Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teach It, Teacher!

The following is the second paragraph of a February 17th editorial in the Chicago Tribune. The first points out everything that unions have done for which they should be proud. Before going on to opine that teacher's unions care more about themselves than they do about the "public good" (as if that is usually considered a bad thing in America) the editorial asks:

"But how proud are they that the children of Madison, Wis., have missed school the last two days because so many of their teachers abandoned their classrooms and joined a mass demonstration? Joined a mass demonstration to intimidate the members of the Wisconsin Legislature, who are trying to close a $3 billion deficit they face over the next two years?"

Should teachers simply take what we give them?  This makes it seem like the Wisconsin Legislature has tried everything else, but they are still $3 billion short. Teachers have the same job they've always had. It is not their fault the state has no money.  And theirs is not an exclusive club- if you envy their job, become a teacher.  The editorial goes on to argue that these are different times, that teacher's benefits would be the envy of a private-sector worker. Maybe so- again, become a teacher if you want those benefits.

The part that really makes my soul ache, though, is the bigger issue- the constant demand for us working stiffs to make sacrifices. It's too bad the private sector has let its unions go and our society has fought over "death panels" as our heath care costs have skyrocketed. Maybe times have been harder on the private sector than the public sector lately. But the answer is not to take away from the teachers, to bring them down to our level, it is to demand more for private sector employees, to fight to regain what we have lost. The argument should not be between working private-sector stiffs and teachers, the argument should be between all workers and the Ruling Class. The money is out there, and we know where "there" is. Here is a graph from the Economic Policy Institute.  Notice that in 1965 CEO's made 24 times more than an average worker. In 2005 they made 262 times more:

Yes the money is there, but it's increasingly in the pockets of the richest among us. And by "us", I am not referring to the richest guy on your street, in your city, or even your state. The richest 1% of Americans, a few more that 3 million people- roughly the size of Chicago, controls more wealth than the bottom 90%.  Here's a graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Note that the last time the disparity was this great was the Gilded Age; note also how low the disparity was during what many consider to be the "good old days" of the 1950's and 1960's:

I feel bogged down by statistics. But I didn't want you to have to take my word for it when I said the money was out there. I think we all know that it is, and we know who has it. But they have made us feel like it's rude to ask them for it.  It was not the "free market" that funneled the money to the top- they rigged the system.  They are at fault for our impending bankruptcy, and they remain free of accountability. They muddy the waters, pleased to watch us fight amongst ourselves and go after teachers (our children's teachers for Christ's sake!) for money.  Teachers teach, and today they are teaching us to stare down the Elite and say, "Fuck you, it's your turn to put the "Common Good" first. We've given you all our money. And we want some of it back."

"I get it, Tom," you may say, 'Tax the rich!' Is that really your answer for everything?"

"Take more from the that really yours?"

I thank you for your time.


  1. I love it! As a teacher (and a member of a union), I am increasingly concerned that our public school systems are more about patting the backs of "those" people rather than focusing on what is truly good for our students (and our future). And this is with the union help! The idea of what would happen without the union makes me ill. I'll be looking for another job, I'm afraid.

  2. Wow. I need a cigarette. That, my friend, was a GOOD one.