Teaching the Wrong Lesson

No one,” said former President Calvin Coolidge, “has the right to strike against the public welfare.” That sage dictum was applied to the air traffic controllers by former President Ronald Reagan. And it applies no less to the 240 striking New Jersey teachers– outraged over a sizable hike in their health care premiums — who were arrested for violating a back-to-work order.

The Middletown Township, NJ, teachers, who are no longer in jail, seemed to hail each other heroically upon their release. Maybe others felt similarly, but hopefully not.

Striking is, of course, a legitimate, albeit last-resort, measure in labor-management disputes. It represents leverage. Against a manufacturing plant or a newspaper or a clothing store.

But not against, for example, hospitals; police, fire and sanitation departments; or schools. Because the strike, in effect, is against those in need — patients, vulnerable homeowners, students.

The public, especially our children, shouldn’t be hostage to a collective bargaining process gone awry in bad faith and ill tempers. There is nothing “principled” — let alone heroic — in “standing up” for your rights at the expense of responsibilities to others. No number of impassioned, self-serving speeches changes that.

The real harm, however, is not in the two weeks of school that students missed. It’s the two weeks’ worth of cynicism and selfishness they witnessed and absorbed.Ultimately, a two-week hiatus from academics can be overcome. The same can’t be said for a two-week lesson in perverted principles and hypocrisy.

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