Cancer of a Healthy System

This video
Has made some big political waves and sparked some great discussion So I thought I’d chime in.

First before I go slighting people I mean no harm to, and am actually arguing FOR, I’ll point out that I’m 100% a product of public education. Elementary, Middle, and High School were all in my home town. I had my own Father for a math teacher. Then I went to the University of Maine to get my Bachelor of Science degree. As I said, my Father is a retired Public school teacher, and I will say with ZERO bias he’s an amazing one, and a scary-hard worker, and a selfless man when it came to his job. Also I have many friends who teach various grades, and I believe all of them teach in public or charter schools. Also given that Dad was a teacher that means teachers were often around our house, and would often be party to family outings.

Of all the teachers I’ve known both socially and professionally, the vast majority have been amazing people, and its because of their hard work (and of course mine) that I’m the successful man I am today. Same goes for the wife who went to all public schools.

Now the vast majority are good, the small minority are some of the worst forms of workers I have ever seen. They’re horrible because the system rewards them for being bad at their job.

Let’s explain using two Math Teachers I had. One we’ll call “Dad”, the other we’ll call “Mr. B” (only because he’s example #2, not at ALL because his last name might start with “B” nope, not at all!)

Dad worked like a Dog during his years as a school teacher. Dad would spend his evenings and weekends correcting papers, and working on new lesson plans. When his knees went bad, he opted to have surgeries during school vacations so he would miss the least amount of class. (He spent a whole summer with his legs in casts so he could be walking with crutches for the first day of school) I think he missed a grand total of 5 days due to reasons that didn’t involve large scars on his body.

Now lets look at teacher B. Mr. B is an alcoholic. Ain’t no skirting the issues, because I don’t think there’s anybody, including him that WON’T say anything to the contrary. Now he’s not a “Dry Alcoholic”, not now, and I suspect at his age (Dad still bumps into him around town) not ever. Mr. B is the kind of alcoholic who will show up to work SHITFACED drunk, and he hasn’t legally held a driver’s license for the last 10 years because of extensive DUI citations. One day I came into class to see Mr. B sitting with his head down on his desk. When the class had all taken their seats he managed to stand, and walk over to a TV from the AV room, and push play on the VCR. Algebra class for that day was watching “The Color Purple” from some random starting point that was NOT the beginning.

I shit you not. And many kids talked about “Movie Day” in Mr. B’s class with fondness, as it was fairly common, and all you had to do was wait for him to fall back asleep and you could just walk out and go wherever you felt like.

Of course after a few days of a drunken Mr. B would invoke the administration to put him on leave and dry him out in rehab. This would give the class some nice time with a substitute which did WONDERS for the continuity of the lesson plan (some of which consisted of various videos used by the English department).

Of course having tenure, Mr. B would be back (and red-faced and stumbling) again once the powers that be felt he was dry enough.

Now Dad had a master’s degree, but besides that both men worked in the same system, and had worked there for about the same amount of time, so the only difference in pay to Dad who worked his ass off, and Mr. B who drank his liver off was paid because Dad had his masters.

Now that’s insulting, but what outrages me more was Dad worked on the union negotiations that allowed this slight on his hard work to go on. This disgusts me, and whenever I bring this up Dad promptly changes the subject.

Now back to the teacher having a fit at Governor Christie:

But borough teacher Rita Wilson, a Kearny resident, argued that if she were paid $3 an hour for the 30 children in her class, she’d be earning $83,000, and she makes nothing near that.

Well first up, what’s with this $3 per student hour nonsense? Why bother cooking up such a bizarre and arbitrary number to make a point? Obviously larger classes are harder to teach well, but there are some things that are redundant for one vs. many students, like overall lesson plans, lectures, homework assignments ect ect. But even worse, you’ll find out that she was lying about her pay to the governor.

She then lies to the Governor that she “Teaches because she loves it”. Look, I won’t say she doesn’t love teaching, but if you’re making such a spectacle about yourself (and lying to public officials while on camera) all about your pay levels, you’re neglecting a serious reason why you teach.

I love shooting, guess what? I do it on my own nickle! I write this blog at a loss (now that I’m paying for a domain). I’m a Marine biologist by schooling, but I don’t do it anymore. Why? Pay and jobs weren’t good enough. I still pay good money to go to aquariums, and such. But I work for a paycheck. I make it a point to choose a job I like, but if my primary reason for getting on the train at 7am every morning with my lunch pail in hand was because I loved my job, I suspect I wouldn’t wince too much if they cut my pay in half.

Now that being said, in my current job, and a lot of people I know, we’ve revived pay cuts, reductions in benefits, shut down periods, and other crappy cost-saving tools. They suck, but so does the economy, and if my company wants to stay afloat when money is tight, stuff like that needs to happen.
But when events like this happen to teachers, or any other Union shop, the results are different:

Attempting to adjust pay with the economy often results in strikes, and most often the solution is to dig into property taxes. In other words when the economy goes down and most people are loosing work or loosing pay, and money gets tighter, the school system takes MORE money from them.

And this is for a system that again only cares about how long you’ve been in the system, not how well you do your job.

Another damning video can be found here

This system is a cancer, because it rewards the worst behaving members, and frankly it makes the hard working members look like idiots! Why did Dad bother working on correcting papers or lesson plans on the weekends, while Teacher B was getting shitfaced drunk at a local sports bar, and both received the same treatment by the administration and the Union.

In the free market world, more-or-less the system challenges us to work harder. The harder we work, the more pay we get. The more positive results we receive, the more pay we get. I have tons of friends who are my age who are working the same type of jobs they did when they were in High School. They also have lots of spare time, and aren’t challenged much in their day-to-day. Meanwhile I have friends who work long hours, and some have 2nd or 3rd jobs. Guess what? They make MORE money than I do!

With Unions, you aren’t rewarded for working harder, you are just rewarded for staying with the system, so the only rewards you get is for not being fired. So if you bust your ass and don’t get fired, you’ll get rewarded the same as the dude who’s pissing off the management, but hasn’t made the case for their termination yet. Who wins?

Who looses? The good teachers who helped me become the productive and happy adult today, and that’s who I’m writing this post for!

Arrrrrr

-Weer’d Beard

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12 Responses to Cancer of a Healthy System

  1. spike says:

    Its the unions. Always have been. Unions are Socialist tools to encourage the lazy to be lazy-er, the dumb to be dumber, and the thief to steal more. I’m all for the empowerment of the people, but it has to be a self policing system that weeds out the ones who just want a free ride.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Self policing is ALWAYS the only way to go, as when you ask a 3rd party to enforce the system they can always be toppled by corruption and/or sloth, and those this are as inevitable as death and taxes.

  2. eriko says:

    Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution. –Clay Shirky

    One of the things that behavioral economists have figured out in the that last few decades is that money is a bad incentive for any except physical and rote work. The more money you offer the crappier the results.
    http://lifehacker.com/5550373/the-surprising-realities-behind-what-motivates-us-in-illustrated-form

    Some of the reasons that unions made inroads with teachers was to stop politician from firing them so they could hire theie supporters, heavens forbid they got married or other bullshit like that. There are now procedures and policies in place (probably to much in place) to make these kinds of things harder. Generally it is thanks the unions that this happened. Now the issue is that the unions need to keep proving themselves to keep people paying their dues. All that is left is easy money. I say easy money in that things like supporting continuing training (which good teachers want and bad teachers see as extra work) or getting schools repaired are not as easy to bribe the dues payers with to keep them paying. The problems is that money does not incentivise hard mental work like teaching but that is what they keep doing.

    Things I would incentivise with are
    -longer time blocks for classes that need them.
    -continuing education. Learn about new information in your field. New writings, new research, new thoughts on teaching or refreshers on thing forgotten. If you love teaching you love learning.
    -some way to fire people like Mr. B. without opening the door to firing people just because they make you look bad by out performing you or for teaching unpopular things like Civics.
    -The ability to call bullshit of parents that claim “Little Johhny and Mary have learning disabilities and need easier work and longer time on the tests” when you know it bullshit.

    If you still needed to incentivise with money some things you could base it on are:
    -% of students w/ no felonies (what are they prepared to do when they leave your classroom.
    -% of students that are employed above the poverty line, went to and finished trade school or college. (I do not think college is the answer for a lot of people. I probably should have been an electrician and not a programmer/sysadmin)
    -other things that should how your students did down the road.

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  10. Geodkyt says:

    Speaking as someone with experience with eductaors and money, both on the school board and the fact that I grew up a teacher’s kid, and lived with a teacher for several years, let me just say that I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support immeidately adjusting Rita Wilson’s salary to the $83,000 she thinks she deserves, and making that retroactive for the last year, even.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      heh, that would be poetic justice.

      Tho frankly I don’t want a liar or a selfish grand-stander teaching my kids, so honestly I think the school system would be better without her.

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