The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
13 Points

Should teachers be allowed to strike?

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2013 Category: Education
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,948 times Debate No: 29247
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)




One of the Constitutional Rights that separates America from many other countries is our freedom of speech. Teachers, of all people, should be able to use these Constitutional rights for a good cause. Teachers use strikes as a method to voice their complaints to the public and the government. They are trying to improve America's already terrible enough public schools. Imagine how hard it is to teach or learn in a classroom that has 38 students, is 96 degrees, and has barely any supplies necessary for a decent school year. This is what many public school classrooms today are like. It is hard for teachers and students to do their jobs in this kind of environment. Teachers are striking for good, moral reasons that can help America have a better future with educated kids. If we can change America for the better by whatever means possible, why wouldn't we?


Thankyou to mdebate for offering this topic.

In this debate, I will demonstrate several things:

1) That the withdrawal of labor is not constitutionally protected speech
2) That teachers' strikes cause unacceptable harms to pupils for little or no gain
3) That the problem in American schools in not underfunding
4) That the actual reasons why teachers tend to strike in the U.S. are not nearly as noble as Pro seems to think.

Definition of 'right' as a noun [1]:


:qualities (as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval

:something to which one has a just claim: asa:the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled<votingrights><hisrightto decide>b(1):the interest that one has in a piece of property "often used in plural<mineralrights>(2)plural:the property interest possessed under law or custom and agreement in an intangible thing especially of a literary and artistic nature<filmrightsof the novel>

:something that one may properly claim as due<knowing the truth is herright>

In this debate, we will be talking about the second and third definitions.

Definition of 'strike':[2]

:to stop work in order to force an employer to comply with demands

Pro, as instigator and the one making a positive claim, has BoP.


Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for taking this debate. I am a middle school debater and this is a topic of ours, so I just anted some extra practice! By the way, anything in [brackets] is a source!

Teachers do so much for us. They work from early morning hours to late nights either teaching or planning their lessons for the next day. And, it's not easy being a public school teacher. Rooms have no air conditioning, teachers don't have necessary supplies, and there are 35-40 kids in one room to take care of. Many teachers don't only teach. They care for their students: lending them lunch money, helping them when they don't understand something, and trying to help kids in many aspects of life besides school. Teachers work so hard for our kids and truth is, they are underpaid for what they do. According to [] teachers are given an average wage of about $42,322 per year. The national average salary is $42,979. Teachers are a tiny bit under the national salary, along with [] surveyors, lodging managers, and interior designers. Teacher's annual salaries are LESS than a floral designer's. I have no doubt in my mind that teachers deserve more pay than the careers just mentioned.

I would now like to refute my opponent's points. Their last argument had no information. They basically defined the word 'right' and talked about what they will do. As for point 1, I am not talking about the withdrawal of labor. The topic pertains to striking, which is filed under the 1st amendment. The 1st amendment states: "Congress shall make no law"respecting"an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or"abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the"Government"for aredress"of grievances". Teacher's strikes are peaceful assemblies of people, which is protected by our rights to free speech, press, and expression [1st amendment, US Constitution]. The entire 1st point is irrelevant. For my opponent's second point, Chicago parent [Bonnie Kenaz-Mara] says that her kids continued to learn throughout the strikes. "Maybe they weren't learning about math, science, and English," the Chicago parent says, "but, they learned to stand up for what they believe in and what is best for themselves and others, to make a change." The students can devote the time off during the strike to pursuing other interests and activities and learning on their own. Also, the STRIKE DAYS ARE ADDED BACK on to the end of the school year. [Source: ChicagoTribune] Substitute teachers are generally brought in in the event of a strike to compensate for the teachers absence.

The opposition said the problem in American schools is not underfunding. I would like to point out that teachers aren't just striking for more money. A Chicago High School teacher, [Xian Barrett], who participated in the Chicago strikes reminds us what the real reason behind the strike was. "You wouldn"t want your kids in 96-degree classrooms. You wouldn"t want them without books or teachers for the first month of the year." Teachers strike for better classroom conditions. They also said the actual reasons why teachers strike aren't as noble as I think they are. 1st of all, I never said the reasons were noble. I said they were moral, which they are. Would you like to disagree with the good morality of having more beneficial school systems to both teachers and students?

Many teachers strikes have been successful. In 1968, Florida held a statewide strike that lasted a few days. [CNN]. The Chicago strike last summer was successful also. [WashingtonPost]. What the Chicago teachers wanted was to improve public schools. [WashingtonPost]. And, they received backing from many families and parents.

Many families, parents, and even students have marched and advocated with the teachers. [CNN] Why would they strike with teachers that only wanted higher wages? Teachers are striking for the good of public schools and many families are right there with them. I definitely would be.

****Thank you for reading that looong argument. I just wanted to remind you that since I am in a middle-school debate program, constructive criticism is encouraged!


OK, a few things before we start.

Firstly, I wouldn't have taken this debate if I'd known you were a Middle Schooler (I am a University debater). Nonetheless, now I have I don't want to forfeit, so I will attempt to do my best to lay out the argument for Con, while at the same time making this an enjoyable and educational experience for you.

On this site, first round is usually for acceptance only, and laying out the terms of the debate. We deal with things like who has burden of proof, what the definitions of the words in the motion mean, and so on. As you presented basic arguments in the first round, I likewise set out what the basic headings of my arguments -what I am going to try to prove - were going to be. I did not present elaborations deliberately - these were to be saved for this round, when the debate really begins.

Finally, it is not a point of contention that teachers do a difficult and valuable job. That I happily accept. i'm not arguing there should be no teachers or anything. Now onto the arguments.

1. The First Amendment is not relevant to the 'right' to strike.

I am unsure that Pro is clear on what 'to strike' means. I am not arguing that teachers should not have the right to speak out against any or every injustice they see as befalling them. Nor should they be prevented from assembling in order to speak thusly. But to strike is precisely to withdraw one's labor, as per the definition I offered in the last round from Merriam-Webster. It means to refuse to go to work, as per the terms of your contract, in order to exert leverage against your employer. If you have signed a legal and binding employment contract to provide education services to children, it is far from unreasonable for the government to expect you to turn up to the job as per that contract. Labor is not speech.

2. The harm to pupils.

Firstly, the example Pro cited was of one parent, who was clearly sympathetic to the aims of the strike. One parent's opinion is not proof of anything, and indeed, even she conceded that her kids were not learning about math, English or science on those days. Academic research has repeatedly [1][2] found that students' performance suffers during semesters when teachers' strikes occur. These students will never get those classroom days back, and therefore striking is unfair to them.

3. The problem in American schools is not underfunding.

Pro talks about overheated classrooms and outdated textbooks. Well, as shown here [3] the United States spends almost $2,000 per child more on schools than does Australia, and yet Australia achieves far better results in math, English and science tests. Does Australia not have textbooks? Pro asks me if I'm in favor of better school systems. Well, sure, but you've provided no causal link between teachers' strikes and a better school system whatsoever. Given the statistics we have available, why should we believe that more money means better schools? If money was the most important thing, the US would already have the best schools. It doesn't.

4. The actual reasons why teachers tend to strike in the U.S.

Pro points out that teachers are not just striking for more money. Maybe so, but it clearly isn't the case that they have never struck for more money. She asserts that 'What Chicago teachers wanted was to improve public schools.' I'm sure that's what they said they wanted. Why exactly should we believe them? Politicians say they want better schools too. What Chicago teachers were actually asking for in the 2012 strike was a 30% raise. [4] It was condemned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a liberal Democrat who is certainly no union-breaker. It is common sense that if a State or city is having to spend more on its workers' salaries, there will be less money for textbooks and school buildings, which are exactly what Pro seems to think are important. In many cases, reforms that are bitterly opposed by Teachers' Unions actually lead to saving teaching jobs and thus, better schools. Consider the case of the recent reforms by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. As the City Journal [5] notes,

"[Madison Schools Superintendent Dan] Nerad’s district has laid off no teachers at all, a pattern that has held in many of the state’s other large school districts. No teachers were laid off in Beloit and LaCrosse; Eau Claire saw a reduction of two teachers, while Racine and Wausau each laid off one. The Wauwatosa School District, which faced a $6.5 million shortfall, anticipated slashing 100 jobs—yet the new pension and health contributions saved them all."

Debate Round No. 2


mdebate forfeited this round.


Opponent forfeits.

Extend all arguments, vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by DudeWithoutTheE 8 years ago
Hmmm. Is that how it works in America? No wait, it definitely isn't. Reagan fired the striking Air Traffic Controllers precisely because their contracts had no-strike clauses. The teaching strike occurred mid-semester. Surely they couldn't have started the year if the teachers weren't under contract? My impression was that this debate was about the right of workers to refuse to work in protest vs the right of employers to fire employees if they don't show up. If you're not under contract, you're by definition not employed imho and it would be meaningless to say you were 'fired.'

Certainly under UK law (and I was figuring the word 'strike' had the same meaning in both jurisdictions), if you don't have a contract, you are not employed, therefore by definition can't strike. I don't know what you consider egregious breaches of contract, but the things unions in Europe tend to strike over are pay rises, job losses, disciplinary action against colleagues, or for/against changes in the law.

Literally everyone should have the right not to go to work if not under contract.

Legal definition here is:

(a) the cessation of work by a body of employed persons acting in combination, or
(b) a concerted refusal, or a refusal under a common understanding, of any number of employed persons to continue to work for an employer in consequence of a dispute.
Posted by bladerunner060 8 years ago
Too bad it's a forfeit.

DudeWithoutTheE, I'd like to point out that you have a misunderstanding of how a "strike" works when you say "It means to refuse to go to work, as per the terms of your contract..."

Strikes are generally only valid WHEN A CONTRACT HAS EXPIRED, or when the terms have been egregiously violated by the employer. Any other time, strikes are considered invalid; the point of the labor contract in the first place is to prevent striking.

Unfortunately, Pro failed both to point this out and completely in their obligations debatewise, but I thought it a point of order worth pointing out.
Posted by DudeWithoutTheE 8 years ago
Happy to take this. I haven't taken the conservative side of a debate yet, and I'm one of those who likes to debate for the sake of debating rather than to prove some kind of point.
Posted by bladerunner060 8 years ago
I'll tell ya in advance, Pro, that the 1st amendment argument is very principle, they could feel free to strike and then immediately be fired, but they're granted extra rights in that regard under the principle that they will only strike in approved circumstances; further, your stated title premise seems different than your acutal premise. However, I'll be watching this with interest.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by DoctorDeku 8 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 8 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: F.F. well done con
Vote Placed by Bull_Diesel 8 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Sorry Pro, forfeit is forfeit

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