Thursday, June 03, 2010

Schadenfreude; Or, So You're Not Getting Laid Off After All: You Suck

Well, I guess I have to cancel my twelve-month plan for writing my memoirs, because we're not getting laid off after all. That's undoubtedly good news for everyone involved. But of course, our laugh-a-minute Fearless Leader issued this proclamation in the same breath as he announced that we would not even see pattern raises. Most of my colleagues are pretty un-psyched about that part. I can see their point. Everyone likes more money. But since even the most ardent defenders of raises can't seem to figure out where the money would come from, I started telling myself quite a while back that I'd probably have to forget about seeing a raise. So I met today's news with relief, followed quickly by "meh." If they keep paying me, I'll keep showing up. I wish I made more money, sure, but it looks like it isn't going to happen for now, and it seems like there might be a good reason for that; namely, there is no frackin' money. Fine. I'll still sleep okay tonight.

What I don't get is the suggestion that teachers already have it so good that we ought to be ashamed of wanting more. Or maybe it's not quite that; that argument is hardly new. Maybe it's more like, "Well, my job in the private sector sucks! I haven't had a raise in three years SO YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER."

I don't quite buy that. It's not that I don't think public employees should have to sacrifice, exactly. But quite a few public employees have already sacrificed merely by being public employees. I don't know that there are many six-figure literary analysis jobs out there for me, granted, but a friend of mine is about to make close to it teaching TESOL classes in a Korean graduate school, and I have other friends who gave up well-paying jobs in accounting and law to become teachers. Teachers don't teach because of the money; if we wanted to make lots of money, we could probably make it elsewhere. We teach because we like it. And because we sacrifice higher earnings right out of the gate, we expect certain things in return: a higher degree of job security, better benefits. That doesn't seem crazy to me.

But besides that, I don't quite get the schadenfreude that people express against teachers. Like us not getting a raise would make them feel better or somehow improve their situation, like because their job sucks, ours should too. I mean, I have students who have deceased parents and incarcerated siblings, and that's horrible for them, but it wouldn't make any difference for them if their tablemates' brothers also went to jail in some crazy solidarity move.

So, okay, we teachers get it. We know what's been happening out in the private sector and most of us are angry about it. But, speaking for myself, I don't understand how acceding to the idea that jobs should be temporary, insecure, and paid at the bare minimum rate of salary and benefits is good for anyone--public or private, white or blue collar, whatever. I'm not sure how teachers giving ground on the ideas of reasonable job security and fair compensation helps anyone. Corporate America has turned their back on those ideas. That doesn't mean the rest of us should too.

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