in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
In 1904, Margaret Haley (1861-1939), a school teacher from Chicago, spoke at the National Educators Association (NEA) convention in St. Louis, on "Why Teachers Should Organize." In her short but insightful address, wherein she cited Horace Mann and John Dewey, Haley talked about democracy, equity, citizenship, and discussed the importance of teachers' autonomy and professionalism. She criticized state subsidies to corporations, budget cuts to education, the routinization of teaching and learning, the corruption of the press, the deterioration of teachers' salaries, the subservience of elected politicians to lobbies, and the push towards commercialism in public schools. She advocated progressive education, a more fair distribution of wealth, and a strong unionism encompassing mental and manual laborers.
The teachers who Haley was attempting to organize were primarily young females who were usually forced to resign after marriage. They were supposedly professionals, but seldom treated or paid as such. Not only were their salaries low, but they were paid less than their male counterparts. Within their classrooms, they often had the task of educating more than sixty students with little support.
In her speech, Haley expressed deep concern about the increasing deprofessionalization of teachers, and listed four major obstacles to efficient teaching: 1) inadequate teachers' salaries, clearly inappropriate to meet the increasing cost of living and the demands for higher standards of scholarship and professional attainment; 2) insecurity regarding tenure of office and lack of provision for old age; 3) overwork in overcrowded classrooms, exhausting both mind and body; and 4) lack of recognition of the teacher as an educator, due to pressures to transform schools into factories.
Indeed, in a context marked by increasing centralization of authority in school administrators, Haley claimed that teachers were becoming "factory hands" or "automatons" who were expected to "mechanically and unquestioningly" carry out the ideas and orders of those vested with authority but not necessarily with the knowledge about children's needs or the best ways to respond to them. She contended that since an environment in which it is easy to teach is also an environment in which it is easy to learn, and since lack of freedom restricts both the teacher and the child, the undermining of teachers' initiative constituted an attack on learning itself. She stated that the destruction of teachers' individuality and creativity was leading to "courses of study, regulations, and equipment which the teachers have had no voice in selecting, which often have no relation to the children's needs, and which prove a hindrance instead of helping in teaching" (p. 283).
After outlining these and other problems faced by teachers, Haley called for an organized effort of mutual aid, and delineated the main tasks for such organization. She argued that teachers should develop expertise in educational theory and practice, ability to do scientific teaching, knowledge about the conditions under which good teaching is possible, and skills to reach the public with accurate information. In this speech, Haley raised a concept that would resurface many decades later in the debates on the role of teachers' unions: professional unionism. She argued that teachers' organizations must promote both professional development and the improvement of working conditions, and that the two functions should be pursued simultaneously. In her words,
Haley, Margaret (1982). Battleground: the autobiography of Margaret Haley (edited by Robert L. Reid). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Haley, M. (1904). "Why Teachers Should Organize." NEA Address and Proceedings, 43rd Annual Meeting, St. Louis, 145-152. Washington, DC: The Association.
Herrick, M.J. (1971). The Chicago Schools: A Social and Political History. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Lazerson, M., Ed. (1987). American education in the twentieth century. New York: Teachers College Press.
Nelson, F. Howard (1990). Labor Relations In Education In the United States. http://www.aft.org/research/reports/collbarg/shankers.htm
Tyack, D.B. (1974). The One Best System: A history of American Urban Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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