Anybody who has followed the career of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knows that he has an anger management issue when it comes to teachers and their unions. The antipathy was evident on Sunday, when he was asked by CNN host Jake Tapper who deserves to be punched in the face. Christie responded, “Oh, the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.”
Christie was referring to the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union, which endorsed Clinton last month, but he has over the years made numerous snarling remarks about teachers unions and implemented policies disliked by teachers.
Here is a response to Christie’s latest outburst from Russ Walsh, coordinator of college reading at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. Walsh has had a 45-year-long career as a classroom teacher, reading specialist and curriculum director in schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He blogs on literacy instruction and issues related to public education at Russ on Reading.
By Russ Walsh
In case you missed it, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, candidate for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, declared Sunday on CNN that teachers unions need a “punch in the face.” Faced with low numbers in the polls and with being out-bullied by Donald Trump, Christie has decided to come out swinging — at teachers.
Of course the teachers union has no literal face, and the leaders of both major teachers unions, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association are women. I don’t think even a Republican candidate for president could get away with punching a woman in the face. Belittling them, yes. Berating them, yes. Taking away the choice of what they do with their bodies, yes. But not striking a woman, especially with a Hillary running on the Democratic side.
So, taking all this into consideration, I would like to step up and offer Christie my face to punch.
I am well qualified for the job. I have been a public school teacher and administrator for 45 years. I have been the president and the chief negotiator of my local teachers union. I have been sharply critical of Christie’s education policies on my blog. I deserve that punch in the face. I have earned it. Not only that, I live just a stone’s throw from the State House in Trenton, so I could meet the governor there at any time, if he ever happens to get back to New Jersey.
I am sure it would give Christie a boost in the polls and solidify his standing as a violent, bullying looney worthy of Republican voter support. It might even be enough to get him on the stage at one of the primary debates, where he could punch Wolf Blitzer in the face and garner even more support.
Better yet, forget the debate and let Trump and Christie duke it out in a steel-cage wrestling match.
No doubt Christie’s spin doctors will be out today declaring that he has no animus toward teachers, just teachers unions. Christie, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo and others seem to forget that a teachers union is made up of teachers and that while individual teachers may not agree with every action of their unions, those unions represent the desires and aspirations of millions of hard-working teachers across the country — imperfectly perhaps, but emphatically for the better of teachers and children and public education overall.
When teacher unions fight for better working conditions for teachers, they are also working for better learning conditions for children. When unions fight for job protections for teachers, they are also working to ensure that children have access to the best knowledge and the best instructional strategies available, unfettered by flavor-of-the-day ideology. When teacher unions fight for reasonable pay, they are fighting to attract high-quality candidates to the profession.
What has Christie’s teacher-bashing and vitriol against unions, his stripping of job protections, his attacks on pensions done for the children of New Jersey? How have his repeated attacks on teacher unions improved education for the children of New Jersey? How has his hiring of political hacks to bring unpopular education policies to the impoverished cities of New Jersey helped schoolchildren?
The answer is, of course, not at all. The children of New Jersey are worse off educationally than they were when Christie took office. And yet, those teachers he loves to hate keep soldiering on, doing their best in the face of intolerable and deteriorating conditions to provide a good education for New Jersey’s children.
If Christie wants to punch the teachers unions in the face, he needs to realize that he is punching every teacher in the face. He is punching each and every dedicated teacher who has been working to improve the lives of children for decades before Christie discovered that bashing teachers is a winning campaign strategy.
So, Governor Christie, here is my face. Take your best shot. I won’t hit back. I will just pick myself up, dust myself off and go back to being the best teacher I can be. To paraphrase Nathan Hale, “I regret that I have only one face to give for my profession.”