I feel a little guilty writing this.
You see, I’m the son of a teacher and union member. My mother taught in the California schools for about three decades. She was dedicated, she was tough, she loved her job at times—with kids who wanted to learn, with kids who were trying to get their lives on the right track—and she dreaded it at times–with the school politics, with overly intrusive parents and with lazy, occasionally nasty students.
And she was a strong union member.
That’s why, when I watch the teacher vs governor drama play out in Wisconsin, I have conflicting emotions. I love teachers, I love the commitment they have to educate young people. They’re not salesmen, they’re not in the profession to make a buck.
But…..(this is where the narrative takes the big turn)….
But I also have come to believe that, over the last few decades, and especially over the last few years while the economy’s taken a nosedive, some teachers and other government workers are living in something of a dream world.
Jobs have disappeared in the private sector, payrolls have declined, salaries have been frozen, health benefits have actually shrunk. Speaking only for myself, I can say that I’m paying more in premiums than I used to, I’ve had to increase my co-pays, and my coverage is less than it was. I and my fellow employees just shrug our shoulders when this happens; it’s just a sign of the times.
No protests, no work stoppages.
Maybe we’re naive, lambs waiting to be slaughtered, or maybe we’re just more in touch with reality.
Many teachers and other employees paid by the government, though, seem to have the feeling that benefits can’t shrink. And their benefits, as is well-known, are pretty damn generous. They have pensions! What the hell is a pension? I thought those disappeared years ago.
I think in the past we, as a society, have justified the generous benefits because we knew that teachers, perhaps, weren’t paid as much as workers in the private sector. I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. There are plenty of people in the TV business, the restaurant business, and the shoe-selling business who would love to make $30,000 a year. And would love to have 10 weeks of vacation a year, or more.
So once again, sorry, Mom. I think the times have changed. I hope I haven’t.