NJ Governor Chris Christie Yelling At Teacher

Chris Christie and Why Teaching Intersects With Women’s Rights

Jose Vilson Jose 29 Comments

NJ Governor Chris Christie Yelling At Teacher

NJ Governor Chris Christie Yelling At Teacher

Normally, I write my short notes, but I’d like to dedicate some time to this issue with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s othering of a teacher this past weekend at a political rally of his. Most of the coverage around this event has centered on the tenor politicians have set in their quest to reform education. As Christie wags a finger at this woman, the crowd cheers, signaling a societal acknowledgment that politicians can lay waste to any courtesy towards anyone, and that democracy is overrated. Surely, dissenters get jeers at any rally, but this particular type of jeer further solidified the idea that teachers’ rights are aligned with women’s rights.

For those unaware, teaching has had the perception of “woman’s work” for the better part of the last century. Without workers’ rights and collective bargaining, some of the rights teachers have these days wouldn’t exist. Yet, it seems clear that teaching as a woman-dominated profession would get accosted by a patriarchal government. The facts are clear: 85% of K-12 teachers are women and 80% of our government officials are men. Even with a margin of error of 5% (give or take), Christie’s finger-waging of this teacher is not just symbolic of the attitudes against teachers, but women as a whole.

How the East Coast Governator gets away with this speaks volumes for why everyone needs to speak louder for women’s rights as a whole.

I don’t consider myself a feminist, per se. I’m still learning, and continue to learn as I grow. I just see how even my colleagues who say, “It’s not about her being a woman but a teacher” won’t acknowledge that police officers, firefighters, doctors, or any other male-dominated profession wouldn’t get similarly accosted in the public. Yes, the cuts abound, and to this day, even local hawks like Mayor Mike Bloomberg have suspended contract negotiations with his own battalions. Even he’s smart enough to speak around that subject without mentioning police directly.

When it comes to teachers, though, he, along with Christie and a host of others, proudly jump on the podium in the name of education reform. None of this counts for teacher appreciation, keeping the best teachers, attracting the best talent, racing to the top, or any of that malarkey. More importantly, none of this othering happens without society’s consent. Aside from Christie’s ego, gender plays a huge role here, and if you can’t see that, then perhaps you’re part of the problem, too.

Jose

*** photo c/o http://twitter.com/daveweigel ***

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 29

  1. Lisa M

    I did not think of it this way until I read your post. Does anyone believe he would have wagged his finger in a man’s face? No, he’s a bully, and just like bullies, he knows who to treat this way!

  2. Robin C

    Thank you for speaking…I hope your words might unclog some ears (and minds!) and garner that “teacher appreciation.” ^0^

  3. Kathie Wing Larsyn

    thank you for bringing attention to this issue, and the myriad of layers that it represents….this will make a lot of people think (i hope) and consider if they are a part of the problem, or the solution…..^0^

  4. Marla Kilfoyle

    Wow – spot on- Would he have done that to a hulking 6′ man? I think not! What a bully and thanks for looking at it from this angle!!

  5. Melinda

    I’ve felt for a long time that a lot of what’s going on regarding teaching, privatizing schools, etc., is because teachers are predominantly women, so we are an easy target. There is a lot of money given to schools by the government, and if the politicians could only get their hands on it… what better way than to bully a group of women!

  6. ConservativeWoman

    Idiots like yourself are why I left teaching. I now work as a marketing consultant for schools, and I bill double what most men do per hour. It’s called skill! Teaching IS a part-time, always has been and always will be. If you had my intellect, you would not be a teacher.

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    2. Barry

      If I had your intellect and your attitude people would just call me a smart obnoxious conceited jerk who gets paid well and needs an attitude adjustment. And they’d be right. I’m sure your departure from the classroom benefited those who would have been your students the most.

  7. Jeremie Lederman

    I appreciate the style and quality of the writing, but I have to take issue.

    The only way that people can accuse Christie of attacking teachers is to do so with willful deceit. There is no amount of evidence you can muster over the years of his recorded media alone that can incriminate Christie of this. He has said repeatedly, and his actions have shown repeatedly that the Unions and incompetent administrations are his target.

    You don’t mention that unions in N.J. regularly throw teachers out of a job to protect contracts and wages. You don’t mention that the FACTUAL data gathered from the schools show enormous mediocrity and languishing results.

    While you are certainly free to write however you like, I notice that nothing in the article addresses facts, arguments, data, or quality (aside from how many of each sex have education employment).

    Emotion and anecdote are an easy device.

    Regardless, even Christie’s sternest opponents know better, he’s not attacking teachers themselves. He has shown an awful lot of respect and support to help those teachers actually trying to deliver quality (not maintenance on their contract).

    besides, what about the children?

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  8. Mary

    Conservative Woman, I would merely have read the other comments and nodded in agreement, BUT FOR YOUR COMMENT. Perhaps you have intellect, surely you have the arrogance to match Christie’s, but clearly you have low self-esteem to assume your value is just your billable rate or your IQ. I went the opposite direction from yours. I too topped the IQ charts, went to the #1 rated public university in the world, studied engineering when there were only 5 undergrad women in the College of Engineering. I worked as a staff engineer for a corporation, then moved to a Big 8 firm. I had the salary and the perks; the view, the parking space, the admin staff. THEN I went into teaching, the hardest yet most rewarding job I ever had. I liken it to an air traffic controller’s job, managing 160 middle school math students a day, helping them safely move toward all they can be in their personal and work/professional lives. “Kids” come back to tell me what college they got into, what college they graduated from, what job they just got to earn for college. They bring their fiances, spouses, new babies to show off. They come back to let me know they made it safely out of their third deployment from Afghanistan. I am glad you have intellect and your marketing job, because you didn’t have the heart for teaching.

    1. msladydeborah

      Thank you for making this comment. I was on the way to making my own response but your comment pretty much covered what I wanted to say.

  9. Charese Rohny

    So well stated in such a beautifully succinct manner. From my vantage point as an attorney who advocates for women’s rights it appears obvious that what is happening to teachers in education reform is rooted in gender issues. Thank you for taking this opportunity Mr Vilson to share your wisdom. Now why aren’t you a feminist?! :-). Really it’s not a bad, radical thing.

  10. Jill

    Thank you! Valid points. However, since being a feminist simply means believing in equality for both genders, why can’t you admit you’re a feminist? It’s powerful and respectful. Get over the stigma attached to the word and admit you believe in gender equality- you’re a feminist! Be proud!

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  11. Cynthia

    A little bit dated, but still mostly true: “The Gender Politics of Education Reform.” Written when I first launched K12NN in January, 2011.

    Women who do paid and unpaid work in schools are both hindered from full political participation by time constraints since they pull a double (or triple, if they’re sandwich generation) shift. It’s why billionaires think we’re easy marks and why school board meetings held during the daytime won’t be able to pull work-outside-the-home moms/parents and teachers (working all day, thankyouverymuch) to speak up for their interests. These are big hurdles, but ones we must surmount.

    http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2011/01/06/the-gender-politics-of-education-reform/

  12. Wamike

    Your piece is well-written, but like most left-wing thought pieces you take an out of context photo and build on it as a premise. Here’s what I see. A politician is always struggling to keep their political rallies positive, so your premise that he sought out this poor female teacher and “jumped” her is silly. I see her in front of him, holding a sign that we cannot read, with her mouth open as he is speaking. I see the woman behind Christie openly laughing at your victim, suggesting that her tactic is transparent and failing in the moment. If she wanted a conversation she might let him finish. It appears she is provoking a confrontation, Christie is handling the situation (which I would want my governor to be able to do) and the unidentified photographer somehow manages to snap a shot as Christie is raising an index finger for emphasis. Somehow, the photographer happened to catch that magic microsecond in time. Do you think it might have been a set-up? Maybe? Possibly? She’s an instigator who failed in her attempt to dominate the Governor of New Jersey. The most telling detail is the moving mouth while Christie is talking. She’s not a victim, she’s a “crazy-girlfriend” who was trying to manufacture an out-of-context photograph so bloggers could write learned columns about the image rather than debate the actual conversation. Good job on that learned column, and I appreciate the opportunity to point out the obvious. Do we even know she’s a teacher?

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      Jose Vilson

      Please note: several people reached out to verify whether this person’s a teacher, and in fact she is. She’s been doing it for some time, and official correspondents reached out to her to see her side. Succinctly, here’s hers:

      http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2013/11/exclusive-govchristie-to-teacher-i-am.html

      As for your other points, I don’t consider myself left or right wing. That’s too limiting. I’m not a centrist by any means either. Thanks for your comment, still.

  13. Jeremie lederman

    I credit you with being far too intelligent to have missed both the context and facts behind these comments.

    The greed and self interest on display is neither vague nor implied. It’s a cancer in the administration of education and I would think that it’s existence supercedes partisanship.

    Skipping the problem to reframe the person calling out the problem is, at best, a debate tactic and does nothing to help the situation.

  14. Melanie Link Taylor

    I believe you are right. The finger-wagging rhetoric would not have been addressed toward a male teacher. Politics have deteriorated to bunches of obnoxious eighth graders using the lowest form of language possible–and that’s being hard on the eighth graders! This loss of eloquence is an insult to the public’s intelligence; this loss of commonality of interest and goals shows recidivism of democratic goals. I am so sad and distressed–growing up in the ‘6os and hearing JFK, MLK, RFK–how did we slide down to this?

    We must continue to help the students struggle for the real America. I like to have them listen to speeches on http://www.americanrhetoric.com/ a great source of original speeches. With the Gettysburg Address anniversary coming up 11/15, it is a great opportunity to listen, think, and discuss–for all us us.

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  16. Kate

    This is great — you are so very right — but I don’t understand why you would say that you “don’t consider [yourself] a feminist”. Why not? A feminist is “an advocate for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.” Do you not fall into that category? If more men would publicly commit to the label and call themselves feminists, it would diminish the harmful stigma associated with feminism.

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