The Sickness in Wisconsin

by Jay Nordlinger

That flu is still going around: The teachers of Madison, Wis., have called in “sick” again, shutting down the schools. Of course, there is no flu, and the only sickness is a nasty unionism, an epidemic of lying.

I wonder how these teachers — I’m tempted to put that word in quotation marks: “teachers” — can look themselves in the mirror. How can their students look at them the same way again? I will repeat what I said (twice, I think) yesterday: I wish the public could call in sick on the teachers. I wish these people could be fired, in favor of people who want to teach, think it a privilege to do so, and will operate honestly.

What if students called in sick, en masse, on the day of a test? They could say, “Well, we learned from the adults standing in front of us: our dear, ever-conscientious teachers.”

Well-off parents have a choice, of course: They can send their kids to private schools where teachers, when they call in sick, are generally sick. Schools that don’t shut down whenever teachers happen to feel aggrieved. But ordinary people have no choice: The teachers’ unions have blocked it for them. You are stuck with an education system monopolized by these unions, whether you like it or not.

In my view, this system, whatever its other flaws, is also mean. Plain mean.

I’ve received a crush of mail from Wisconsin, from various perspectives, saying various things. Some letters are from teachers who feel agonized: They don’t like what the governor and his allies are doing, but they are appalled by the way their union is behaving: both the “sick-ins” — or are they “sick-outs”? — and the thuggish rallying, in which students themselves are coerced to participate.

Most disgusting: the mob that went to Governor Walker’s home. What are they going to do next, cut his dog’s throat?

The teachers in Madison and elsewhere have decided that there will be no more school this week. They have decided that all by themselves. They have simply locked students — whose parents are probably taxpayers — out of their own classrooms.

And everything the teachers do, of course, is for the sake of “the children.” I wish the children could talk back, borrowing a phrase from anti-war movements: “Not in my name.”

For decades now, union militancy has dragged the teaching profession through the mud, robbing that profession of its public spirit, even of its professionalism. (Can we drop the pretense that the marauders at Walker’s home are “professionals”? Professional bullies, maybe.) Normally, I don’t like the rhetoric of “take back”: “take back” this, “take back” that. But maybe it is time for people at large to take back society from the public-employee unions. You can sense that spirit in New Jersey and Wisconsin, quite strongly. Sheer necessity — budgetary necessity — has driven these states to it.

Via my friend Scott Johnson at Power Line, I found this column by Patrick McIlheran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. McIlheran writes,

“Union activists in Madison Tuesday spoke apocalyptically of ‘class war,’ hinting wildly at general strikes and takeovers of the Capitol. They correctly see their control of the state slipping and must figure that if they bring 13,000 shouting people to Madison, they can overrule the election.”

“They correctly see their control of the state slipping” — what sweet words. I hope that Governor Walker and other elected officials can stay strong. They have an opportunity to restore sanity to our public affairs and to reassert self-government: by the people, for the people, and all that jazz. I will make the simple point that society belongs to everyone: not just to people who can yell, shut down schools, and intimidate.