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The Acton Institute thinks the Chicago Teachers’ Strike is Immoral

October 31, 2019

For those of you who have followed this blog over the years, you know that we have regularly written about the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

In fact, I have been writing about the Acton Institute for longer than GRIID has been around. If you look at the hyperlink above, which takes you to the site SourceWatch, you can see at the bottom of their information about the Acton Institute, there are numerous references to article written by me and by Media Mouse in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The fact that the Acton Institute just posted an article calling the Chicago Teachers’ strike “immoral” is no surprise to this writer, since they have long demonstrated their far-right, anti-worker, anti-union position since their founding. However, it is always worth looking at how entities like the Acton Institute view the efforts of people who come together for organized collective liberation, such as what we are seeing with the Chicago Teachers’ strike. 

Before getting into an analysis of the 5 reasons the Chicago teachers’ strike is immoral, it is worth noting that the Acton writer did source the CTU list of demands that are the driving force behind the teachers’ strike. However, right after citing the list of demands, the Acton writer refers to Mayor Lightfoot’s offer as “generous.” If you scroll down the CTU link, you can see a comparison to what the striking teachers are demanding and what the Mayor of Chicago is offering.

Now, we can get to the 5 reasons the Chicago teachers’ strike is immoral, which the writer prefaces by saying, A school strike is not a moral reaction for the following reasons:

Teacher strikes harm children’s education. This argument completely misses the point, since the very reasons the teachers are on strike is so that they can better serve the students. In fact, students have been very vocal in their support of the teachers’ strike. However, this is the same argument made by members of the capitalist class when they say that strikes hurt working class families. Those in position of power and privilege will always use this argument, when the exact opposite is true. It is the system of power and privilege that is and has been doing harm to students in the Chicago Public Schools for a long time, specifically by not providing adequate funding, resources and support to the school district, even though the funding has always been available.

The teachers union would lock poor children out of high-performing charter schools. This is a line right out of the playbook of the Charter School industry and Betsy DeVos. Study after study has demonstrated that Charter Schools do NOT provide better opportunities for children from families living in poverty, such as the two that are linked here.

Of course, the Acton Institute cites their own study in the article, which happens to be funded by the Walton Family, which has a long history of endorsing Charter Schools.

Chicago Teachers Union’s demands break the budget. Again, this is a fallacy, since the the City of Chicago has plenty of public money to spend on development projects. The issue is always about priorities, not lack of funding. And of course the Acton writer mentions the teachers’ pensions, which are always referred to as “unfunded liabilities.” Public sector pensions were fought for by public sector unions decades ago and it would be a crime to all of a sudden say that the City of Chicago no longer honors those pensions, considering that teachers who are retired or nearing retirement deserve the pensions that the unions fought for.

Smaller class sizes are a panacea, not a solution. This reason is coming from a priest who has never taught in public schools and has no idea how classroom size can make a difference. Of course it is not a solution, because it is connected with the other teacher demands, which means you can not dismiss any one of these demands without comprehending the entirety of the demands.

Public sector strikes shut down vital government functions. No shit. This is the point of strikes. Labor strikes are designed to interrupt, to throw a monkey wrench into business as usual. Of course, the Chicago Teachers’ strike will have an impact on how Chicago’s municipal government functions…….and that is the point. Organized workers use strikes as leverage to fight for just and fair agreements.

So, you can see for yourself that the argues that the Acton writer provides are weak and just part of the standard capitalist class argument. However, the Acton writer, Rev. Ben Johnson, doesn’t end there. He ends his article by writing:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that a strike “becomes morally unacceptable” when it is “contrary to the common good.” Under that criteria, the latest Chicago teachers’ strike is immoral.

Since when does the Catechism of the Catholic Church govern public affairs? A rather childish ending to another reactionary posting from one of Grand Rapids’ far right organizations.

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