Back to school #2: education unions should create multifaceted public education "meeting halls" comparable to AIA chapter "architecture centers"
In talking with a friend who is a teacher and had been active in her teacher's union, we got to talking about "labor" and "management" and the difficulty of engaging "the community" on education matters in a neutral setting.
While depending on how it would be organized it could be neutral or not, I came up with an idea for teacher's unions to create multi-faceted "community education centers" modelled after the "architecture centers" that have been set up in many US cities as "chapter houses" for the local affiliate of the American Institute of Architects.
Review by Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer.
Typically these centers have exhibit halls, meeting rooms for lectures and presentations, and a bookstore, as well as chapter offices, sometimes a library, etc.
Other examples of multi-faceted centers with some of these functions are the Red Emmas Bookstore and Cafe in Baltimore, the way that Teaching for Change had run the bookstore in Busboys & Poets, a cafe with meeting/presentation space (now the book operation is run by a local bookstore), the Book Table, a wild "bookstore" in Logan, Utah that has a large bookstore with a big toy section too, a big section for teachers (a "teacher store"), a large musical instrument sales and rental operati, and art and craft supplies, and the old Provisions Library, which when it was in DC, was a membership library with a focused collection on progressive topics.
I was thinking local teacher's unions could set up similar kinds of centers, with exhibit and meeting areas, and a regular program of lectures and meetings on education topics, complemented by:
- cafe (which could be the face of a culinary teaching program)
- teacher store
- retail book store focused on education, children, and family topics with the depth and creativity of the range of books carried by the former Teaching for Change operation or Red Emmas
- lending library and reading room for "members"
- educational toy store
- an ATM sponsored by a teachers credit union
- classrooms suitable for professional education/continuing education instruction
- space for organizations active on education related issues
The idea is creating a multi-function “union hall/mixed use space” supporting K-12 education engagement between teachers, stakeholders, and citizens, as a focal point for teacher and community organizing on local educational matters—a place to put forward and draw attention to the union position (which hopefully would be pro-education, not merely pro-teacher), but also to be able to discuss community education matters in an engaged, thoughtful fashion.
I guess this has been on my mind for a long time because of how the DC teachers union has been so bad at articulating a position on educational improvement counter to the narrative put out by Michelle Rhee, and the lack of a space for a community to organize around education topics and issues.
- Union Halls. Many unions have offices/meeting halls. Typically there is not public access. No programming focused on communicating the union/profession message to the broader public. Police union “lodges” often have bars.
- Social halls/fraternal organizations. Used to be ethnic specific, like the German American Society. The tradition continues through “fraternal organizations” like the Elks and Moose, which have “private bars and function halls”. Sometime these facilities are open to the public, especially in the face of membership declines and the need to raise money to maintain owned buildings.
- American Legion/VFW membership halls. For people with military ties. Often have bars, and limited public access.
- Art museum libraries. Some art museums have libraries and reading rooms with special access for members. Phillips Gallery in DC has such a program.
- Community Writing Center, Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City. The community college has a writing assistance program targeting youth and adults who are not SLCC students, in space on the SLC Central Library campus.
- Mestizo Coffeehouse and Gallery, Salt Lake City. This nonprofit coffeehouse and art gallery also serves as a presentation space, and offers free use of meeting spaces to community nonprofits.
- Nonprofit Centers Network. This is an organization that links nonprofit co-location spaces across the US.