The New Teacher Proletariat

A long time ago (well, not really so long at all) leftists loved to use the language of the old communism as a kind of shock rhetoric. Most of us in the progressive community weren’t really working class or proletarian any more, with certain exceptions, but we just loved that Marxist vocabulary. I still love the word proletarian and I love the art that the feeling it represented often inspired.

I don’t think of things in such severe binary opposites anymore, although I do still believe that the tension (dialectic) between capital and labor is the driving force behind any capitalist economy, including command economies like China. In just about every important way I am middle class. Yet, culturally, I retain important traces of my dad’s working class childhood.

Over the last 30 years though, this rhetoric has steadily become reality as the ongoing redistribution of wealth from working and middle class people to the rich has gained momentum. It’s not a myth; even so-called progressive tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. Now that we are in full deficit hunting season, the calls for more redistribution is reaching a fever pitch.

The Obama administration support for unions is tepid at best (“Role for Teachers Is Seen in Solving Schools’ Crises“) but unions are the only institution that might get back our wealth. Capital is organized; if labor isn’t, the redistribution continues. The right wants to make collective bargaining in the public schools illegal again. If that happens, we are very close to being real proletarians.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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