Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Teachers, what are they good for?

“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. . . . Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense.”

Wanna take a shot at who said that? Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute. Did you guess Barack Obama? Wrong. Franklin Roosevelt? Nope. John Kennedy? Nice try.

No, the above quote is from Mr. Sam Seaborn, otherwise known as Rob Lowe on The West Wing.

The amount of times I have to reference this show when trying to come up with an example of how I wished politicians acted and spoke increases every year, and becomes more frustrating each time. But this one hits a little closer to home because my wife is a teacher.

In the recent attacks on public workers in states across the country, teachers seem to bearing the brunt of the abuse. And, thanks to the lazy and/or corporate media (I vacillate back and forth which it is each day), any real representation of what teachers face in 21st century America is absent from the discussion. It doesn’t matter that the governor of Wisconsin sought fit to give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, both of which donated heavily to his campaign, while at the same time calling for the elimination of collective bargaining with the intent on gutting wages and benefits of public sector workers.

Now, some of those attacking teachers would have you believe that teaching is a cake walk. See, teachers get their summers off, and barely work eight hours a day, and are basically just high paid baby sitters, which is funny, because the turnover rate for teachers is this: 50% quit within the first five years.

Let that sink in: 50% in the first five years. Because it’s easy? Because it’s well paid? Hell, the military doesn’t even hit 15% of wash-outs. So what is this really about, this right wing assault on teachers and public sector workers?

Well, obviously, unions. The right wing hates unions. The idea that parasitic “workers” have any rights disgusts them to no end, which is why Ayn Rand is a hero to so many of them, regardless of the fact that her economic policies are proven failures.

The second, less obvious reason, is that the right despises the very concept of “public.” In their demented world, everything is privatized and unregulated, left to the “market” to magically manage. Police departments? Private. Say hello to your friendly, neighborhood Blackwater, excuse me, XE Services LLC, security force. Never mind the fact that they are mass murders, this is about business. And if there is one truism in conservative America, BP and Transocean ignore safety regulations and blow up their workers without a single criminal charge, but try the same thing as an individual citizen. Do not pass Go, report directly to Jail, owned and operated by Wackenhut for a nice profit.

You might have guessed that I don’t support unregulated capitalism, total privatization and various other wet dreams of the right, and you’d be… right. To which I’ll end with two thoughts, one short, one long.

There isn’t a single Fortune 500 CEO or Blackwater mercenary that is doing a job that is 1/100th as important of that of teacher. No one will look back and fondly remember your name the way that I look back on my high school English and Newspaper teacher Mr. May who taught me to explore my interest in writing, even when it got me in trouble with my fellow students for speaking my mind in the high school paper, and ultimately helped me decided to pursue journalism in college.

Like Sam said above, teachers should make six-figures, and schools should be palaces. And those who don’t believe that betray their true feelings about the importance of education, knowledge, free thought, reason and fact.

Second, for any right wing/conservative/tea bagger trolls who may stumble upon this, I leave you with this.

In other words, you are, always have been, and always will be, on the wrong side of history. Enjoy.