Submitted by Joy of Teaching on October 4, 2012
By now most Americans with any link to media has heard about the (now settled) National Football League Referee strike. This strike between the football officials and the NFL began in late August. The striking officials were replaced with referees from other organizations and were considered sub-par replacement officiates by most media outlets. Almost simultaneously, the Chicago Teacher’s Union was exacting their own strike (also settled) against the Chicago school district. According to media outlets at that time, the Referees were asking for pay raises in the six digit range and the continuation of their pension plan. The Chicago Teachers concerns were focused on working conditions that could affect student and teacher performance as well as an evaluation system based on student test scores.
As an avid reader of local and national news, I often read the comment sections of news websites. Although at times, these comment sections are filled with far right/left winged opinions, I do feel it is a way to gauge the thoughts of others outside my friends, family and coworkers. While following both of these national strike stories, I began to see a clear delineation between the attitudes of Americans in reference to the value placed on education and the value placed on a 16 week pastime.
Most of the commentary, when referring to the NFL strike, was sympathetic to the referees. Most felt that they should receive higher compensation even if that was only to get them back on the field. However, the Chicago Teacher’s strike garnered vitriolic language of greediness and selfishness. Although the Referees were asking for raises in the thousands of dollars, the teachers were seeking smaller classes, equity and resources for students. It didn’t make sense that highly qualified teachers appeared greedy, when the highly qualified referees did not.
The referees, most commenters felt, were important to the integrity of the game. This became most clear during the infamous Seattle/Green Bay game when, what had become to be known as, the ‘Failed Mary Pass’ was incorrectly ruled a complete pass by a replacement referee, taking the game from Green Bay in the last seconds. Yet the Chicago Teachers, who had by this time suspended their strike, were targets of malicious criticisms for wanting a better public school system for their students and themselves.
I understand that the NFL Officials are unique to a particular skill set. I agree that they deserved the right to strike for what they as a collective unit deemed was reasonable and within the capabilities of the NFL. I was pleased that their strike was settled in the third week of the season (although the replacement referees had provided a comical element to the game). The integrity of the game was restored.
I can only hope that the attitudes of our citizens can move toward a respect for teachers and the integrity that they bring to the classroom. Teachers who are experienced, who receive the proper training and resources are an integral part of our children’s development and education. If we are replaced by non-experienced replacements in the name of school reform, well, there will be many more failed Mary’s, and Jerome’s and Dylan’s and Jasmine’s…….