Labor Day Special – The Teacher Insurgency with Dr. Leo Casey

Jeanne A. Curley

Our final Best of Trending in Ed for the summer showcases a conversation with Dr. Leo Casey about his book, The Teacher Insurgency.

Mike welcomes Dr. Leo Casey, the Executive Director of the Albert Shanker Institute who has written a book called The Teacher Insurgency: A Strategic and Organizing Perspective. They begin with Leo’s upbringing by two New York City teachers, how he abandoned his dissertation to teach in Crown Heights, and how he began working with the union when his school shut down.

Leo then began to head the Albert Shanker Institute, a strategic think tank within the American Federation of Teachers which examines labor history, especially for teachers. Leo explains the origins of the 2018 and 2019 teacher strikes: the Janus case, post-2008 austerity, deprofessionalization, and movements like the Women’s March on Washington. Teachers saw both their compensation as well as their position in the classroom undergoing rapid decline.

The first teacher’s strikes were held in West Virginia, which had a history of the labor movement–both within education and beyond. From here the strikes spread, and ultimately the movement was successful in protecting teachers during COVID-19 times (in this context, MIke briefly mentions Leo’s article on Black Lives Matter and the NBA.)  

Leo notes his concern about both the early retirement of teachers and the paucity in the pipeline for new teachers. Leo also expresses optimism for the Biden-Harris administration, notably President Biden’s support of unions. Leo finishes up by discussing the discourses around how teachers see themselves, and the need for true civics teaching.

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