Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dunce Capital

Words cannot convey how excited I am to see teachers in Louisiana vehemently opposing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “education” plan. I believe the plan is a veritable what’s-what of terrible, profit-driven measures that will only plunge the public school system into greater chaos (which might be the point).

A lot of my friends are teachers — in fact, it may be the most common profession among my college friends. What’s struck me most in the past few days is the nearly universal outrage they share over Jindal’s plan. It’s not because my teacher friends are all bleeding-heart liberals; many have never before had a bad thing to say about a Republican. Being blamed for all of society’s problems tends to sting regardless of political stripe.

It’s pretty surreal to see Jindal and his apologists express so much hostility toward educators. To hear the governor tell it, teachers are the least accountable people in society. They use their cushy positions for their own personal benefit rather than heed the charge to make life better for the students entrusted in their care.

The teachers, I mean.

Think about 99 percent of the conversations you’ve ever had about teachers. What always comes up? “They’re underpaid and overstretched.” “It’s a job you do because you love it, not for the pay.” “The work doesn’t end with the bell.” Add to that references to “stacks of papers to grade” and “paying for supplies out of my own pocket,” etc., and you’ve got an accurate picture of the grind that is teaching.

So it’s a remarkable feat by Jindal and Co. that they’re so adept at vilifying educators as pampered union thugs. It’s equally remarkable that anyone buys it. We’ll drop our sympathy for teachers as fast as the governor requests; he doesn’t even have to ask twice. When throngs of teachers took the day off to protest in Baton Rouge, critics saw it not as a teachable moment in fighting the power, but as an excuse to shortchange the children further. Why is that? Why do we believe the lunacy that teachers are selfish while Jindal and his cronies are paragons of integrity, completely free of influence? Why are we upset that teachers have the audacity to fight for their livelihoods? Is that something only profit-driven corporatists have permission to do now? At least teachers provide a worthwhile service in which we all share.

Educators face an uphill battle in combating the misinformation put out there by Jindal and his band of apologists. Tenure doesn’t make a teacher immune to accountability; it ensures that they aren’t fired for unfair or political reasons without recourse. A truly terrible teacher, or one who commits crimes, is going to face the music regardless. Also, Jindal says the unions care only about coddling teachers. I guess in his poisoned line of thinking, teachers will improve only if they have all job security taken away and their resources gutted even further. To say nothing of the flawed and arbitrary standards used to determine if a teacher is “successful.”

But Jindal maligns tenure along with unions to the extent that the public has forgotten that these are powerful checks on corporate and political abuse. Is it any coincidence that the Republicans, the party in favor of corporate power and against government services at all turns, wants to see those checks dead?

That should be obvious to anyone who’s smarter than a 5th-grader. Then again, a lack of critical thinking is what got us here in the first place.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Thanks for giving it some attention. So little has been paid to the issue, Ian my man. While tenure and retirement issues are boiling in this debate the real issue is the enormity of the voucher system. Tenure is basically a joke in Louisiana. Retirement is an issue, but it isn't as dire as Jindal and Co. make it out to be. There is time to fix it.

The vouchers are the bullet to the brain for public education. This isn't a small or moderate plan. We are talking 380,000 plus eligible students statewide. Now I know that Governor Jindal says he only anticipates a couple thousand in year one, but do you really and honestly think with that big of a demand for something that carried around an $8,000 a head price tag that there won't be rush for anyone with startup capital to open a school? The potential for an entire parallel education system without the qualifications or oversight currently given to the public school system.

Now I know that oversight and qualifications have come up short in public schools, but this is far from the norm and they are eventually held accountable. In fact, public education has continuously improved in LA since the early 2000's. We are significantly heading in the right direction. So why the sudden "OMG the sky is falling public education has failed us!" Simple answer. There's money in it.