Slapping labels like “commie” or “socialist” on liberals is badly overdone, but plenty of Chicago teachers apparently wouldn’t mind. The Midwest Marxism Conference was held November 10 at Northwestern University and Chicago teachers were well represented.

“The event was teeming with teachers who spoke about the new found bond” between Socialism and teachers’ unions according to reports, and Chicago teachers were on the stage. Chicago Teachers Union VP Jesse Sharkey spoke at one breakout session and:

Becca Barnes, a Chicago Teachers Union teacher and organizer with Chicago Socialists, proclaimed at the beginning of the conference that ‘the struggle here in the United States has entered a new phase. Nowhere have we pointed the way forward more clearly than here in Chicago with the teachers union strike….’

It’s not entirely clear what all happened at the conference or how many Chicago teachers were there, though that may be because at least one critic who tried to get more details was thrown out and, not surprisingly, discussion and dissent were squelched.

If a good number of Chicago teachers support this kind of thing, that would be consistent with what you could see during the teachers’ strike in their comments in places like Huffington Post Chicago where many of them were speaking out.  Plenty of comments dripped with contempt for capitalism and the United States, and some made no attempt to hide a preference for Communism. At a labor rally a Chicago Teachers Union delegate said “the root of the problem is the way capitalism is destroying public schools,” earning her accolades in the Defense of Marxism blog.

Also odd is the level of hostility teachers regularly direct towards Penny Pritzker, zillionaire member of the Hyatt hotel founder’s family and Chicago Board of Education member.  Apparently, being an active Democrat and a key player on Obama’s election team is not far enough left.  (One segment of the conference was labeled “Obama, Imperialism and Capitalism.”) Nor is it enough that she and her family are extraordinarily philanthropic.  She’s still a vulture capitalist.  Why?  Because Hyatt hotels have been the beneficiaries of tax increment financing, which could have gone to schools instead.  And because she challenges her property tax assessments.  Never mind that all sane property owners in Cook County challenge the arbitrary assessments they get.  Doing so apparently likens you to Mr. Burns on the Simpsons.

I don’t know just how common these attitudes are among Chicago teachers, but there’s enough there to make you wonder how many Chicago kids are learning about the world through an extremely distorted prism.

I imply no criticism of Northwestern for hosting a Marxism conference.  Pulling together divergent ideas, even radical ones, is part of their job.  I took several classes on Marxism and Socialism there in college myself, even one from a Marxist.  That’s where I concluded that those systems were intellectually and functionally bankrupt from the start, and I continue to think that people who embrace those systems are detached from reality.

Elective college classes from Marxists are fine, but K through 12?  Sheesh.

UPDATE 11-29-12. Listen to this hillarious link of CTU VP Jesse Sharkey squirm when asked about the Midwest Marxism Conference.  He denies speaking there, as earlier reported, but you make the call.


Mark Glennon