This article is Ancient (archive 2011)

State Governments to Teachers: “Leave them kids alone.”

As an aspiring educator, I’m supposed to help students get to a cognitive level that allows them to grasp abstractions. Ironically, since we cannot see an immediate product, we will continue to kill our educational system by inches.

Do we respect teachers? Many of us can point to a teacher who helped us progress to some semblance of adulthood. Education is touted as a key method of social advancement (pulling yourself up by your bootstraps… that whole American Dream thing). Teaching is obviously a well-respected profession.

So why is this happening to 2000 teachers in Rhode Island? Why are teacher’s being encouraged to quit in Texas?

The budget crises of state governments are not news. I just took a tax hike in Illinois (a whole 20 dollars was taken from my paycheck to help pay of a 15 billion dollar deficit). Cutting teachers is an attempt to solve budget issues without raising taxes. What I don’t understand is why, if teachers are so respected, no one will accept that a little tax increase may be preferable to a mass layoff of teachers.

I’m not one to say that there aren’t bad teachers who need to be fired. As in any profession, there are good and bad teachers. But the teachers in Rhode Island face a threat unconnected to their performance, the layoffs affects both the great teachers and the terrible ones. Texas gives teachers incentive to quit simply because it’s trying to find a polite way not to pay them.

So we return to the question, if we respect the teachers who changed our lives, why are state governments targeting Teachers with the budget axe?

Apparently, while we respect teachers individually, education as a whole requires a lot of money to produce a long-delayed, abstract product. We can point to our individual experiences with education, but it’s difficult to translate that to the education system as a whole.

Had education been in a better state, perhaps the voting public and politicians they elect could grasp these higher abstract ideas.  Some politicians do, and when they make the move to raise taxes to preserve the smoking remains of their state’s schools, the frothing mobs throw them out of office.  A worthy cause to be martyred for, but then again the supply of martyrs is finite.

Luckily, this is an easy downward spiral to avoid with a small realignment of perspective. When the budget talks come around, remember that a tax increase may keep a teacher like the one you had in grade school, middle school, or high school in the classroom.  We can focus on a concrete image for an abstraction starved society.

Is this also too abstract a thing for the people to grasp, if so what do we do then? Raise the standard and start the charge?  It could be the first revolution to be made in the name of making kids read well.

Donny got a BA in English, which he thought meant badass, but then he got to the real world. Now he realizes it means bitter academic. Donny did a stint in grad school with a focus on education, which made him angry enough to start writing columns. While education is still his main focus, Donny now wants to apply his academic rigor to other mundane activities.