Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why They Don't Know


"They don't know what they don't know." That's a phrase often heard when I discuss how complicated and difficult it is to be a full time teacher today under the present circumstances. In supervising beginning teachers these past few years, I've heard myself say it a few times. Case in point: two of my student teachers have previously taught on the college level and severely underestimated how much more work teaching high school can be. When you add in nuanced approaches to dealing with adolescents, their parents, some school administrators, and the current climate, you begin to get the picture.
Not knowing is a useful definition of ignorance. We can't blame people for being ignorant if they were never in a position to learn, grow, question, and/or receive accurate information. Too bad the term ignorance has such stigma attached because we might be able to use it without it being a pejorative.
When arrogance links itself with ignorance you get a different animal altogether. Such is the case with the current handful of states and their governors bent on taking collective bargaining from public employees. I wonder how many of those legislators even know the history of how those rights were won?
Though it seems a dark time for teachers and other public employees, there is still plenty of light at the end of this ugly tunnel. What they don't know is that teaching was, is, and will continue to be the ultimate political act. What they don't know is that in all their posturing, bluff and bluster, they cannot begin to comprehend or control what goes on behind closed classroom doors. I wonder how many history departments are reviewing and revising their labor history at this very moment in time?
When will politicians get that they know very little about what it means to educate a human being? They are going to learn a difficult lesson in the days to come. I'm not naive enough to believe that teachers will be able to organize themselves in such a manner that they might display the power the truly have. I know better. I know that some of my colleagues would not abandon their students or their classroom for any reason. Unfortunately, I disagree. Like the Declaration of Independence says, "when in the course of human events it becomes necessary..." This is the part that states there comes a time when you have to stand up and say enough! For teachers, standing up may be walking out.
Now the Republicans, Tea Party fanatics, the uninformed, the ignorant, and all those without the empathy gene, will no doubt clamp down on that one. "Abandoning your duties," "If they really cared about kids," they will say, "good riddance," others will counter. That might last a few weeks, but make no mistake, it might be necessary, as it was in the 1930s, to shut it all down. It could happen. Chances are it won't, but just sayin,' this time it could.
If it did, if a General Strike like the one in San Francisco in 1934 occurred it might really get interesting.
My only hope in all of this is that the truth comes out... in all forms. The tactics are getting despicable, the methods of manipulation more sophisticated, the consequences grave.
As I wrote this blog entry today I was listening to CNN. In an all to short piece on Wisconsin's current struggle I heard a Republican strategist say that the average teacher salary in Wisconsin was $100,000. I choked, then I checked. Latest figures put the average somewhere under $50.000. Wisconsin ranks 22 nationally and almost $3000. under the national average.
But there it was, in stunning arrogance...more ignorance.

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