Are Teachers the “Bottom?”

I can’t say he’s got my vote, but I like Bernie. This morning, though, he has me stumped and he’s given me a question for all you SAGLRROILYBYGTH: when did teachers become “the bottom?”

As of right now, neither of the two big teachers’ unions have endorsed Bernie. However, according to his campaign office, teaching is the single biggest occupation among Bernie’s financial supporters, with more than 80,000 teacher donations to his campaign.

And now his campaign has released this video about West Virginia’s striking teachers. As one striker put it (:50),

Real change comes from the bottom up.

Another teacher agreed (1:51),

What Bernie Sanders represented to me and to many teachers is hope that working people can collectively come together and fight back.

To be clear, I fully support the striking teachers in West Virginia and elsewhere. I’m a union member and generally a teachers-union supporter and fan. That’s not the issue this morning.

Instead, I’m curious why Bernie and his fans seem to agree that teachers represent something besides white-collar professionals. After all, teachers usually have college degrees, sometimes even advanced degrees. Historically, too, teaching has been a traditional path into the middle class from people of working-class backgrounds.

So why do we hear this talk about bottoms and working classes?

  • Is it maybe because teachers feel like they are speaking for their working-class students?
  • Or maybe that teachers feel de-professionalized, smushed down into the working class?
  • Or are there other reasons for calling teachers “the bottom?”
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