The First time Chicago Teachers Pushed My Button

Harold Witkov
The Chicago teachers strike is over and  Chicago schools are back in session.  The teachers are back to teaching the proverbial  "3 Rs" and the students are back trying to learn them.  But is the teaching of the traditional 3 Rs the only thing going on at CPS (Chicago Public Schools)?

For more than 30 years, I was an educational sales representative selling textbooks and workbooks to CPS. My educational sales experiences included me working with teachers and school administrators, people who, for the most part, were, and are, overwhelmingly liberal in their thinking. Unlike most of my customers, I, on the other hand, am a conservative.

My employer, a family owned schoolbooks publisher in business since the 1930's, is closing its doors and I, like so many other Americans living in Obama's economy, have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Perhaps a silver lining to my unemployed status is that I can now feel free to pen some of my "personally educating moments"  while in educational sales.

This is the third installment of memoirs of a textbook salesman.

Make no mistake, there are many dedicated people at CPS and, over the years, I got to meet numerous of them.  So if you are hoping for an earth shattering exposé about systematic CPS corruption you are going to be disappointed.

Instead, my memoirs are a record of some of my more enlightening personal experiences with CPS and are written from my conservative perspective.  I view them to be a compilation of, to steal an educational phrase, teachable moments - and that is why I am sharing them.

Before telling my "first time Chicago teachers pushed my button" story,  I would like to share a grade-school experience I had growing up in a Chicago suburb some 50 years ago.  It was election time and one of my classmates  asked the teacher, "Who are you voting for?" The teacher displayed some surprising anger and provided an answer that stayed with me all these years:

Let me make something clear. Under no circumstances should you ever ask anyone, "Who are you voting for?" Voting is a personal thing and is no one else's business. Not only is it wrong to ask someone "Who are you voting for?", it is even worse if the person you are asking is your teacher. Teachers have a moral responsibility to their students not to talk about who they are going to vote for."

My teacher never explained what that moral responsibility was but I think it is pretty self-evident. I believe back when I grew up teachers stuck to the curriculum and encouraged students to think for themselves.  I also believe if a teacher was telling her students her politics she would be reprimanded by the principal.

With this as my backdrop I now take you forward two decades in time.  The year is 1983 and the Chicago mayoral election is the hottest  topic of discussion in the local news.  For the first time ever in Chicago history, an African-American, Harold Washington, had an excellent chance of becoming Chicago's first black mayor.

Back in 1983, I was a Chicago resident and I planned on voting in the mayoral election. I thought Harold Washington's résumé for mayor to be weak, having spent jail time for not filing tax returns and having his law license once suspended. I would not be voting for him, but that was my own matter.

As a textbook salesman back in 1983 I only had a couple of years under my belt of calling on Chicago high schools.  As the April mayoral election date drew near, I was truly startled to find an epidemic of inner city Chicago teachers walking the halls, teaching their classes, and sitting in their faculty lounges, with one thing in common -- they were all wearing blue and white Harold Washington campaign buttons. 

I was dumbfounded. These teachers with their campaign buttons for Harold Washington were not only letting their students know who they were voting for, they were openly promoting their candidate. To make it worse, some of their students had already reached the voting age of 18. I asked myself, "Where is the principal so he can put a stop to this?" In many cases, he was wearing a Harold Washington campaign button too.

The Chicago teachers strike is over and  Chicago schools are back in session.  The teachers are back to teaching the proverbial  "3 Rs" and the students are back trying to learn them.  But is the teaching of the traditional 3 Rs the only thing going on at CPS (Chicago Public Schools)?

For more than 30 years, I was an educational sales representative selling textbooks and workbooks to CPS. My educational sales experiences included me working with teachers and school administrators, people who, for the most part, were, and are, overwhelmingly liberal in their thinking. Unlike most of my customers, I, on the other hand, am a conservative.

My employer, a family owned schoolbooks publisher in business since the 1930's, is closing its doors and I, like so many other Americans living in Obama's economy, have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Perhaps a silver lining to my unemployed status is that I can now feel free to pen some of my "personally educating moments"  while in educational sales.

This is the third installment of memoirs of a textbook salesman.

Make no mistake, there are many dedicated people at CPS and, over the years, I got to meet numerous of them.  So if you are hoping for an earth shattering exposé about systematic CPS corruption you are going to be disappointed.

Instead, my memoirs are a record of some of my more enlightening personal experiences with CPS and are written from my conservative perspective.  I view them to be a compilation of, to steal an educational phrase, teachable moments - and that is why I am sharing them.

Before telling my "first time Chicago teachers pushed my button" story,  I would like to share a grade-school experience I had growing up in a Chicago suburb some 50 years ago.  It was election time and one of my classmates  asked the teacher, "Who are you voting for?" The teacher displayed some surprising anger and provided an answer that stayed with me all these years:

Let me make something clear. Under no circumstances should you ever ask anyone, "Who are you voting for?" Voting is a personal thing and is no one else's business. Not only is it wrong to ask someone "Who are you voting for?", it is even worse if the person you are asking is your teacher. Teachers have a moral responsibility to their students not to talk about who they are going to vote for."

My teacher never explained what that moral responsibility was but I think it is pretty self-evident. I believe back when I grew up teachers stuck to the curriculum and encouraged students to think for themselves.  I also believe if a teacher was telling her students her politics she would be reprimanded by the principal.

With this as my backdrop I now take you forward two decades in time.  The year is 1983 and the Chicago mayoral election is the hottest  topic of discussion in the local news.  For the first time ever in Chicago history, an African-American, Harold Washington, had an excellent chance of becoming Chicago's first black mayor.

Back in 1983, I was a Chicago resident and I planned on voting in the mayoral election. I thought Harold Washington's résumé for mayor to be weak, having spent jail time for not filing tax returns and having his law license once suspended. I would not be voting for him, but that was my own matter.

As a textbook salesman back in 1983 I only had a couple of years under my belt of calling on Chicago high schools.  As the April mayoral election date drew near, I was truly startled to find an epidemic of inner city Chicago teachers walking the halls, teaching their classes, and sitting in their faculty lounges, with one thing in common -- they were all wearing blue and white Harold Washington campaign buttons. 

I was dumbfounded. These teachers with their campaign buttons for Harold Washington were not only letting their students know who they were voting for, they were openly promoting their candidate. To make it worse, some of their students had already reached the voting age of 18. I asked myself, "Where is the principal so he can put a stop to this?" In many cases, he was wearing a Harold Washington campaign button too.