for.  


  1. The Union Leadership led Chicago Parents to believe the strike was largely settled and that school would resume Monday Morning.  Then it turns out their membership is so far from being happy with the proposal that they're not even ready to vote it up or down.
  2. The Leadership doesn't even meet with the delegates until Sunday afternoon, allowing the false impression to linger almost all weekend that schools will reopen Monday, again adding on to the pressure on parents at the last moment to find day care alternatives.
  3. The impression is that the Leadership is now flying by the seat of its pants, not sure what the goals of the strike are.  Chicago Public Schools have to deal with a moving set of targets from the teachers.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Do Chicago Teachers Strike In Own Best Interest?

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It's no good pretending strikes take place out of social
context?   The Chicago Teachers' Strike is taking place
inside a city and state that have been hammered by
unsustainable pension commitments and economic
malfeasance at the highest level.

Illinois is at or near the bottom of almost every
measure of a state's financial health used by the
Federal Government.

The schools can not remain healthy if the state
and city are going down the tubes.  Yet the teachers
are only the first city employees to be negotiating
contracts over the next few years.    As David Brooks
points out, by middle class standards, teachers are
astonishingly well remunerated, but they have not been
remarkably successful:

The average Chicago teacher makes $76,000 a year in a city where the average worker makes $47,000 a year. Rising school costs have helped push the system deep into the red. Meanwhile, the outcomes are not good. Forty percent of students drop out and 8 percent of 11th graders meet college readiness standards.

Rahm Emanuel was elected to bring labor, especially pension
costs under control.  The generosity of this contract (a 16%
pay hike over 4 years), especially given the $3billion shortfall
that CPS faces over the next several years may make it more
difficult to obtain concessions from other unions while
negotiating fair contracts, the tightrope act the Mayor will have
to pull off to be a successful public servant.

Make no mistake, if Mayor Emanuel fails to pull it off, then
Chicago faces a Detroit-like future of slow dispiriting decline.
If the teachers have pushed for concessions beyond what is
affordable, they have worked against their own self-interest
in the long run.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chicago Street Incident

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I was coming back from the grocery, my cane of
course in my right hand, trailing a little cart with
my left.  I had entered the cross walk at the inter-
section of Eugenie and Wells.  I was having a little
difficulty maneuvering the cart and my head was

Looking up I was headed right at young woman
on her cell phone.  She was looking straight at me.
In a moment her eyes de-focused and she shifted
her eyes to my right.  She didn't change her path.

I moved right, and we passed without incident, but
in that moment her eyes lost their focus I could see
that she had absolutely no interest in me as a human
being.  She made no adjustment for me.

 I might as well not have been there.

Maybe she wasn't really there.

•                                 ••                                 •

Saturday, September 1, 2012


A Motion Picture Treatment
by Callahan Cleanwood

the basis of a true story


NITT ROMEY'S boyishly handsome, exuberantly happy face.  He
is listening to words of praise pouring out of Hollywood Icon
CLINT EASTWOOD who is addressing a crowd of ROMEY SUPPORTERS.

It's clear the praise of this legend is like a drug - he can't get enough
of it - to a man who has allowed himself very few of life's pleasures.
After the speech, SUPPORTERS gather around NITT to congratulate
him on the words of the Man with no Name.   

Although anxious to work his way to the star, NITT can't help asking
EACH WELL-WISHER, "Did you hear what Clint said?"  As NITT 
basks in the glow of the moments-old memory,

CLINT looks back from a SIDE DOOR.  Behind him stand TWO 
CLINT sizes up NITT:  "do you think he'll bite?"  

"Reckon he will."  Spit chewing tobacco.

THE THREE  slip out, letting the door close behind them.


NAN stands behind ROMEY buckled into his SWIVEL CHAIR.
They are surrounded by CAMPAIGN AIDS, all in shirt sleeves
with loosened ties.   

It's perfect.

The risk seems too great.  

What risk?  What could go wrong?




for the MYSTERY GUEST.  

ON A MONITOR - AN ANCHORWOMAN rubs her hands like
Simon Legreed, wondering who the MYSTERY GUEST will be.

CLINT  stands ready to walk on.   NITT comes up BEHIND  him.  
Without turning around, CLINT starts talking:

Imagine, Governor, a movie star who wanted to break into 
performance art.  Being a star, he's used to having his whims
indulged.  Not wanting to start from the bottom and work
his way up, he imagines performing in public the first time
before a huge national audience.    Who knows?   It may be 
the last.  Still he wants to make a splash, so what would be
the best venue to leave his mark.   Not a regular tv show: 
with cable the audience is too splintered; not a sporting 
event: he doesn't want to play 2nd fiddle to a sports event.

He's got it:  a national political convention, the night the
candidate accepts the nomination.  The big cuhuna, the 
one night Americans still watched tv together as a nation.
Only one problem:  how to upstage the candidate.  The
Star wants to be the star, not the supporting player,
but he's just the opening act.  What to do?  What to do?

Suddenly he gets it.  What is Hollywood?  It's the dream
factory.   And where do dreams come from?   The unconscious.
The unconscious is much more powerful  than the conscious
as a storyteller.    Let the candidate represent the conscious
aspect of the Republican mind, he, the STAR, would embody
the unconscious fears, resentments and assumptions which 
actually motivate the Party.  He would bring forth the true
dreams of the GOP.  He would show fully in the sleep of 
reason, what nightmares have risen.

Just then the Theme from The Good, the Bad & the Ugly 
suddenly sounded its opening notes.

"Listen, Clint, maybe you shouldn't go on," said Romey.  "It doesn't
look like you're feeling well."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Clint Eastwood!"

"Never better," and the man with no name strolled out under the 
bright, bright lights.