Thursday, August 12, 2010

Take this Job and Shove It

So sang Johny Paycheck, in a massive crossover country hit that resonated loud and large with the American public.    How many of us harbor secret longings to let it all out?  How many injustices have we suffered?  How many unreasonable demands?  How many smiles have we offered when we intended daggers?

This week, Steven Slater, the real life embodiment of this fantasy, is an internet hero.  He’s Johny Paycheck.  He’s Popeye, who had all he can stands and can’t stands no more.  How many timid Americans go home and dream about doing the same?

I haven’t got an opinion about Mr. Slater one way or the other, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if a teacher were to do the same thing.  What if I, for example, the next time a student requested I perform some unnatural act or other, were to drop my chalk and walk out?  Would someone put up a Facebook page offering to help me out?

I think not.

Recently, in fact, a teacher allegedly faked a fall down a stairway to avoid an observation.  (I’ll readily grant that this is not the sort of thing that makes people stand up and cheer.)  The New York Post determined this meant we need stricter accountability measures for teachers.  To me, it’s incredible anyone would come to such a conclusion based on the actions of one individual.  Should we judge all the members of that teacher’s religion, sex, or skin color based on her actions?    If we’re willing to stereotype her profession, why not go all the way? 

I can’t help but notice the Post hasn’t yet made any determination about flight attendants, or how they should be treated on the basis of the actions of a single individual.   But in these United States, in 2010, it's socially acceptable to stereotype teachers.

There are different expectations for us than for the rest of humanity.  We, apparently, are saints.  Politicians aren't.  At the last Democratic convention, GW Bush was not invited to speak.  Nor was Sarah Palin. Rush Limbaugh raised no objection, as far as I know.  The most I ever listen to Rush is never, so if anyone knows better, feel free to correct me.  But I’m pretty sure neither Rush, nor Sean Hannity, nor Glenn Beck said word one on that topic.

Yet Bill Gates spoke at the AFT convention, and not only to teacher-bashers see it as perfectly appropriate, but AFT bigshots think so too.  I’ve read in the comments at GothamSchools that this was by way of ongoing dialogue, that it’s important to keep contact with a personage of such influence.  I agree completely with the second part of that statement.  Of course we should talk to Bill Gates.  We’d be stupid not to.  Perhaps we could persuade him to stop talking such baseless nonsense.  Stranger things have happened.

Making him the featured speaker of our convention, however, sends quite a different message.  First of all, with no Q and A, it’s not a dialogue or negotiation in any sense.  More importantly, allowing someone to speak at a convention indicates respect or approval of that person’s policies.  And sure, if you’re a fan of school closings, merit pay, “value-added” assessments, mass firings of teachers, public schools being replaced with non-union charters, and all the other great ideas Bill has, invite him to speak.

If not, converse with him in private.  Try to get him to see the light.  I won't object.

Still, I'd advise you not to hold your breath waiting for Bill's moment of revelation.
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