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TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME

"Of course it bugs me that there are bad teachers. I would consider myself one of the truly lucky in this world if I could be there to see some of their faces when they attempted to justify their pay raise and were denied because they were bad at their jobs. I would actually giggle like a schoolgirl. But the problem is that there are plenty of dumbrags in every environment, people who haven't got a clue how to do their jobs and still manage to get the raises. It's a flawed world, and sometimes good things happen to jerks. Yes, often, good things happen to jerks."

by Jim Martin

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


I love living in the Land of Understanding.

The next thing on the conservative chopping block in My Home Town is public education. In the province (Canada's version of a state) that I live in, there are currently teacher's strikes in something like 5 different areas, with my city's catholic school board out on strike at present and the public school board voting in the very near future. And surprisingly, there's no support for the strikers.

Lemme make something clear. I don't really like unions. I think they're like the feminists that quickly forgot their purpose and get lost in the art of lobbying for power and influence. That's not what unions are for. Unions were meant to protect the interests of the people who couldn't on their own stand up to the people who were essentially oppressing them. Remember that, feminists? It didn't used to be about hating us, it used to be about loving each other. But I digress.

I see Teacher's Unions as an example of how this should be. It might be because my parents were teachers and I was inundated at a young age with the troubles of being a teacher. That's entirely possible. However, I think that this is an issue of capitalism and corruption. We all know about our good friend the invisible hand that is supposed to take care of these things, right? Well, look at the schools your children go to and tell me if that is really working today. If you have the cash, you can farm your child off to a nauseatingly proactive child educational campus where they are taught the finer arts, such as dramatics, organizational skills, web site generation, and the oppression of the upper class by the man in the white house. The rest of us, however, have to send our kids to the usual public school system. Can you say that those schools are havens of learning? Places where most kids can safely and securely grow and become people? Not at all.

Money is the problem here. The reason classrooms are so full of bodies is because they want to shave off a few teacher salaries, so they up and up the class sizes. Then we start to assess whether or not the stupid kids really need all that extra attention. I mean, they're stupid, right? Why not let them fend for themselves. Throw them in with the rest of the kiddies. And little Wang, the boy who speaks no English? Toss him on the pile. I bet that the total immersion environment will help him learn, instead of turning him off of school and encouraging him to find other, more destructive things to do.

Does that sound like the system your kids are in? Worse yet, does it sound like the system you want for them? or the system you had when you were their age? It's getting worse, folks. And money is the cause.

We talk about balanced budgets. Great. Our budget in Alberta balances. We did that by destroying the health care system and public education. Wonderful. Isn't a budget meant as a tool to ensure the equal distribution of finance to the areas that require it? In other words, when I make my personal budget I am applying the money I make to the things I have to and want to enjoy. Sometimes we cut out the things that we want in favor of the things that we have to do, like bills or tattoos. But is an educated work force a want?

This isn't about being a right winger or a left winger or a hippie or the son of a teacher. This is about wanting the best for the future of my country, and dunderheaded sick people just don't inspire me to feel safe about our economic future. But who is there to take a stand? That's where the union comes in. This wholly communist approach to things is the piece of the puzzle that is missing. This is the invisible hand, in this case. It is the tool that prevents the corrupt and short-sighted goals of the government from ignoring the future of the world. Getting re-elected is easy, offer people the things they imagine are worthwhile. Doing what's best for the country and the future often isn't the same thing. The union, by virtue of it being a selfish group, is there to look after the goals of educators, the educated, and society.

The word on the street is that this is going to be a long strike. The government claims that it isn't going to kick in any more money, and since the union can't afford a long strike, it runs the risk of falling. This makes me sad, because it's a deliberate tactic on the part of the government.

They keep telling us that there just isn't any more money. Oil prices dropped, and nobody saw that coming. Actually, they did. The oil and gas companies all seemed to be prepared for the fact that the outrageous prices we saw last year were temporary and wouldn't be sustainable, but apparently they forgot to tell my government. The truth of the matter is that being ignorant of the truth served the government even better than forward thinking. They won our confidence by crying out about a $5 billion surplus, and now that they've got us feeling the love they lower the boom and talk about changes in the world markets and "the events of 9-11". What a timely piece of terrorism that was. We are supposed to understand that a change in oil prices cost us $5 billion, and as such we have to cinch up our belts and let the teachers hang.

You see, the most important thing is that we have a balanced budget. Without that, there would be chaos. Admittedly, we've destroyed our once-tremendous health care and public education systems among many others to do so, but we have a balanced budget. Good for us. Think of it. We can now hang out at summits and brag about our balanced budget. In fact, I think I should write it as Our Balanced Budget just to give it the hype it deserves.

It turns out that Our Balanced Budget didn't think that teachers would want more than a 6% raise. This may sound like a pretty good raise, but they've been taking the shaft for the last few contracts and are finally tired of taking rollbacks. They want theirs back now, and I totally agree.

The ultraconservatives that I work with don't seem to agree, though. They say all sorts of things about how teachers should be paid on a performance basis, just like everyone else in the world. Well, that sort of thinking works great in our private sector world, but what leverage does a teacher have without their union? They can't go to another company because there isn't one. In the business world, there are thousands of companies to choose from. In the world of teaching, the only way to get a new boss is to move to another place, and most other places are dealing with exactly the same troubles from exactly the same short-sighted and small-minded leaders.

If there was no union, who's to say that the government would bother with giving them any better raise for performance reasons? There's no money, remember?

Of course it bugs me that there are bad teachers. I would consider myself one of the truly lucky in this world if I could be there to see some of their faces when they attempted to justify their pay raise and were denied because they were bad at their jobs. I would actually giggle like a schoolgirl. But the problem is that there are plenty of dumbrags in every environment, people who haven't got a clue how to do their jobs and still manage to get the raises. It's a flawed world, and sometimes good things happen to jerks. Yes, often, good things happen to jerks.

If you kill the union, you don't make for a better situation, it just means that the people who do want to be teachers will be wide open to being shafted by a system that has no checks and balances in place to protect them. Nobody gets into teaching for the money, but what people want out of a career is some sense of stability; maybe not keeping up with the Joneses, but at least keeping up with the cost of bread. That isn't happening, and it won't happen if there isn't someone acting on behalf of the teachers.

But then I'm a Goddamn Pinko Anarchist Mao-Loving Let-The-Blacks-Vote Psychotic Bad Influence on the World Around Us. So who am I to say anything?






ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Martin is one of those people who can start a sentence with "The problem with democracy is that jerks like you get to vote" and end it with your wanting to be his friend. He hosts a website and has been published by Mob Hit Productions, Images Inscript, House of Pain, Scapegrace, and here at 3am. Toxic Thought Syndrome is a weekly column of his, and diametrically opposed to his other regular column, Mr. Lousy Advice Guy for SinglesFAQ.com.






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