Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why the press picks on teachers

It's been a longstanding tradition in corporate-owned media to bash teachers because they are some of the last Americans to belong to a union.

Unions are convenient scapegoats whenever the economy goes into a tailspin. Republicans and corporate media have been so successful at demonizing unions, that only about 10 percent of Americans now belong to one, down from a third of the workforce in the 1950s. By focusing on unions, Republicans and the media shift attention away from how corporations run America, which is the real problem.

But, un-reported in all this union-bashing of late is that it is mostly directed at teachers, the majority of whom are women.

You don't see the same level of invective hurled at union police officers (except in Ohio) or firemen, the majority of which are men.

In fact, the anti-collective bargaining language in the Wisconsin bill excludes firemen and police officers. (In Ohio, though, all union workers are lumped together in that state's bill. In order to endear himself to Ohio state troopers, the Republican governor referred to them as "idiots.")

Along with the anti-union hysteria whipped up by the media and teabagging Republicans, we also have blatant sexism by Republicans and the media, which is also dominated by men.

Again, only a small fraction of American workers belong to unions. Reducing union pay and benefits, which is necessary during this Great Recession, won't solve our financial problems. Once upon a time, the teaching profession was ridiculed for how little it paid. Now, it's being blamed for bankrupting the country. Who knew that teachers would become the new Rockefellers?

States without unions have deficits just as bad as those with unions. If you keep taking money away from the many in the middle to give to the few at the top through tax breaks, you'll always have deficits. Also, the public has been conditioned to have what it wants without having to pay for it. 

Is it more responsible to tax and spend like Democrats of old or borrow and spend like Republicans and new Democrats?

But, enough of that. Let's get back to teacher-bashing.

The canard that unions prevent school districts from firing ineffective teachers is always trotted out when teacher-bashing revs up.  

But, the other under-reported story by the media is that the main problem with American education is not at the teacher level, but at the mid-management level, namely principals. Don't believe me? Check out this opinion piece from a man who is not in the union camp at all.

Schools fail to get rid of ineffective teachers because of poor management, not because of union interference. It's hard to find good managers/principals who are willing to be squeezed between district administration and the teachers and the students and the parents like a pimple on a high-schooler's forehead. Would you want that job? Okay, for $90,000 a year, I could handle it for a couple of years. And, I still get the occasional pimple.

The upshot of all this teacher-bashing is that it will weaken, not strengthen, education in America. Most teachers don't mind if their pay or benefits get cut during hard times. But, comparing them to the dregs of society, such as Wall Street types, goes a bit too far. Teachers are ticked off and even the best ones are leaving the profession. Diane Ravitch, who supported "No Child Left Behind" but now recants that stance, defends teachers in this recent article.

But, why spend time defending teachers when there is always Charlie Sheen to kick around.

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