Usually, folks get scared on Halloween from trick or treaters or from watching the movie Halloween (the night HE came home). Yep, nothing like a good horror movie made in the great city of LA to give you a good scare on Halloween. Ah Los Angeles: home of the Governator, the people who give us trash TV, and the birthplace of Howard Jarvis and Proposition 13 (which did more than anything else to kill the notion that California had the best education system in the country). Also the former home of a guy who just walked away from teaching-and blames teachers for this.
Ah Potomac, MD: In my home county of Montgomery County (I didn’t grow up in Potomac and don’t live there now). The region of the county more responsible than any other for the county’s continuing reputation as a yuppie, elitist, mecca. The reason why non-Montgomery County Marylanders hate Mont. County. Seriously, ask someone in the swing (and voter-rich) county of Baltimore County (outside Baltimore City) what they think of Montgomery County and you might hear more expleitives than you would at a Richard Pryor concert.
Not that I blame the good people of Baltimore County for this. With elitism like this former LA resident coming from Potomac, I’m ready to grow a 70s era fro and say things most folks don’t hear in church. But unlike Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, I’m willing to restrain myself.
What has me hot? This “editorial” from a guy who walked away from the children of LA to live in rich cushy Potomac. As a teacher I think I owe the parents on this site a response to such right-wing baloney.
First the notion that teachers “vehemently reject performance-based pay.” Actually buddy, it’s called a “union contract” where the more experienced you are and the longer you work at a job the more money you make. It even happens at nonunion shops (sometimes). Even tenured teachers, if they screw up really badly- can be fired.
Second, “teachers produce nothing that can be financially measured in our capitalist society.” Hmmmm, so that well-educated workforce we’ve been churning out all these years that get good jobs in business, finanace, technology, law, etc. just kinda came from nowhere? They just fell out of the sky like Hurricane Katrina? The contributions an educated workforce makes to society cannot be financially measured in our capitalist society? Does this guy really think our ecojnomy would be growing much at all if we as a society were not reaching higher levels of education?
Anyway, according to the Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States 2004-2005, Table No. 212- the proportion of adults without high school diplomas has declined from 59% in 1960 to 15% in 2003. Meanwhile, the proportion of adults with college diplomas has risen from 8% in 1960 to 27% in 2003. No we teachers are not solely responsible for this growth in educated folks, but don’t you think teachers had something to do with it?
Third, the crazy notion that “teachers unions refuse to allow student test scores on those district-generated assessments to be used to evaluate one’s teaching ability.” Funny, my first year of teaching I taught a government class of 18 kids who were required to take a High School Assessments test for graduation. Lest you think we don’t challenge our kids in MD. -kids are required to pass these tests in order to graduate. Of the 18 kids (all non-white) that I taught, 13 passed the government test on their first try- a fact that was not lost on my evaluators. So much for the notion that racial minorities can’t pass standardized tests.
Finally, the criminally stupid notion that teachers have “Six-hour work days, 16 weeks of vacation a year plus 10 “personal” days and all holidays off, the ability to wear jeans and T-shirts to work, the lack of outside interference, the opportunity to have an impact upon impressionable youths, etc. – these perks are the hallmarks of teaching.” Most teachers are at work anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour before school starts, and are usually doing work related activities for at least and hour (and usually more) after school. Sounds like a more than 8 hour day to me- and trust me when I say that 9 times out of 10 the workday usually lasts more than 8 hours for teachers.
Yes teachers get holidays off- as should most workers in the US but don’t. According to former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips the amount of time Americans spend on vacation-after rising in the 1945-1980 years- has declined precipitously since the 1980s (See Boiling Point and Wealth and Democracy for more). Most teachers (including yours truly) work second jobs during the summer. In layman’s terms the 10 “personal days” are usually known as “days I’m sicker than a dog.” “Paid sick days?” Now there’s a concept our overworked-and de-unionizing- workforce should welcome into all the workforce.
“Lack of outside interference?” It’s not that principals don’t want to be in the classroom more than they are- and many of them do spend ample time evaluating teachers. It’s that adminstrators are loaded with their own responsibilities. Did you ever wonder why so many kids eat lunch and move from class to class safely? it’s called good security and administration. And that’s just a partial list. Jeans and T-shirts to work? Where in the world was this guy teaching? The only time I wore jeans to work was the day I had to wear the sophmore’s class’ colors (black and blue). School Spirit day aside, I don’t wear jeans and T-shirts to work (and neither do any of my esteemed colleaugues).
In closing let me say sure there are bad, lazy, and greedy teachers. I have no qualms with a teacher who wants to get paid more (whoe doesn’t?). But nobody in their right mind goes into education because they want to be rich. There are excellent teachers, god-awful teachers, and everything in between- Just like any profession (custodial worker, lawyer, nurse, musician, etc.). The problem is not that teachers have not faced declining job security over the last 25 years: It’s that many other workers have faced declining job security of the last 25 years. Ah, the wonders of “the culture of greed” and “trickle-down” economics that doesn’t trickle.