For just under two weeks, Wisconsin has been the sight of a heated battleground, as Republican Governor Scott Walker has introduced a budget plan to take away most collective bargaining rights from public workers - including teachers. This also calls for deep cuts for schools and local governments to help close a budget shortfall.
This article shows the public divide over the issue:
A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found 42 percent of adults surveyed nationwide sided with the unions and 31 percent sided with Walker in their dispute. That poll of 1,009 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The latest New York Times-CBS poll found Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of almost two to one — 60 percent to 33 percent. The nationwide telephone poll of 984 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Yet the GOP shills at Fox Opinion have been working overtime trying to spread anti-teacher sentiments. I don't have the strength to transcribe these horrible, horrible statements, so please indulge me by watching at least just the beginning of this video embedded below.
NOTE: This linked to the wrong video thanks to a bug on the Daily Show site. It has been fixed now.
It takes incredible nerve to attack teachers, calling them either overpaid, underworked or undermotivated. In particular, I take exception to that gasbag who acted as if the moment the school bell rings at 3:00, teachers take the rest of the day off. Many teachers are up as early as 5am, several of them serve as coaches or advisers to school teams. And as the child of a woman who has worked in education for over 30 years, I can tell you that the work doesn't stop at "Class dismissed."
When I was growing up there was many a night when my mother returned home at 5:00 or later and spent much of the evening dealing with school matters - be they paper work, phone calls, frequent evening meetings. I'm sure she would have loved to get one of these cushy jobs where you're out the door at 3 and school is out of sight, out of mind until the alarm the next morning - but they don't exist. Nor do they usually get three full months off.
Teaching is one of the last noble professions. It might be the last truly noble profession. They're expected to be parent, disciplinarian, traffic cop, therapist, prison guard, and if they find a few extra seconds... educator. These are the people you entrust to shape your children's minds and prepare them for the best colleges. They have their attention for at least seven hours a day, and you have the gonads to complain that $48,000 a year is overpaid?!
Their jobs have only gotten harder over the years. Budget cuts have increased class sizes while resources like textbooks and computers have gone out of date. Not that the up-to-date books are any help, as your colleagues in the Texas educational system have done what they can to rewrite history. Among the falsehoods they sought to propagate, the notion that Senator Joe McCarthy was a hero. That man's name deserves no decoration beyond spit accompanying its every mention. If ever a politician deserved to be stoned on the Capital Mall, it was Joe McCarthy. To glorify not only his actions, but his methods as well, is nothing less than evil.
(What exactly do people like you have against education, Governor?)
How do I know this history? Because I had many good teachers over the years, people who made a profound difference in the course of my life.
There was the 4th grade teacher who first stoked my interest in creative writing. At least once every three or four weeks she'd make us do a creative writing assignment. She even had me enter mine in a national writing contest - in which I was one of 104 winners. I'd never even thought about writing as a career or even a hobby up until that point.
There was the sixth grade teacher who guided me through a science fair project and helped me realize I was fascinated by behavioral sciences. On top of that, he was responsible for my learning valuable research and presentation skills - and he later encouraged me in leadership roles, seeing that I had an aptitude for it.
There was the ninth grade English teacher who reignited my passion for writing, taking my creative writing to the next level. He also gave me a solid foundation for my analytical writing, and he really cared about pushing me to do my best, even when it didn't take "my best" to earn an A.
There was the history teacher who got me involved in Mock Court and again taught me about writing and presenting from an impassioned point of view. With him as my mentor, I not only participated in a program where I spent two summers working in a law firm, but I was on a local area commission as a student trustee.
Another English/History teacher had a wry sense of humor and a slightly rebellious spirit that helped teach me to stop taking myself so goddamned seriously.
I had a Calculus teacher whose enthusiasm for teaching and love of her students made my hardest class a genuine pleasure to attend each day. She made a difficult subject entertaining and accessible - a task who's remarkableness was evident when she was replaced by a substitute for two weeks and the subject became instantly incomprehensible to all in the class. A Spanish teacher of mine possessed many of the same qualities.
And then there was the History teacher who gave 25 years of service to his country in the military, and was determined to give another 25 years as a teacher. He died in the 24th year of that pursuit, after a battle with cancer that lasted just under two years. His tenure in the classroom, however, expired a mere four months before he left us.
That's right - for over a year this man came to work every single day, dying and weak - not just from the disease that would take his life but from the treatments designed to stave off that inevitability. I remember him as an honorable man who went the extra mile. My favorite activity was that every day, he'd pull a few students up to the front of the room to take turns on "Impromptus" - sort of a verbal editorial designed to teach us both public speaking and applied thinking. You had to think on your feet, you had to make an argument, and you had to be persuasive.
The teachers I have known are overwhelmingly in the company of these good people. I'm proud to have thought of many of them as friends. For you to disparage the hard work of them and their brethren, Mr. Walker, makes me furious beyond belief. They are not lazy and they didn't spend their careers watching a clock and lazily collecting a paycheck. They took their jobs seriously.
I'm tempted to say three words, Mr. Walker. Three words that would invite you to an intimate encounter with yourself. And frankly, the only thing that stops me is that I know that if I was giving this as an Impromptu, that teacher would be disappointed that I stooped to that level. Not just because of the profanity, but because the positions held by you and those who stand with you are so obviously odious and repugnant, it would be beneath me to stoop so low to make that point.
Instead, I pity you, Mr. Walker. In 13 years of grade school education, I can count on less than one hand all of the unremarkable teachers I had. These "bad apple" teachers are few and far between, though you and your ilk speak of them as if they are rampant. I attended public school, and the majority of my day was with the most noble teachers one could hope to know. If you honestly never had such a teacher who made a difference, who saw potential in you that you didn't yet realize yourself, than you have truly missed out.
If we are to judge all teachers based on the mere presence of a few bad apples, then it would only be fair to judge you, Governor, by your peers. So tell me, how are you different from Rod Blagojevich and hooker-patronizing Eliot Spitzer? I'll tell you the difference - when Spitzer screwed someone, at least they got paid!
I can't believe that in your whole education tenure, Governor, you never had a teacher who cared about his or her job, sacrificed weekends and evenings in the service of your education, and who took a personal interest in you. And if such a person exists, I hope that they are ashamed of what you've become. To disparage them and take away their rights to bargain for fair pay for a difficult job is an act of ignorance so profound that I don't envy you your next parent-teacher conference.
See Scotty, the problem with you - heck, the problem with your whole party - is that you've turned into bullies. Even after the teachers concede to the budget cuts you remain determined to bring them to their knees on collective bargaining, for no better reason than sheer obstinacy.
But if there's one group of professionals that deals with bullies on a daily basis, it's teachers.
To my readers, if you get a chance today, try to reach out to some of those teachers you knew who made a difference. Or at least, reflect on those educators who put you on the path to success. When you see them, thank them because there will come a day when you won't have that opportunity.
And if you have time, tell me about your favorite teachers in the comments below.