Yes, Mr. Mencken, We’re Talking About Teachers

Mencken‘s Law:

     Those that can, do.
     Those that cannot, teach.

Martin’s Extension to Mencken’s Law:

     Those that cannot teach, teach education.

Quilly, who, as you may recall, used to be a teacher, just passed me the latest New York Times Op-Ed piece on the state of the teaching profession in these Untied States.

The bottom line of this article is, well, pretty much same old same old, brought back to the fore of national debate by the efforts of Our Elected Tea Partiers, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, to ensure that no one in America has services except for the ones who bankrolled their election campaigns.

That bottom line: teachers in Amerika are underpaid relative to their qualifications and job expectations, and get no respect.


Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba spent some of the precious Sunday afternoon time that he should have spent either working or sleeping wading through a few of the 800 comments that the piece had attracted as of 1800 Pacific Daylight Time, 13 March 2011. He would have commented there himself, but to do so required registration on the blog site, and, begging your pardon, the spambots of the New York Times can keep their filthy, sewery circuit boards the hell out of YFNA’s electronic pockets.

So, the comments go here. Not so many people will read them – YFNA’s not convinced that anybody but the occasional dawg reads anything here – but, as will be made clear anon (or at least as clear as this amoeba can make it, which he’s constantly told isn’t, very), it hardly matters whether they’re read or not.

Speaking of comments. Enough passed through the pseudopods to convince your correspondent that the points of view that are normally expressed when this topic comes up were fully and comprehensively represented.

Including the one from the Teaching Professional who agreed with the article’s main arguments, but didn’t care for its assertion that most American teachers today come from the bottom of their university classes. For this, in the commenter’s opinion, contributed to the popular impression that teachers are lazy and “over payed” [sic].

Including the one from the recent college graduate, who complained that the introductory salary for teachers was far greater than that available to graduates in that person’s own (unstated) line of work. I suspect here a covert contribution from the Secret Society of English Majors – and don’t get YFNA started on the ability of today’s American universities to sell degrees that are worth about as much as the faux parchment on which they’re printed.

Including the citizen from the “economically depressed area”, who claimed that the region’s teachers made $80K, zoomed around in BMWs, and had cornered all the choice real estate.

Including all the teachers whose theories would solve the problem if they would only be implemented by a wise public. And those teachers who blame the public, parents especially, for the whole mess. And those teachers who claim that, unless the demographics are right, nothing can be done with the mess anyway. Not to mention those teachers who blame the union for their woes, plus those who think that the union is the only thing that has kept their woes from being worse than they are, plus those who would keep the union but throw out half of its membership – obviously, that half that’s keeping them from doing what they think is right.

And, of course, including all those who think that they can do away with taxes and all the onerous burdens that go with them, including public education, if they just scream loud enough.

What the hell. That’s what the baby boomers, who are now wringing their hands about the fate of America at the hands of the “Hell, no, we won’t pay!” crowd, did when their country asked them to do stuff they didn’t want to do. Like fight in Vietnam. “Hell, no, we won’t go!” Teach your children well …

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba is having a harder and harder time paying attention to these debates. Usually, he finds, they’re not about We the People finding a way forward. They’re mostly about whoever the speaker is trying to advance that speaker’s cause, for that speaker’s profit (see “NY Times spambots”, supra). They aren’t usually about data and hard analysis of those data. These things, Captain, have no constituency, no audience, no group of people who can implement whatever the data truly tell us should be done and not feel like they’ve lost.

Because what needs to be done seems, to YFNA, so obvious – were it not for the fact that, at each step, somebody thinks they’ve lost.

* Pay teachers a wage commensurate with their training and role in society.
      – Taxpayers perceive that they’ve lost.

* Ensure that there’s a performance metric in place to ensure that the wages are being merited
     – Teachers and their unions perceive that they’ve lost

* Promote a culture that promotes respect for and support of teachers
     – Parents, children, taxpayers again, and, especially, the rumor-mongering mass      media, perceive that they’ve lost.

So We the People bicker among ourselves, each one of Us afraid We might lose something, while other peoples of the world, ones who are prepared to make the proper investments in themselves and their children, move forward, and put Us in peril of losing the lot.

One comment

  1. Occasional dawg, present.

    I think the debaters perceive they’ve lost. I like your approach, but I bet 600 of the 800 comments at the NYT were pinning the blame on somebody.

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