Andy Gussert said, “Thank you Scott Walker! If we were given a million dollars, there is no way we could have taught so many kids about solidarity, labor organizing, and the power of the people when they unite”.
The other day we brought the children to our third day of the protests in Madison Wisconsin (the 5th day of the protests). The children did not have school, and we decided that they should, as the chants have stated, see what “democracy looks like.” If there was ever a moment to use to teach our children about the power of the people and about civics, this was it.
We explained a little bit to the children about the way that bills are introduced and passed through various houses until they can be accepted into law. We also discussed unions and the reason that unions are important: fair wages, decent work weeks, weekends, child labor, and benefits for work. We talked about how many people (including Martin Luther King Jr) worked very hard to get labor laws and unions into place. We also explained what the Governor wanted to do — removing the rights to bargain through a union. Of course, all of this was in the most simplest of terms. We explained that the protests were not about the employees wanting more money or better benefits, in fact they were willing to give up some of that. What they wanted were their rights to a union. This is where there was disagreement. The Governor refuses to negotiate any of that. He didn’t want them to give up money. He wanted them to give up the Union power.
So the kids had a very basic understanding of what they were going to see. What they did see was shocking, even to them. They saw 40,000 people peacefully gathering in protest. They saw people singing together and voicing their opinion. They heard chants of “power to the people” and “this is what democracy looks like.” They saw people of all ages and of all walks of life: teachers, nurses, farmers, police, firefighters, students, and others stand together and proclaim their desire for rights. The kids stood next to one another, smiling and taking in the energy of the event.
We drove home and discussed the events. They saw what democracy looks like. The participated in the opportunity to speak for their rights and the rights of others. The desire to learn more. This was education.