Posted by: The Amoeba | October 10, 2009

Error, Error

It has been an error-prone Friday afternoon for Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba.

Mistake No. 1: Television. Energizing the vast wasteland is always a mistake, but this afternoon, I succumbed. The Steroid Major League Baseball playoffs have begun, and the Boston Red Sox are in the process of being unceremoniously dumped out of them. Like those who gather round a car wreck or house fire, I just had to see.

Mind you, I would have preferred hearing it, on the radio or computer, so I could do other things, possibly even productive things, while the Bosox were going down to the defeat that their late-season record foreshadowed. But even if a radio signal could penetrate my concrete-walled, windowless, computer-laden workspace, no local station broadcast the game, despite nationwide advertising to the contrary. And, of course, the “Listen Live” function on the four-letter network’s radio website yielded only audio talking heads, meandering on about how rugby will become an Olympic sport sixteen years after the nations of the world take down the International Olympic Committee and the rampaging Leviathans that its Games have become, and make them one with the dodo.

(Speaking of dodos, the lead announcer for the four-letter network’s local affiliate held forth on the subject of the Olympics the other day, when the IOC announced its choice of Rio de Janeiro as the site for the 2016 Summer Games. The racist jingoism revealed on that occasion should have shamed the station managers into his instant dismissal, especially since this individual is the principal shill for University of Hawai‘i sports, and you’d think the U of H wouldn’t stand for such things. Then again, the U of H head gridiron coach is still employed … But I digress. Oh, and I won’t knowingly have anything further to do with this person, his radio shows, or his sponsors.)

Therefore, the TV. And while I normally am pretty adept at zapping out the commercials, one of them did an end run around the clicker and intruded itself on my consciousness. I must have been napping. I paid for it. I was brought to full attention, fast and hard.

The ad was a public service announcement recruiting teachers for the Hawai‘i public schools.

Yes, you read that correctly, those of you who have been following this blog for awhile. I couldn’t believe it either. Let me repeat that.

The ad was a public service announcement recruiting teachers for the Hawai‘i public schools!

The very same Hawai‘i public schools whose teachers make the lowest salaries in America, measured in terms of purchasing power.

The very same Hawai‘i public schools whose teachers have just taken the equivalent of an 8% cut in those lowest salaries, and lopped 17 school days (by far the most in the nation) off the calendar to boot.

The very same Hawai‘i public schools whose record for teaching effectiveness and administrative efficiency would shame a ghetto school.

The very same Hawai‘i public schools that could find no place for a master teacher with ten years experience and a proven record of NCLB achievement in Las Vegas public schools.

Oh, wait. She has experience. The kids in the videos? Young. Beautiful. Idealistic. Naive. They’ll never know what hit ’em. Oh, until their monthly student loan payment comes due and they discover that they can’t pay for that, the rent, and food out of what they earn as teachers in the Hawai‘i public schools.

Hey. Kids. You wish to come to Hawai‘i to surf? You got the money for it (and I’m telling you, Roderigo, put money in your purse), aloha and welcome.

You wish to come to Hawai‘i to teach? Do yourselves a favor. Go somewhere where you’re less likely to be used up and spit out, where you have a better chance of doing good within, or despite, the system. Zimbabwe, for example.

Mistake No. 2: Comment Forum. Way, way back before blogs and chat rooms, James Thurber and E. B. White, in a book called Is Sex Necessary? (written in 1929, long before junior high school college students throughout America decided the question in the affirmative), declared that “Writing Letters To The Newspapers” was a mistake, in fact one of the last signs of a mental collapse. But this afternoon, I succumbed.

The Red Sox having lost, as expected, I turned off the television and started reading the online version of one of the local newspapers. Specifically, I sought out the story on the rejection, by the University of Hawai‘i faculty union, of the State’s latest contract offer. A contract only slightly less brutal than the one agreed to by the public school teachers.

When I first heard the news of the rejection, I felt glad that the faculty union had the gumption to stand up to government efforts to further erode what is already a badly decayed institution. But I feared that the People of the State of Hawai‘i would, on the news, turn on the University and turn its professors into a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan’s air traffic controllers.

With this thought in mind, I turned to the Comments forum (today’s “letters written to the newspaper”) for the news article.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

The hostility was palpable. Some commentators called, not for the 5% cut of the rejected contract, but a 25% cut. Others called for the union members to strike, so they could be fired and the state save money by eliminating their jobs and, presumably, the University along with them. (In vain did a professor counterclaim that such an action, far from saving Hawai‘i any money, would cost the State on the order of $150 million.)

With public sentiment running along these lines, it’s all but inevitable that the State will attempt to shove a more draconian contract down the throats of university faculty. Which will serve merely to drive the most accomplished faculty away, and leave the remainder even less inclined to serve the community that has labeled them “arrogant bastards” than they were before.

Awhile ago now, I wrote that I was glad that I had not trained very many graduate students in my career. Because I felt, and feel even more strongly now, that, in my field at least, the investment in time and education needed to succeed is no longer economically rational, for any but the wealthy in our society. To be sure, America’s competitors (China/Japan, India, Europe, to name three) are investing heavily in the education of their peoples, and have intellectual / scientific / technological communities at least the equal of ours, and improving.

But no matter. We the People of these Untied States have Steroid Major League Baseball. Why then should I subject any bright young people to the bashings of their fellow citizens, who have no intention of ever giving them the chance even to recover their educational costs?

Mistake No. 3: A Career In Public Service.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. God the Hawaii/Ireland thing’s going again. When education should be a state’s biggest investment (IMHO), instead it’s the first thing cut, when it’s already strapped? Idiotic and shameful. Half of my daughter’s graduating class went to Britain for university; if past generations are anything to judge by, most will stay there, and Ireland will stay the backwards bog it is, with a high cost of living and much lower standard of living than the cost implies.

    Fifteen years or so ago I had a very sad moment when I realised that to get ahead in my public service job, I really needed the next degree up…then tallied up the cost of that degree vs. the payback. I’d break even by retirement age, maybe. So I left; now I stay home with my kids and write stories for $10-20 apiece. It’s not a living, true, but it is a life.

    • to get ahead in my public service job, I really needed the next degree up…then tallied up the cost of that degree vs. the payback. I’d break even by retirement age, maybe.

      Susan, teachers face the same conundrum here in the US, needing an expensive Master’s degree to earn maybe half of what an accountant will earn fresh out of college. So, many go without – both the education and the money.

      British and European nobility dreamed, especially during the first half of the 19th century, of the end of the American experiment and the establishment of an aristocracy in America, with the South as the principal model. Now, 150-odd years later, we appear to be well on our way, Lord Buffett …

  2. You know, I was all ready to sympathize but it made me so happy to find Another Brick In The Wall, right after claiming that on Cooper’s site as my Freshman year favorite.

    As for attending baseball games remotely, I find MLB.com’s gameday weirdly fascinating.

    As for teachers, if we’re not actually going to teach kids, it makes sound economics to pay the teachers like barroom bouncers.

    • Doug, Roger Waters, through his portrayal of teachers as uniformly psychotic, has a lot to answer for. The anarchy and intentional ignorance he has helped to make the defining feature of the American classroom (“we don’t need no education”) may well bring on a far worse tyranny than anything in Mr. Waters’s worst nightmares. Ask the Athenian democrats of the 5th century BCE …

      Various commentators have compared watching baseball to watching paint dry. Gameday brings that metaphor to life.

  3. So, how come my daughter and her hubby, both public school teachers, managed to buy a 3 bedroom 1-1/2 bath townhouse in Pearl City? They know how to pinch pennies, but their 2 year old daughter goes to a paid sitter (not me) and wants for nothing.

    Meda (ian Lind’s wife) has been a UH professor for many years and is tenured. Let’s ask her (at my party) how she voted on the contract.

    As for getting a job as a teacher in Hawaii, one needs to be board certified. I have heard stories about how difficult it is for experienced teachers from the mainland to be hired by the DOE. Hawaii’s loss!

  4. Glenda —

    Just because Hawaii’s teachers are willing to be treated worse than teachers in the rest of the nation that doesn’t make it right!

    Hawaii DOE hired me. They put me in a position I was unqualified for. Yes, I shouldn’t have accepted it, but they promised me training and support, which they never delivered. Pretty much I was only told what needed doing right after I hadn’t done it.

    I am glad that your daughter and her husband are doing well. That doesn’t change the fact that entry level teachers in Hawaii make only $36,000 per year — no matter how qualified they are. Nor does it change the fact that they have no rights or support for three years, yet they still have to pay full membership dues — HAVE TO — join the union or don’t work. (That’s extortion, bytheway.)

    I imagine that your daughter and her husband got into the system before things got bad. Please don’t think we are belittling the work the teachers themselves do. It is the way teachers are treated that we have a problem with.

  5. You know, $36K doesn’t sound bad at all at first glance for a job with what many think are teacher’s hours. But I’d love to know what that translates to as an *hourly wage*, when every teacher I’ve known has to take home piles of homework to be graded every night, and spends lots of free time planning coursework or shopping for their classroom or researching online to help that ONE kid in the class… never mind the extracurricular clubs they have to manage, all day field trips, summer classes/programmes, coaching, etc.

    When I worked at the Health Sciences Library, one of the medical students asked to borrow our calculator. He came back a few minutes later, slammed it down on the counter, and said, “I thought I was getting this great salary for my residency, but when I worked it out to my schedule, I’ll be making just over $5 an hour. I might as well work at fucking Burger King.” I couldn’t help it, I said, “Well think of the money you could have saved on medical school.” He said he’d kill me, but he was a good kid, and every time he checked out books after that conversation I always asked, “Ya want fries with that?” and he’d laugh. But it wasn’t really funny.

    I do miss working at the library. But that can’t beat Burger King either in some ways.

  6. You have my sympathy, Quilly. You got a raw deal, that’s for sure. But, most teachers don’t go into teaching for the money.

    Last year, my husband did the tax returns for my daughter and her husband. They grossed over $90,000 together. Not bad. They began teaching in the fall of 2003, right after graduating from UH. They get step increases (raises) by taking night classes for professional development.

    Hey, it’s a living! Now that Maria is pregnant with her 2nd kid, she is really glad that she has all that free time teachers have — looking forward to maternity leave and summer vacation!

  7. Gigi — all the new teachers are getting a raw deal, and I fear it is not just in Hawaii. And I didn’t go into teaching for the money, but I also didn’t go into it embracing the thought of living at the poverty level.

    Susan I was generally in my classroom from 7 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday-Friday and 1:00 to 4:00 o’clock or so on Saturday. That’s 48 hours without counting the work I took home — which, for me, was usually only 2-3 more hours per week.

    Once per quarter I donated about 5 hours to weekend and evening teacher’s conferences for working parents. I also donated 3-4 hours a couple of times a year for school fund raiser events — so we could earn monies for frivolous things like books in the school library.

    I sat down and figured it out once and I was making about $11.00 per hour. Better then MickeyD’s by three bucks. Now, let’s talk about the pencils, paper, crayons, construction paper, ink cartridges, hand soap, paper towels, Kleenex, etc. I purchased with my own money.

  8. […] They want to push the issue, we’ll unleash the same barrage of public outrage we set on University of Hawai‘i academics a few months ago. By shoving those teaching assistant kids off the public coffers and into more […]


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