Things have been steadily declining for teachers and education here in the Great State of North Carolina for several years now. Our teachers are making less money (in real dollars adjusted for inflation) than they were 6 years ago, advanced degrees will no longer be financially rewarded, tenure is being revoked and the rules re-written so that teachers can be fired without cause (budget cuts, here we come!), our school budgets are getting ever-closer to that perfect zero, money is being siphoned out of the public school and given to new charter schools, and new tests are being given to students which are specially designed to cost more and do less. In short, things are looking pretty grim.
I was still surprised when about a month ago some teachers started talking about protesting this treatment as if we were real professionals deserving of respect. Didn’t they know that protesting is against the rules here? It turns out that I needn’t have worried. The protest that they finally decided upon consisted of doing their job as usual and then gathering together in the evening in a very orderly group while they calmly enumerated their complaints to zero elected officials and one local news outlet.
Really? Where did we get these teachers from, Canada?!
Some of my loyal readers will recall that I was disappointed in the last “Rally for Education” we had decrying nearly the exact same things a few years ago. I think that everyone will notice that nothing came of that, either. The truth is that as long as teachers will continue to show up and do their jobs and attempt to jump over the latest pile of flaming poo our Fearless Leaders leave on our porch, NO ONE is going to care about any of this. Parents will say they care, but as long as their children get educated, why take time out of their day to do anything? Our Fearless Leaders will say they care, but as long as they can keep their nice contracts and/or get re-elected, you better believe they won’t be motivated to do much. Teachers will even say that they care, but when it comes time to make a stand…. well we’ve already seen how that goes. On the one hand, it is ridiculous that we live in a society where teachers have to beg to be treated as professionals and provided with the tools necessary to do the job you ask of them, but on the other hand, it is disappointing that we are so bad at protesting.
I think that people will not take the plight of public education seriously until/unless they are made to feel some pain. Until ordinary people are made to realize exactly how good they have it, they will never appreciate it. So, I propose a new kind of protest; The Just Let Go Campaign.
If teachers feel so strongly that they have to continue to come to work, then I propose that we do exactly the job they are paying us for. If we’re receiving babysitter wages, then that’s the service you’ll get. What would happen if we all agreed to only care to the level of our compensation? In short order everything would fall apart. It has long been acknowledged that our schools are continuing to perform at their current levels because of the herculean efforts of our teachers. No teacher minds pitching in a little extra to help out with a temporary budget shortfall or whatever, but we are well beyond that now. It is now expected that teachers should be putting their own money and time into these extra efforts as if it were part of the job description and I think that it is past time for us to remind folks that this is no longer the case.
Teaching has always been a stressful position, but when you have experienced educators making themselves sick, losing their hair, abusing the neighborhood cats, etc. I start to think that something has gone seriously awry.