Research Paper Proposal: Evolution of Teacher’s Unions (2013)

Posted on

Research Question: How is Margaret Haley’s vision of an ideal teachers union in 1904 challenged or supported by teacher’s union activists around the turn of the 21st century?

Relevance: Teacher’s Unions can be one of the most powerful voices in terms of educational politics when operated with efficience. Today, teacher’s unions are receiving a huge part of the blame in the failure of America’s past educational reformation attempts. For me, studying the history of teachers unions, specifically Margaret Nolan’s utopian teacher unions dating all the way back to 1904, and how unions today compare and contrast with her vision would give me a deeper insight at the rights of a student and what the word “education” entails. I woud like to first see if it is accurate to say that unions today are a prohibitor of substantial educational reformation. From there, I will see how one woman’s idea ties with the modern vision of what a teacher union is to stand for. I am curious to see how Margaret Haley’s (ahead of her time) view of what unions should be has evolved to the sense of the most modern vision, the “social justice union”.

I plan to focus on the years between and including 1904-1999, and even touch on today and perhaps the future.

Research Strategy: After speaking with you, I headed to the library plan this whole thing out. Already having two articles from in-class reading was a big kickstart. The same can be said for the copy of Citizen Teacher you showed me, along with the book on unions that you kindly offered. In addition, I found Haley’s autobiography, which I thought could also offer a good understanding of the woman she was. There was another book she wrote that I found while looking for this one that I plan to search through too. If I find that there is a certain aspect of unions that my research may lean towards, I will consider adding and removing select sources.

Primary Sources:

Besieged: School Boards and the Future of Education Politics. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press, 2005. Print.

Haley, Margaret. The Gardener Mind. New Haven: Yale university press, 1937. Print. The Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Haley, Margaret. “Why Teachers Should Organize.” In National Association of Education. Journal of Addresses and Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting (St. Louis), 145–152. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904.

Haley, Margaret A. Battleground: The Autobiography of Margaret A. Haley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982. Print.

Peterson, Bob. “Survival and Justice: Rethinking Teacher Union Strategy.” InTransforming Teachers Unions, 11–19. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 1999.

Published by


I chose this topic because I’m interested to see how Margaret Haley's vision of teachers unions in 1904 compare and contrast with the ideas of unionists today, because many of her concerns seem to still resonate. It’s amazing that its veracity transcends a time-span of well over 100 years.

3 thoughts on “Research Paper Proposal: Evolution of Teacher’s Unions (2013)”

  1. We’ve already discussed your research topic, and here’s some more feedback to help you fine-tune your proposal to fit the Ed 300 guidelines and expectations. Your current research question asks: “How is Margaret Haley’s vision of an ideal teachers union in 1904 challenged or supported by teacher’s union activists around the turn of the 21st century?”

    First, it’s not clear to me why you inserted “ideal” for Haley in 1904 (and describe it as “utopian” later in your proposal), though did not include parallel wording for activists in more recent years. As you read further on this topic, think carefully about whether this description fits Haley (or is an assumption you’re bringing into your analysis), and whether you’re making relevant comparisons between utopian vs. pragmatic union activists across different time periods.

    Second, an alternative way to frame your RQ might be to focus on Haley in her own times, then see whether her “vision” lives on today. For example: “How did Margaret Haley define teacher unionism in the early 1900s, and do contemporary teacher union activists embrace her name and language, or distance themselves from it?” This also would give you a reasonable justification for why you’re comparing one person (Haley) in 1904 versus many different unionists today.

    Third, your proposal suggests that you will “focus on the years between and including 1904-1999, and even touch on today and perhaps the future.” For an Ed 300 essay, I recommend that you focus solely on Haley in 1904 versus contemporary union activists (using anyone between 1999-today). You simply do not have time to adequately cover teacher unionism during the ninety years in between. Also, the Ed 300 guidelines discourage students from writing about the future, since there are no source materials to support futuristic arguments.

    As we discussed, since your essay explores a topic that was introduced in class, it’s important to make sure that you incorporate substantive readings beyond those listed in the syllabus. For the early period, Haley’s autobiography is a good start, as is Kate Rousmaniere’s book, Citizen Teacher (if the Trinity Library does not have a copy, you may ask to borrow mine). Think carefully about what you’re going to do with the later period. Also, think creatively: does Haley’s name frequently show up in full-text databases, speeches, writings by today’s unionists? Do they embrace Haley’s vision — or distance themselves from it — or revise it for a new context?

    PS: Here’s one small but important detail for writing about this topic. While some style guides recommend spelling it this way:
    the teachers’ union
    and other guides recommend spelling it this way:
    the teachers union
    Do NOT spell it this way (which implies the union is only for one teacher):
    teacher’s union
    See more at

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jack,
    I have changed the teachers unions so that they appear politically correct, as well as removed the words ideal and utopian, for I realized they were more opinions of mine if anything.
    I tried to restructure my question so it sounded like this:
    What is Margaret Haley’s vision of teachers unions in 1904, and how is it challenged or supported by teachers union activists around the turn of the 21st century?

    This I hope will allow me to focus specifically on Haley and what she believes in, and then hop over to contemporary union activists and see how it is their views compare and contrast to what she had imagined almost 100 years prior.

    Let me know if these improvements are not actually improvements at all please.

Comments are closed.