This morning, I snapped open my newspaper to see on the front page that a longtime area priest was removed from his post because of charges that he once molested children, and that Toyota has violated discovery laws for years in product liability suits. Meanwhile, the people of Pettus, West Virginia continue to mourn and bury those who were killed in the Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine last week. So forgive me if I’m skeptical to read on the editorial page that the root of all evil is tenure, and the key to reforming public education is tying teacher’s evaluations to their students’ scores on tests administered by for-profit companies. Is it only public sector employees who are accountable?
The attacks on union workers and public employees in this recession seem meaner than ever. In the boom years, those of us who are public employees (or other non-profit sector employees) were told that we were soft, we were uncompetitive, we were missing out. Now those of us who have opted for greater job security–staying in grad school through the 1990s and missing out on the tech boom, trading cash bonuses for tenure, or better benefits packages or retirement plans for salary increases–are lectured that we’re enjoying outsized benefits and job security. How dare we? The lectures will never end, apparently. “But it’s not fair that you’re tenured! Why isn’t every other worker as vulnerable as I feel?”
Why don’t American workers look around and say, “why am I not entitled to job security and a defined benefits plan any longer?,” instead of siding with their evil corporate overlords, who would be happy to make schoolteachers, government workers, and professors as vulnerable as their own employees? The stimulus has kept a lot of us employed, making mortgage payments, and buying groceries, toothpaste, and tube socks from local retailers. Why would our fellow Americans want to remove this last backstop against 35% unemployment and another Great Depression? What’s behind this small-minded ressentiment?
UPDATED, Monday afternoon: You really must go read Dr. Crazy’s post, “Bad Gardeners, Bad Mommies, Bad Teachers.” She says a lot that anyone in education–higher, elementary, or in-between, really should read, ponder, and discuss. (See also her perceptive comment here below!)