During President Obama's State of the Union address last night he spent a good chunk of it talking the good talk about education. He praised his bipartisan education program, Race to the Top, which, for me, only holds the distinction of "Well, it's not No Child Left Behind, so that's something." But the headliner was when Obama called on for young folks to mobilize, get educated and go out and educate others. Which sounds nice ... in theory. But as my mother, some good friends of mine and many others can attest -- when it comes to respect, teachers are just one step below the grandmother you never remember to call and just one step above the homeless guy who asks you everyday for an exact $1.35 in change.
Translation: Nobody curr 'bout, teechurs.
Due to a deadly combo of sexism and the tragedy that is the human condition, teaching is a pretty brutal profession. Oh, everyone wants to talk about the ideal situation. You and Mr. Holland's Opus crying copious tears as you free Mr. Clark while finding that annoying Forrester who keeps getting lost while hunting, with much good will, for Bobby Fischer. Then you all get together and sing "The Greatest Love of All" at the top of your lungs and you hug and you cry and you laugh and laugh because no matter what they take from you, school teacher, they can't take away your dignity!
Yeah, all those situations sound great compared to the very unsexy reality, where public school is less Dangerous Minds and more 187.
You remember 187, the film where Samuel L. Jackson plays a high school teacher at the school from hell, tries to make a difference and ends up playing Russian Roulette with a student sent to kill him? Um, 1997 spoiler alert! It doesn't end well.
Now, I'm not saying your gang banger students are going to put a hit out on you. That doesn't happen very often. What's much more likely to happen is:
- You will make low wages.
- You will get trapped in a system that rewards banality.
- You will spend your own money, which barely covers your rent, to buy supplies for your classroom and students because the school budget is so fragile, they can't purchase these things.
- You will get inaccurate history textbooks from Texas that will teach the Civil Rights Movement as some rabble-rousing by a couple of Communist sympathisers, lead by a sexual deviant.
- You will be the scapegoat for parents who have no interest in parenting.
- You will be the scapegoat when the school under-performs.
- You will find that your innovative ideas and enthusiasm regarding teaching denigrated by other teachers who are just there for the check and health insurance.
- You will feel the wrath of educators who can't be fired because they had the good sense to get hired when the district was desperate for teachers and took anyone with a college degree, and now their old, incompetent ass is the Highlander of Lower Learning because they have seniority and can't be fired.
- You will have to take lunch with that one creepy guy from the Sting song.
- You will have to deal with FOX News camping out on your front lawn when Sting song guy gets arrested for getting a cheerleader pregnant.
- You will get laid off first when the district slashes its budget to pay for the lawsuit the parents brought against the school because of Sting song guy.
So, Obama is encouraging you to join that grand, noble clusterfuck.
No matter what President Obama or the federal government or Republicans who hate the Department of Education say, our federal government can't really do that much to influence public schools. Right now, we're essentially trying to bribe them into following national standards with mixed results. At the end of the day, state schools are under local control. This means I learned about Darwin in high school. In other states, they don't. Districts pull their funding from property taxes in their surrounding areas. And if you live in a nice area with a lot of money you probably love your schools. If you're broke and you live in a poor area, you probably don't like yours that much ... that is if your school is still open.
And if you have an ounce of creativity and real talent for communicating with children and an actual love of academics, my God, the world will work so hard to murder that right out of you. HOW DARE YOU THINK YOU COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
But you know, if you stick with it and work really hard, you might help a few kids and isn't that what really matters? Money isn't everything! Children are the future! Positivity! Happy thoughts! Not that you can't afford to move out of your parents' house or that you have to bag groceries on the weekends, like my old geometry teacher, who I used to stare at, all confused-like, when I would see him in fresh veggies section the Schnucks, spraying lettuce, and it was just awkward, you know? But hey, Mr. Linderdorf's cats weren't going to feed themselves.
But, no worries. Kidz no kneed 2 learn gud. Verizon has deh iPhones now. Dey do erreythang.
WHITNEY LIED TO YOU! SHE LIED TO YOU ALL!