The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

On behalf of teachers.

with 4 comments

Relative to: America’s Teachers, and the protests against Union busting.

I’ve been wanting to discuss the happenings in Wisconsin for a while now, but finding that I have little to add to the situation. I support unions, generally speaking. I don’t think they are always necessary, but I think these kinds of situations are the reason they are necessary. Walker, who is trying to bend on the unions of Wisconsin (not balance the budget), is hoping they will finally break. I don’t know what will happen. I really don’t know what will happen if the unions in Wisconsin (the home of the union) do break, and unions around the country follow suit.

What frustrates me about these kinds of conversations, disputes about the need for union benefits and pensions and what kind of incomes and retirements are protected by the unions is this: not all employment is created equal. Sure, maybe some jobs don’t need union protection. But what if you are an electrician for the state, or a firefighter, or cop, or any number of demanding jobs. Working a white-collar job at a desk, waiting for retirement at 65 (or 67 or 70?) is not the same as holding these jobs until 65. It simply is not the same. And that goes for teaching.

Why do so many have such a negative attitude about public school teachers? Of course their not all good; no workforce has all good workers. As Jon Stewart said in his opening last night, with bankers its just a few bad apples, but with teachers, the whole lot are greedy animals. Really, I don’t understand how someone can send their child to a public school with all the other children for the day, then spend the night complaining about how good teachers have it. It’s mind boggling. The new argument is that teachers are not poor, they are solidly middle class. OK. So we can take money from the middle class now without remorse while¬†denigrating the individuals who are responsible for the education of our youth as greedy SOBs just trying to get rich while not teaching kids? Or is it just that all the rich talking heads send their kids to private school, and do not know what the situation really is? Teaching is hard work, teaching your kids, well that’s even harder .

Regardless, here is Jon Stewart in a later segment, on behalf of the teachers.

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Written by Christopher ZF

March 1, 2011 at 11:12

4 Responses

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  1. I generally agree with your assessment. Most teachers are hard working and even if not the best (by the rule, not all teachers can be the best) they do a decent job working with students.

    The problem with the teacher unions is that they fight tooth and nail for all their employees, particularly they the ones at the bottom. The unions work for what is best for the average teacher (not the best teachers) and want to reward those who hang around the longest (not the best teachers) no matter the quality. Crappy teachers should be fired and replaced by the new teachers who come out every year. Unions don’t allow school districts to do this.

    njd

    March 1, 2011 at 11:27

  2. I am glad to hear your general agreement, njd, since the idea of jobs not being created equal was how you put this idea in one of our conversations. I’ve thought a lot about that statement since you said it to me, and find that it is at the heart of a lot of the economic and social issues this country has.

    Further, I agree with most of your sentiments. The last hired first fired notion of union teachers is unfortunate, and the difficulty of getting rid of bad teachers who achieve tenure is a major problem.
    But I strongly think that this is not a solution to that problem. That is a problem that unions have to handle (absolutely have to handle). Taking away collective bargaining rights doesn’t solve the problem.
    Also, it’s important to remember that everything that unions provide public employees is passed by the legislature, and not just whipped out of thin air by union organizers.

    czfinke

    March 1, 2011 at 21:53

  3. We haven’t outsourced teachers yet, but once the unions are out of the way, it wouldn’t be a leap to imagine classrooms with lecturers skyping in from overseas. A particularly dystopic version might include monitors/guards and one teacher skyping with hundreds of classrooms at once. Once the unions are out of the way, what’s to stop it? After all, it’s not that far away from online “universities” and the sort of state-wide education system that Pawlenty has supported, wherein traditional campuses are all but obliterated, libraries closed, and faculty laid off.

    Of course, I don’t think that’s where we’re headed. I do think that the WI situation is far more about politics and the funding of them, rather than about state budgets or unions. The New Yorker recently tied Walker’s attack to the Citizens United decision; empowered by the promise of corporate money filling Republican ledgers, Walker is directly undermining a public institution that is historically and financially tied to left-hand side of the political spectrum. Truth be told, teachers’ unions often act as unofficial grass roots programs from the Democrats. So it makes sense that this isn’t the first time that Republicans have dreamed of destroying teachers’ unions.

    To me, it’s a brash political move by the Republicans that will probably work in the short term. In the long term, I can only hope that it will bring attention to the plight of overworked and underpaid public school teachers.

    LBJ

    March 3, 2011 at 23:16

  4. Adding an largely unrelated comment: in the last two years, I’d have two different friends and two different schools quit teaching elementary school because they were physically abused by the students. I have a third friend who did not quit, but told me that she chose not to get pregnant because the was so often punched or kicked or hit with objects in the stomach or abdomen by her elementary-aged students.

    Granted, these are atypical horror stories. But I think that they speak to the systemic, socio-economic problems that occur alongside problems like tenured teachers coasting until retirement.

    LBJ

    March 3, 2011 at 23:26


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