November 29, 2010
Imagine members of the U.S. military forming a union to improve their working conditions, job security, benefits and compensation. Right, you can’t imagine it. Military unions are illegal for a good reason. The military is designed to optimize national defense. You don’t want soldiers going on strike when they should be attacking. Homeland defense is clearly the highest priority. Or as Spock says, the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.
Now imagine that U.S. schoolteachers form a union to improve their own working conditions, job security, benefits and compensation. Right, that already exists. But why is it legal?
In the long run, education is as critical to national defense as the military. Education is the engine that drives our economic wellbeing. And a robust economy gives us the means to fund every element of defense, from Homeland Security, to research and development, to the military itself.
A strong economy, along with active foreign trade, turns potential military rivals into customers and suppliers. It’s unlikely, for example, that China and the U.S. would get into a war anytime soon because our economies are too dependent. China and the U.S. have literally educated their respective countries out of potential war with each other.
Obviously one can argue that unions have a useful role in some types of industries. Without unions, or the threat of unions, business owners would drift toward abusiveness. And obviously one can argue that unions cause problems of their own. It’s an imperfect system. But for now, let’s ignore the question of whether unions are good or evil in some general sense and focus on the question of why teachers can have unions but soldiers cannot. Why the difference? Spock would not see the logic in this.
At the moment, education is treated about the same as the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s something the states should worry about. Imagine how things would be different if education were treated as a national defense issue. In a world where education is branded as the foundation of national defense, if we didn’t get enough high quality volunteer teachers, a draft would be instituted. If parents didn’t ensure that their kids finished their homework, the entire family would be deemed unpatriotic.
I assume we can’t get to that imagined place from here because of the political clout of unions. But just for fun, imagine a third-party candidate for president who cleverly brands education as a national defense issue, and labels anyone who disagrees with him as both unpatriotic and soft on defense. That would be some fun.
Here I remind you that cartoonists don’t know much about education, politics, unions, or national defense. And if you happen to know my sister, who is a teacher, please don’t tell her I wrote this.