To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in keeping dissent alive and how musicians are translating today’s social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter has decided to launch a daily feature that highlights a protest song every day.
The Chicago Teachers Union concluded their strike against the corporate education policies being advanced by Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city of Chicago yesterday. Through their strike, they were able to force the Board of Education to offer a contract that includes: no merit pay scheme; six hundred additional positions primarily in art, music and physical education; 30% of teacher evaluations relying on student test scores (only); an anti-bullying clause prohibiting abusive and demeaning conduct by principals; a recall process for teachers requiring fifty percent of new hires to be from displaced pool of teachers fired from schools shut down by the city; text books to be distributed on Day One of school; $500,000 to go toward class size reduction; racial diversity in hiring; preserved assault leave benefit and established committee for hiring new special education teachers.
During the strike, Rebel Diaz, a hip-hop duo, composed of MC’s Rodstarz and MC/Producer G1, which first performed at an immigrant rights march in New York City in 2006, recorded a song in support of teachers on strike. Released on September 12, the song, “Chicago Teacher,” features this line from the chorus, “I learned to read and write from a Chicago teacher so I’m inspired by the fight for my Chicago teachers.”
The duo rhymes:
The teachers are tired/The students dumbfounded/The budgets getting cut/So classes are overcrowded/Streets full of violence/The blue code of silence/So I’m a keep rhyming til salaries start rising/The union’s uprising/Taking to the streets/The workers are united/So the mayor’s got beef
Later in the song, just after the duo laments the loss of art and music in education:
Now it’s different/They just teaching to the test/Forced by the feds or they losing that check/Too many children left behind/By this corporate assembly line/How they privatize/Education is a human right/And their kids going to be fine/They sending them to private schools/While ours get sent to prison or given job serving up fast food
The song is representative of the many profound issues that motivated the teachers to launch their historic strike and challenge the corporate agenda for education reform, which essentially amounts to an end to public education. It also highlights the issues of color and class at the center of the struggle, which many Americans were introduced to during the strike and which will continue to be a significant contributor to injustice and inequality in Chicago schools even though the teachers were able to force the city to offer a better contract.
The Dissenter will be putting one of these up every weekday morning. If you have suggestions for songs that should be featured or if you recorded a song you think should be featured, email email@example.com.