Jul 292014
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Wisconsin Statehouse

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To Teach or Not To Teach: That is the Question.

This all started with two teachers; well, to be precise, one teacher and a group of teachers but lets just pretend that all the teachers at the State House in Wisconsin are one guy. The other, of course is the Pennsylvania teacher who blogged about her teaching experiences and got suspended. The jury is out on both these teachers. Some people support the ‘right’ of public employees to abandon their battle stations and picket the government. Some people say it is an outrage. Some people think that the Pennsylvania teacher was out of line to suggest that her students were not motivated. Some people think it’s about time that somebody says that kids should be responsible.

Sue and Wesley

Lets call our surrogate Wisconsin teacher, Wesley and the Pennsylvania teacher Sue just for discussion and forget the complication that Wesley is part of a pack and Sue is the lone ranger. Lets just talk about how crazy things have gotten here in the old USA that these are big news stories.

Let’s start with Sue

Let’s start with Sue, merely because her story started first. Sue is a young, pregnant, energetic and engaged teacher. From what I can read, she seems to be exactly the kind of person I would like to have teaching my kids. In the midst of her busy and challenging life she starts a blog. The reason is probably as a way of organizing her thinking, chronicling her progress and perhaps some venting. I wasn’t following her blog until the big blowup- and then of course it went down. As I understand, she did not mention names or indicate her school or location but someone noticed. Her honest and anonymous comments tagged her as a liability for the school and she found her extremely pregnant self escorted off the premises and into limbo.

Moving along to Wesley

Now, how about Wesley? Wesley wakes up to discover that the state government is planing to require teachers to contribute more toward pension and health benefits to balance a budget strapped by a bad economy.

“They can’t do this to me!” , Wesley says as he checks an email from his Teacher’s Union. “No school today.”

So Wesley and hundreds of Wisconsin teachers drive to Madison to protest and attempt to prevent this action. Hundreds of classrooms are abandoned all over Wisconsin. Thousands of children get no instruction.

The impact is the same. Both Wesley and Sue leave their classrooms abandoned. Wesley from his choice and Sue from her Principal’s choice. Is either one of them right? Does Sue have the right to expect a pass when she criticizes her students? Do Wesley’s concerns for his income trump his responsibility to his community?  Since they are both public employees, what does the public actually think about this?

Starting with this Coot

This Coots has some strong opinions that come from my career as a unionized public employee and now a blogger. I began my employment back before government workers were forced to join unions. In those days, you accepted that government work would pay less than working for a private company but that the job security and benefits were a partial compensation along with the satisfaction from serving your community. In those days, citizens saw government workers as necessary expenses and were accepting of paying reasonable wages. That was long ago and far away. There are now so many government workers doing things that were never needed before (and perhaps not needed now?) and at such outrageous salaries that the public can only see the government as a parasite sucking them dry.

Wow! That came out a bit strong, didn’t it.

Anyway the good public servants doing necessary jobs in responsible ways get lumped in with the leeches. The good ones never confuse their interests with their responsibilities. They show up and expect to be appreciated for their service. The leeches? They show up at the Statehouse.

Am I saying Wesley is a leech?

Not on your life. I’m a blogger, too.

Now what about Sue?

I really feel for Sue. She is exactly the kind of our person I hope our country can still produce. She cares. She is committed to her job. She thinks.

Still was it right to point our that some of her students expect the world on a platter? Probably not.

Should she have been escorted off the school grounds by goons? I don’t think so.

Should she return to her job? That’s the big question and the answer says a lot about whether our culture is declining or holding.

So, what about consequences?

However the circus in Wisconsin plays out, the worst thing to happen to Wesley is that he may be docked for the days of school he missed. Life will go on. Wisconsin will either cust costs in response to the voters or go bankrupt in response to the unions. Whatever, Wesley will still have his job.

Or that Sue should get a pass?

Sue may get her job back but it all depends on the nervous Nelly administrators that fear lawsuits and the parents in her school district. She is a liability; great teacher though she may be. She will be a target for any whining student who thinks he deserves a better grade or indulging parents who want to get their daughter into Yale. My money says they won’t take the risk.

Warning: Soapbox ahead

The cause of all this is the government monopoly on education. We all contribute to educating the youth of the country but instead of allowing parents to control where that money goes, the government decides.  And lately, you may have noticed, the government doesn’t seem to care what the masses think.  Since government schools don’t have to worry about attracting customers, they sell out to their employees. And since students don’t have any choice either, their only recourse is to sue when they aren’t treated right.

What’s your take on Wesley and Sue? Government workers? Unions? School Districts?

Freedom of speech in the classroom

Can a teacher blog?

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Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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  18 Responses to “Coot’s Quandary: A Tale of Two Teachers”

  1. I’d say let her go back to her job. On paper and in public there’s a huge ‘support’ for thinking independently, promoting learning and skills, producing well-rounded and whole people. In private the opposite seems to be true, and that’s certainly reflected in a lot of educational institutions and governmental bodies.

    Though, you’re probably right and they probably won’t. Makes you wonder.

  2. Heather,
    In the US we are at a turnng point. Which is more important, the individual or the state. Right now the individual is losing.

  3. This one is a slam dunk for anyone with at least three functioning brain cells:

    Sue keeps her job, is left totally alone regarding what she does with her own off-time (blogging) as long as she breaks no laws, and gets a bonus if it can be shown that her blog actually wakes some parents up and makes them be parents instead of trying to be their snot-nosed-brat kid’s “best friend”.

    Wesley and his buddies need to get the Ronald Reagan/Donald Trump treatment…”You’re fired!”. They have a contract, they intentionally aren’t complying with its terms, thus rendering the contract legally void and unenforceable, so fire the sorry POS’s.

    A fix for the whole screwed up educational system? Easy…abolish the federal Dept of Education and put education back under control of the states where it CONSTITUTIONALLY belongs. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the power to educate our kids given to the federal government, and the 10th amendment is clear. ANY power not given to the feds is xpressly reserved to the states or individual citizens.

  4. Bob,
    Sometimes I wish you weren’t so soft spoken. You hold back too much.

  5. I was born polite…but I had a relapse.

  6. Bob,
    Probably that private school education.

  7. Over here, the individual lost. Except for the occasional power struggle of course =)

    And I agree with Ralph, Bob you really need to speak up more. Come on now!

  8. I only have two functioning brain cells left, and don’t want to endanger them thinking about this subject. Seems like class warfare to me. Power to the People.

  9. One brain cell for each blog. I see how that might limit your concentration. Still as usual your comment is insightful. Eliminate teachers all together and turn the school into a battle ground. Let the best class win.

  10. Ralph, enjoyed reading the commentary. I agree about choice in education. I also think more accountability is important in education. As for the blogger? I don’t know, as a lawyer it would make me nervous.

  11. Will,
    Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where you didn’t worry about being sued for having an opinion? Nice to have you finally break the ice and leave a comment. Don’t let Bob scare you off. He uses lawyers very effectively. He just likes to bluster.

  12. Ralph…I’ll hav you know I won that case against the county sans lawyer. I damn sure wouldn’t have settled for a dollar and an admission of fault if I had had skin in the game.

  13. Bob,
    I give up. I bet you can see through walls too.

  14. Only with my x-ray glasses Ralph. Nobody but Superman can se thru walls without ‘m.

  15. Bob,
    No wonder I’m confused.

  16. I taught fifth grade for almost 40 years – in both public and private schools. Have mixed feelings about said teacher/blogger.

    I always prided myself on motivating ALL my students – always putting extra effort into establishing a good relationship with the kids who seemed likely to enjoy making classes hell for me and others. It worked. As one past student shared with me, being offish or negative in my classroom “just wasn’t the thing to do”. So, on one hand, I say to our blogger/teacher that teaching, by it’s very close-to-impossible nature, is hard, pays poorly, and is subject to everyone’ judgement. You should expect that – complaining about your students publicly exposes your weakness much more than those of your students.

    I say that teaching well for one day or one week is easy. But doing so monthly and yearly takes stamina and skills that few people are able or willing to acknowledge.

    On the other hand, the right to speak your peace should be upheld. But like the issue with much of our new technology features, be it cloning or twittering: Just because you can – doesn’t mean that you should.

  17. Banjo Steve,
    Thanks for sharing that comment based on your experience. It’s always easy to be critical of people without real knowledge of what they actually are dealing with. There probably isn’t a good side to dissing students attitudes even if the criticism is justified. Still, she sounds like the kind of person that we need in teaching and maybe this experience will help her, if they give her another chance.

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