The Department of History and Office of the President hosted the event for ISU. The title of the speech presented by Lewis was ““Defending Public Education: How Parents, Students, Educators and Communities Can Change the Stakes.”
Lewis is in her second term as the president of the Chicago Teachers Union and has taught in public education for 22 years. She was on the frontlines during the Chicago teacher’s strike in 2012.
The speech began with a nod to ISU and the work being done producing the most teachers in Illinois than any other institution. Lewis continued with an offer for people to ask questions and be collaborative on this issue.
“I am all about solution-driven issues especially when it comes to unionism,” Lewis said. “If you do not have solutions, it is because you have not solved the problem at hand.”
The problem a person hears about regarding public education deals with children in grades K-12. They are not thought of as people to be educated, but people to be trained. In school, they are taught to be prepared for college and career ready, but not educated on how to contextualize information, Lewis said.
When schools begin to lack funding, “the winners tell the losers to keep playing.” The state can shut a school down because they are low performing, but Lewis counters that those tests were created by those trying to maintain the status quo.
The institutions with special interests created standardized testing during the eugenics movement which is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population.
“This why we should fight to defend publicly funded public education,” Lewis said. “That is something worth defending. Education is beautiful.”
The speech even triggered a response from some students attending the event.
“I never heard the Teachers Union perspective very much,” Eileen Ehrlich, senior journalism major, said. “I thought that was really interesting to see the city actually cares about failing schools and to see how they really want them to progress.”
When Lewis finished speaking after 40 minutes, she began taking questions from the audience. One of the questions posed asked what ISU students looking to teach after graduation could do to make a difference.
“One thing I would tell students is to not be so hard on yourself,” Lewis said. “The best way to stay in the profession is to find thejoy in it.”