It’s been strange following the ways in which the conservative governors of our middle American states have turned so virulently on a paragon of traditional American virtue: the teacher. Regardless of where you come down on the political activities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana–brutal response to fiscal reality or brutally cynical political wedge issue–it’s been shocking to hear the vitriol directed toward the nation’s educators.
Frankly, I don’t really understand it. Certainly there are bad teachers in the United States, and I imagine there are ways in which the national union stifles innovation. But, really, teachers? The people caring for and our educating our children? It doesn’t track.
Now, using the Times as a source of American perspective is a dangerous thing. As an institution it feels compelled to display all sides of an issue, regardless of how preposterous one side might be. But does a broad cross-section of the American public really begrudge teachers their summer break:
Even in a country that is of two minds about teachers — Americans glowingly recall the ones who changed their lives, but think the job with its summers off is cushy — education experts say teachers have rarely been the targets of such scorn from politicians and voters.
Republican lawmakers in half a dozen states are pressing to unwind tenure and seniority protections in place for more than 50 years. Gov. Chris Christie’s dressing down of New Jersey teachers in town-hall-style meetings, accusing them of greed, has touched a populist vein and made him a national star.
I know that directing money at large bureaucracies doesn’t solve systemic problems, but seriously, as a parent, if there is one bloated, unwieldy, and poorly-performing institution I like seeing awash in money, its schools, particularly the public ones. So, let’s assume for the moment that our teachers really are the bloodsuckers that Republican elected officials would like them to be–they’re not, but assume it–wouldn’t paying them off be a worthy trade on behalf of our young? Balancing the budget on their backs is really just balancing it on our own.
Unless of course you’re wealthy enough to send your children to private school. But even then, no, that’s too simple. It’s still absurd.
Play nice, boys.