Reporting on Teachers Unions Has Been a Long Story. This Is the Last Page

Antonucci: Thanks to you, my readers. All of you have made my long career, and now, happy retirement, possible.

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I won’t bury the lede — I’m retiring, and this is my final column.

I took the long way around to get to this work. I was an animated film-maker …

Cinemagic magazine, 1980

… and a sheet metal worker and member of Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. I then spent almost eight years in the Air Force as a C-130 navigator.

To illustrate just how much technology has advanced since then, that box in the upper right corner of the photo contains a sextant, which was my primary means of navigating over water.

After leaving the service, I got my master’s in international affairs and began a freelance career as a military historian.

I took work as a newsletter editor, back when the internet was a rumor, personal computers only did one thing at a time, and “cut and paste” meant scissors and glue.

My first article about a teachers union was published almost 30 years ago. For me, it was just another story, along with others I had written about California’s recycling program, or weird news I compiled and labeled “the outpost of the odd.”

But readers responded to the union story, so I wrote more, culminating in a 1994 long-form analysis of the California Teachers Association for the Golden State Center for Policy Studies. I called it “The Shadow Legislature.”

Three decades later, that’s still an accurate title.

Obviously, many things have changed in public education. When I started writing, charter schools were just a fledgling experiment and school choice an impossibility.

Unfortunately, many other things are almost exactly the same. I recently came across this 1995 story in The American Prospect written by Peter Schrag. It was about outcome-based education, and if you change some of the acronyms around and update the references, it could have been written last week.

Schrag described issues of textbook censorship, social engineering, performance-based assessments, phonics versus whole language and more. Then there is this paragraph:

“It’s striking how quickly our struggles about curriculum ideas escalate into quasi-religious controversies over social or moral absolutes. The right sees a conspiracy by the federal government and its secular humanist legions to strip parents of control over their children and inculcate them with relativistic values, witchcraft and satanism. The left looks at every parent who walks into a principal’s office complaining about a book or a school assignment as a tool of religious fanatics.”

See our full archive of Mike Antonucci’s Union Report

Schools are a political battleground, because everywhere is a political battleground. We can wish for things to be different, but we have to deal with the realities. My only goal for the past 30 years was to tell you the stories the teachers unions won’t. That’s all.

I couldn’t possibly list and thank all the folks who helped and supported me along the way. Some of them, on both sides of the divide, probably wouldn’t want to be mentioned by name anyway. But I do want to single out the good people, past and present, at this publication, The 74. For the past seven years, they have been patient, kind and invaluable in making this column much better than it otherwise would have been. So thank you, Romy, Steve, Bev and the entire crew. I wish you much future success in your continuing mission to challenge the status quo.

Finally, thanks to you, my readers. All of you have made my long career, and now, happy retirement, possible.

God bless you all.

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