Something important, perhaps even historic, is going on in America right now. Just like the Middle East is experiencing a seismic shift in its culture, so are we in ours. Well, actually there are always seismic shifts going on here; but this one is a little different. This one’s about teachers. You know, those under-paid civil servants who have for so long been paid so little trying to do so much that no one bothered to pay much attention.
Apparently that’s changing. Recently the media has swung a very intentional spotlight on how we get so much for doing so little and how state budgets are being relentlessly raped by our over-padded salaries and especially our over-valued pensions.
How exactly did we change from the image of caring, low-salaried civil servants to some politicians’ newest villain in the battle for saving America? One explanation: there are indeed some damn embarrassing examples of lousy teachers hiding behind tenure laws just long enough to reap fat, double-dipping pensions. However, that’s an embarrassment that can be equally attributed to many workers in the private sector as well; only their story isn’t as conveniently on the public record. The second explanation is more calculated: if today’s plutocrats, individually and corporately, are to avoid the righteous slash of the deficit hawks, it’s probably a good idea to find a spotlight to put on someone else.
Over a century before atomic weapons and global terrorism, H.G. Welles already spelled it out for us: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”
There isn’t a mayor or a governor who doesn’t say much the same thing, speech after speech, campaign after campaign. Just as likely, there isn’t a responsible parent who doesn’t agree. But now here’s where this latest seismic shift does a 180…! Instead of living up to the pledge to close the nation’s education gap with better schools and better teachers, suddenly it seems better to widen that gap by making schools and teachers the problem, not the solution.
Lets face it, for every bad teacher this new deficit crusade correctly spotlights, 10 better teachers are now hearing that their profession will probably remain poorly understood, poorly supported, and now poorly respected as well. Why this sudden public backlash…? Because suddenly about 10% of teacher ranks have been found giving too little in the classroom, and getting too much in their pensions.
That 10% is unacceptable. OK, so here’s the deal. That 10% should feel the wrath of the deficit hawks. However, at the very same time, so should that same 10% in every corporate office, Wall Street bank, lobbying group, and government operation in the land. In other words, isn’t it time every American in every field of endeavor agree that every one of us needs to accept our responsibility for how this latest seismic shift plays out? So lets confront our history together, throwing no stones we ourselves don’t deserve.
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