First fire all the teachers

I read an article the other day in which an employer who is famous for his happy employees let out his secret: he fires unhappy employees.  Period.

Wow.  That’s a good one if you like opening up Pandora’s boxes.  As it is, most employees in the U.S. can be fired at any time for any reason, or even no real reason at all.  Let’s add a minute of not smiling to that mix.  Paradise.  Yes, I know this employer wasn’t talking about extremes like that, but the fact is, given today’s environment and the committed stupidity of management in many companies, that’s the way it will be interpreted: Oh Goody!  Another Excuse!

And so it is with the current trend toward mass firing of teachers.  (Update: an actual teacher told me today that the firings are mostly being done by school districts to prove that they — the districts — are doing something about poor student performance so they can get federal money — there’s some sort of deadline involved — and once the deadline has passed and the money is received, most of these teachers will be rehired.  No matter.  This is just wrong, and because of it I will not retract this post.)

I deal with kids in my job, and I can’t imagine spending 8 hours a day in a room full of them — especially if the kids are unrelated to me.  I don’t think kids have ever been any better or worse.  I just don’t like them very much, and 9 times out of 10, if I don’t like the kid, I dislike the parent even more.  My hat’s off to teachers for that reason alone; they are not only dealing with the problem, but the cause.

Not that I love all teachers.  I remember two remarkable clowns from my own school years: my fifth-grade teacher — a callow fashion-model wannabe with decided mean-girl tendencies — and the idiot I had as an English teacher for a month or so at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school.  The fifth-grade teacher ruined my confidence to the extent that I was never again comfortable in school; the English teacher saw that I was withdrawn and decided I would be a great target for the school year.  Showing classing bully behavior, he was taken aback when I transferred out of his class, and became bitchy and even more sarcastic than he had been.  Gosh!  How dare I ruin his fun?   (It’s also possible that he was forced by superiors to explain his behavior toward me, and bullies tend to get rather nervous when that happens.)

I’ve heard about numerous other turkeys since then, so it isn’t just my perception; they do exist, and there are probably far more of them than there should be.  However, I doubt they exist in the mass numbers that the across-the-board firings indicate, and because of that, I doubt the firings will do any good; in fact, I know they won’t.  All we’re going to end up with is harried, bullied teachers who will harass and bully their students for a year before meeting the same fate as their predecessors.  For those of us who are office-politics survivors, the school world will sound just like home.

Our school systems are now in for a huge loss: that of a sense of permanence.  Our business world lost that decades ago, and like I said, we all know what good that has done.  In fact, education may be taking it on the chin for what the business world has done, because the fact is that U.S. businesses do not like to hire U.S. citizens.  That is to say that a kid can grow up to become a PhD and not be able to find a job.

That said, I have to add that this buffoonery is not entirely the fault of the business world that has embraced it.  It is the fault of the environment the business world, and now the schools that feed it, exist in.  This crap is tolerated.  Period.

Why is it tolerated?  Easy — U.S. society is basically anti-education and has been for most of its existence.  You may think that education only recently joined the list of bogeymen that the right-wingnuts are afraid of, but the fact is, they’ve been threatened by the “college boys” — even if they themselves are “college boys” — ever since the U.S. has had colleges.  The U.S. — which is supposed to be a building block for pioneers and visionaries — is actually loaded to the rafters with these whiny parasites who have low self-esteem and a mountainous victim complex.  Anyone who sings to that choir is richly rewarded even as he or she is widely discredited by those of us who are not whiny snorks (those I refer to as the true silent majority, who span the political spectrum from conservative to progressive).

There are a lot of model whiny snorks to point to, but Glenn Beck springs instantly to mind with the Fat Man and Sarah Palin not too far behind.  In fact, the three are almost in a tie.  If nothing else, they have proven that displaying limitless stupidity is good business.  It’s easy, it pays well, and it insulates you from having to get anything right.  In fact when done perfectly, it even seems to insulate you from planet Earth.

And so, here’s my prediction: the moment the highly educated Obama places his hands on education (which he already has done), the right wingnuts will start whining about things like “socialism,” “Obama worship,” “thought control,” and “totalitarianism.”  If only they knew what those terms meant.  But that’s the point: they don’t, and it doesn’t matter because it sounds bad, and they’re saying what a lot of people want to hear.

So yes, tackling the problem of education in the U.S. is a daunting task.  But it does not start with firing the teachers.  It may start with firing the parents, or even harder, trying to change some very basic and long-existing attitudes in this country.

That is the hard part.  Pink slips, in contrast, are too easy.

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