Union? or Guild?
You know, I'm pretty pro-union. Raised in a union family. Boycotted lettuce and grapes. Joined every union I was asked to join. I've been a member of the NEA and the AFT. But I was thinking today about the teaching-to-the test mentality, which I think makes it far easier to hire less-qualified K-12 faculty. And I was also thinking about the commodification of education, which most of the college faculty bloggers have mentioned at one time or another. I think the 'prove you deserve funding by raising test scores' syndrome is part of the commodification, if not as clearly. And then I thought, The NEA and the AFT are Labor Unions.
I am not labor, except in the strictest sense. I am a professional. I feel bound to do my best because I want the respect of my colleagues and because I have a very real and realistic worry that not doing my best will result in my not being promoted or even in my not keeping my position. Coincidentally (becaue we all know I'm all about the peer validation), I can't do a crap job because I feel guilty and it drives me into a downward spiral of self-loathing.
That's me and most of my colleagues at 4-year institutions, most of whom are not unionized. It's also a lot (but proportionately fewer) of my CC colleagues, all of whom are unionized/represented in collective bargaining agreements (not all in the whole country -- I'm talking about the ones I know). From what I can tell about K-12 faculty (and I tend to see this through the eyes of K-12 faculty friends, who are like-minded, so take it with a grain of salt), that attitude is rare after a faculty member is firmly entrenched -- with tenure based on seniority, etc.
So I'm asking -- how much has the transition of faculty from professionals to labor helped to create this system of commodification. If faculty are going to act like their jobs should have contracts similar to those of auto workers or longshoremen, is it any surprise that our fellow citizens should see us that way?
What if we scrapped the labor union model and instituted a guild model with all of the training, peer review, and accountability of the ideal guilds we teach about, as well as having the rights to collective bargaining and strike?