Comments of the Week: The Chicago Teachers Union Strike, Voter ID Laws and a Vagina

Storified by The Nation · Fri, Sep 14 2012 12:40:21

Each week we collect our readers’ best responses in Twitter, Facebook and our comment threads. This week, our readers sounded off on the Chicago Teachers Union strike, Naomi Wolf’s Vagina and Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, among other topics. Let us know what you think–in the comments! 
First off, our readers had a number of suggested additions to Peter Rothberg’s “Top Ten Songs About Economic Injustice.” Here’s a preview, from reader Gayle. Keep an eye out for more responses collected in a future post! 
Gayle: 
Good list. Only two changes .. instead of Tom Joad for Springsteen I would have put in Jack of All Trade from his new CD. The other is just a preference. Love the late Johnny Cash as I do, don’t you think it would have been more fair to give Tennessee Ernie Ford the credit for Sixteen Tons?? Cash did a wonderful version of the song and it was a hit several years later but Tennessee Ernie Ford did the most identifiable version. For months it used to play right before I had to go wait in the cold to catch the bus to school. Maybe I’m just being a sentamental old geezer but Tennessee Ernie Ford is the one I will always remember first. Great list, though. Love the inclusion of Billy Bragg and Gil Scott-Heron. Thanks!Top Ten Songs About Economic Injustice | The Nation
In response to Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s “Chicago Teachers Push Back Against Neoliberal Education Reform” our readers offered support for the union, but differing takes on teacher tenure. 
Skeptic_Eagle: 
Hmmm…I’m pretty pro union, but I’m not sure that "good teachers are made through experience in the classroom" is something I’d totally agree with. I think the tenure system can be harmful in some cases.  I’ve got a normal and well-adjusted 2nd grader that had a miserable experience with his 1st grade teacher, "Mrs. X", to the point where he’d come home upset every day, and started inventing excuses for why he couldn’t go to school the next. Some friends of ours had a daughter in the same class behaving in a similar manner. Apparently, "Mrs. X" was a demanding martinet, blithely nasty to the children that weren’t her "favorites", and spent a good deal of the afternoon on her phone, while the children did handouts. This was a woman with 25+ years "experience in the classroom"; so either the statement linking experience with competence is not true in all cases, or she was a *mind-bogglingly* bad teacher 25 years ago. The difference in my son’s behavior in his 2nd grade class is dramatic–he actually made a "best teacher ever" card to give to her on the third day of school! I’m hopeful that the damage her poor teaching style did to his attitude about school won’t be permanent. Unfortunately, one of our neighbors children has the same teacher this year, and has told us her son is showing the same kind of distress about school that ours did. This is not a coincidence, and I’m sure this teacher has had more than a fair share of complaints–however, unless she were to do something really outlandish, she’ll comfortably ride out her position into retirement while wearing the bulletproof vest of tenure. I am diametrically opposed to union busting, or strong arm tactics, and generally opposed to neo-liberalism. I like a good deal of the Chicago teachers’ platform, but I think better teacher evaluation standards are needed to identify good teachers before granting tenure. I think the current model & concept of tenure should be critiqued for it’s efficacy on the education system/ Neither of those points seem to be noteworthy in the "Respect and Develop the Professionals" summary paragraph of the CTU’s "Deserve" document. I’d like to see some combination of value-added testing, anonymous peer review, and parent feedback instituted to grade out teachers. Teachers would have to display consistently positive results before tenure were granted. Those that scored well enough to be tendered should be paid well, and those that are not fit to teach should be weeded out. Not everyone who studies education should be a teacher.Chicago Teachers Push Back Against Neoliberal Education Reform | The Nation
AlecMN: 
In the largest studies of using value added testing to judge teachers, there was a 30% margin of error from year to year on the reading and a 50% margin of error on the math because you just cannot control for all the variables in molding a human being.  Evaluate the hell out of me. Watch me teach every day. Pop in unannounced. Give me feed back. Give me criticism. Value Added tests can make me look like teacher of the year sometimes and struggling the next year. The surprise is, the year when I look good is when my job is easiest and the year I look struggling I may have had to work 10 times harder.  In addition, the way to success is for all of us to work together on al students. The idea that one teacher is solely responsible for one students achievement is counter productive. It isolates teachers at a time when we should be working together.Chicago Teachers Push Back Against Neoliberal Education Reform | The Nation
In response to Ari Berman’s “‘Nightmare’ Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Revisited in Court,” bigboy8836 described yet another example of a Pennsylvania citizen who lacks the required voter ID and, on Twitter, Matthew Ciszek pointed out how difficult it can be to obtain one. 
bigboy8836: 
My dad has been a quadriplegic for 30 years this October 2nd. Though he used to travel, drive etc, he is now 77 years old. He hasn’t driven in 30 years. He hasn’t traveled in about 10 years now. I’m his primary caregiver and his power of attorney. He hasn’t had an ID or even had the need for one in 10 years. There are a lot of elderly people who still vote, but do not leave their house or travel or drive and have no need for an ID. What movies are you seeing that you need an ID by the way?? Anyway…there are hundreds of thousands of people like my father in the United States. I’d guess it’s over a million. Soooo….believe it…..there are many people who do not have an ID but still vote. Here in Washington state my father and I just vote by mail…..every state should be vote by mail. Its easy.’Nightmare’ Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Revisited in Court | The Nation
@alexiahudson @thenation In Sharon, PA the closest PennDOT Office is 13 miles away in Mercer. Good luck getting there if you’re w/out a car.Matthew Ciszek
Finally, while Katha Pollitt ended her review of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina thankful her own would be spared having to read the book, Helena Handbasket’s may not be so lucky:  
Um, my vagina happens to be a voracious reader.The Nation Magazine