Saturday, February 23, 2013

I finished I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had last night. In the end, I'll stay with my impression that it was a good read, and I intend to watch the show Teach on the A&E website. (Added later: There are only brief clips on the website, no full episodes.) I'll more than likely share it with my students. However, there was a passage near the end that really irritated me:
...the sheer logistics of teaching, counseling, comforting, coaching, and inspiring 150 students each and every day are beyond the capability of most normal human beings. Yet public school teachers are expected to perform these tasks calmly and brilliantly while simultaneously documenting and evaluating every move they and their students make.   Oh, and don't forget staying up-to-the-minute and responsive to those constantly changing district mandates and national policy shifts. All for less money than the average plumber, real estate agent, or sales manager makes. Shouldn't we value the job of expanding our children's minds more than we value the job of Roto-Rooting our pipes? We say we do, but we never seem to put our money where our mouths are. [emphasis added]
Now, obviously I don't know Tony Danza personally, but he always came across as a likable guy on television (full disclosure, I was never a Taxi fan, but felt he was the best character. I did watch and enjoy Who's the Boss?...however, it is a show that did not wear well with time, sadly). He comes across as likable and relatively down-to-Earth in his book, too.

But there are so many false assertions in that excerpt it ended the book on a sour note for me. First, maybe he should have done a stint in the district finance office when he wasn't teaching his class. I'm not suggesting for a moment that teachers are the source of our problems in education. I appreciate his desire to defend them, especially since it is indeed a burn-out job, and teachers often are simplistically targeted for blame. But review school expenditures, and it is quite clear that we spend enormous sums. It is unrealistic to assume we could afford significant increases if we just shifted our priorities. What are we going to cut? Where will the funds come from? The military or the 1% are also simplistic targets.

The sentence in bold is the most telling. In the first place, does he have even a most basic understanding of economics? If plumbers are in demand, the market will respond with compensation. It doesn't make me happy that teaching is under compensated and jobs are hard to come by -- it is my bread and butter, after all. But we do not have a teacher shortage at present and it is unrealistic to argue otherwise.

However, none of that is what irritates me the most about the slam on plumbers. While I firmly believe being an educator is not a bad way to make a living (as my father would say), despite the critics, the burn-out, and the under compensation, I don't have a problem with his fretting about our priorities. But why is he singling out plumbers? Isn't there dignity in all work and all workers?  Has he so disconnected from his roots that he no longer has empathy for people in the trades? Why is he silent about the true incongruity: the way celebrities are compensated compared to almost everyone else. That's an area he know well and could speak to with some authority. Or does he believe he, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Venus Williams, the guy who stars in the Jackass movies, A-Rod, Charlie Sheen, the Kardashians and the host of Survivor deserve millions?

Tell me a plumber is not important the next time you awaken on a below zero morning and your bathroom pipes have frozen and burst.

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