IS TEACHING LABOR?
A labor union for teachers is "novum organum" if ever the sun shone on anything new. We read that the teachers are rushing to affiliate themselves with this branch of the Federation of Labor; that "teachers in and about Boston, including professors at Harvard University", organized the "Greater Boston Federation of Teachers" whose purpose is to fix a minimum salary and procure adequate retirement laws.
Under these conditions, certain classes now in the University may live to receive notices from "U4" stating that on and after a given date no lecture will be held until further notice owing to a sympathetic strike called by the faculty favoring the Boiler-makers Union. Such a possibility recalls those medieval days when a professor might find a notice in his lecture room stating that the students refused to attend or reimburse the dominus until he agreed to certain terms. It has taken almost a millennium to turn the tables, yet today we face the fact.
The movement claims for its foundation the following facts: first, the teaching profession is notoriously underpaid. The life of the late Carleton Parker offers a classic example of the way an adequate salary will increase the productivity of a teacher. Second, the wretchedly weak administration of Boards of Education render good pedagogy almost impossible. However this concerns primarily the public school system and does not touch Harvard.
The third element which deserves consideration is the impetus which this action will give to labor organizations. The prestige which the addition of the nation's educators will give the Federation of Labor is not to be ignored. It is a significant fact that that organization is pushing this movement to the limit. But unless our professors see an advantage in refusing to read a book or give a lecture whenever the Federation of labor chooses to call a general strike, it is difficult to see how the profession itself will gain from such an alliance. A federation of teachers unassociated with labor organizations ought to be able to reach their goal without encountering the real dangers which would attend such an association.
There can be no doubt that the evils which a union between federations of laborers and teachers hopes to remedy are vital, yet the proposed cure would not be effective. The cause for which they stand is sufficient in itself, and does not need the backing of engineers and bricklayers to bring it to the attention of university governors or to quicken the efforts they are already making.