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Thanksgiving for Bailed- Out Bankers and “Bad” Teachers

November 27, 2010

As Chuck mentioned in his post Black Friday, time IS running out for teachers to successfully defend our profession from the hedge fund managers, billionaires and faux reformers : As I went to what I thought would be a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house in one of those planned communities, Ladera Ranch in Orange County where you feel like you walked onto the set of Leave it to Beaver with a slightly more upper class flavor. My brother’s wife, who is a teacher and votes for every anti-teacher, anti public worker initiative on the ballots, had taken their oldest son to the mid west to tour different sites, attend a football game and visit friends.

My brother was left with the two of their other adorable kids, one of whom I told the legend of DB Cooper to. He rushed to the Internet to find out more. He is an expert at using Google at 6 years old, asked many questions: “Is he still alive?” “Where did he jump?” and sadly has a vocabulary and use of language at 6 years old that is more advanced than some of my high school students. Why?

Well because my brother and his wife don’t allow video games in their home, they travel with the kids and read to them all the time- and his kids attend great public school in the Capistrano Unified School District. In fact, Ladera Ranch is so self-contained that it has it own public elementary school- just for the housing tracts in Ladera Ranch.

How is he able to do this? He works for one of those big banks that almost went under but didn’t- it got bailed out. He travels the country, dealing with those who have 10 million dollars or more to invest to help keep them from paying taxes, the taxes that public schools need to survive, even as he began lecturing me while carving the turkey because he saw “Waiting for Superman” a few days before and began interrogating me about all the “bad teachers” and every time I tried to tell him we don’t have that many bad teachers- that we can’t keep good ones, he kept yelling, “How many bad teachers does your union get rid of?” I then had to explain that like the police and firefighters unions, that is not the union’s job. “Who creates the contracts,” he yelled. “The district and the union together.” “Aha- that proves my point!”

I then asked why it was that his wife’s district has nearly all API 10 schools and a stronger union than UTLA? He couldn’t answer that. He kept on asking me about the “bad teachers” and I explained that most teachers I know spend hours of their own time and much of their own money outside the classroom for the benefit of students. “YOU do that, because you are a good teacher.” I said,”There are many good teachers,” and he just would not stop.

He is convinced, this law school graduate with two master’s degrees and kids in the Capistrano Unified School District that bad teachers are lurking everywhere and must be stopped and that “treating all teachers the same” is the problem. So, I as a teacher pulling down something like 63,000 dollars a year after 7 years and contributing 8% of my pay to my pension, is being lectured at by a sibling who owns 4 other houses, takes about 3 international vacations a year, who was offered a position at another big bank for 1/3 more money and was able to go back to his boss at “bailed out bank” and negotiate an even bigger raise, whose job survived by my tax dollars – and I was getting told that my pension is the problem, that there are so many bad teachers in my profession that I am not willing to do anything about. Funny, I thought it was the banks that caused most of our problems. But no, it’s me as a public educator that is apparently the villain because I refuse to do anything about “bad teachers.”

Wow. Mission Accomplished by the neo-liberal privatizers and David Guggenheim. I am now sucking at the tit of government, as my brother put it. He’s not, I am. Because I am going to get a pension when I retire. He said we should all have 401 K’s. What happens to teachers who have been teaching for 30 years when the market goes bad? Nebraska found out and put all of their workers back into pensions. At least they are intellectually honest. My brother was lucky to be a winner in the economic collapse that decimated Main Street. I wonder if he was a loser in the scenario, like the poor Lehman brother workers that everyone gawked at as the walked out their workplace with cardboard boxes for the last time- if his point of view would be different, but somehow I doubt it.

So I went to Thanksgiving dinner and instead of being thanked for educating kids many others would not teach or who are wrongly stereotyped- one other person at the table didn’t want to hear about my student who got the Questbridge scholarship.- It doesn’t fit with the image of scary, inner city kids- I was put on the defensive to explain the apparent epidemic of “bad teachers.”

My brother says I am not dealing with reality, yet who teaches kids every day and goes to areas he only passes by on the freeway? I see the reality of an economy that has left most Americans behind, the reality of kids economically and racially segregated and preyed upon by social climbing administrators of their own race, who may once have come from their ranks, but now sell out the very kids they claim to be helping. Funny, I don’t remember my brother, or David Guggenheim, talking about “bad administrators” those in LAUSD who are the most highly paid in LA County while LAUSD teachers remain 48th out of 50 in teacher pay in LA County. Administrators who taught for all of three years before fleeing the classroom for more upward mobility and pensions that will put them in the 7000 dollar range per month at least at retirement, while most teachers will retire with around 2500 dollars or less. I can count on one hand the administrators who could actually teach and were actually human beings: Marilyn Gavin, Jack Baroutjian, Mr. Gonzales, maybe a couple of more. I heard good things about Jackie Furby from teachers at Southgate High- she worked at Fremont before I arrived.

Reality hits me in the face every day, and it bites.

Speaking of Black Friday, my brother was slated to be at the Wal Mart in Aliso Viejo at 4:30 this morning to get a 32 inch flat screen for 198 bucks. I asked him if he wasn’t afraid of the stampede that happened a few years ago. He said that Wal Mart solved that issue by keeping the store open 24 hours from Wednesday and that the specials would not start until 5 am so if there is a stampede, it would only be in the electronics department. Haven’t heard if he got the TV or not.

I’m just wondering when this race to the bottom mentality will finally boomerang and affect his job and his family- but I have a feeling it won’t. Not until the next generation, and by that time he will have made so much wealth from simply hiding people’s assets (legally) from the IRS, it will cushion the next generation. Meanwhile, those of us who actually produce, who create, who have a skill, we are told we are the problem, that if we just gave up our pensions, that if we just fired all the bad teachers, everything would be fine. Whose not dealing with reality now?

I’d put any of my colleagues up with the very competent teachers in Upper Class Public School District X. Funny, my brother didn’t mention any bad teachers in his own kids’ school district- I guess they just exist in the world he passes by on the freeway. Here’s to us: “bad teachers” and “scary inner city kids.” Happy Thanksgiving.

Yesenia, George, Anthony

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2010 8:42 am

    I hope you blasted your brother for his

    blatant hypocrisy. He demands salary/

    pensions cuts for teachers and at the same

    time expects teachers to produce Mercedes

    Benz results with VW parts! Meanwhile, he

    grows rich working for an “industry” (banking)

    which is lavishly rewarded for gross failure!

    The fight is fixed. The top 1-2% are making

    themselves richer while enslaving the other


    cuts for teachers and demand

  2. November 27, 2010 10:53 am

    Exactly, yet somehow I and other public workers are the ones bleeding the treasury dry.

  3. November 27, 2010 11:00 am

    Your brother is reminded of bad teachers every time he looks in the mirror. He is depressed about how easy it is for him to fool people and thinks that schools can change that. Schools can’t make people either good or smart.

  4. November 27, 2010 12:01 pm

    Actually my brother had an excellent education and great teachers. If he wants to help people invest money, that is fine but like many conservatives he doesn’t understand that “Everyone does better when everyone does better.” We all do better when there is a middle class and actually private industry could have defined benefit retirement if all the wealth was not going to the top

    • November 27, 2010 12:55 pm

      I just meant it was the sort of universal guilt we all have.

      You might suggest he listen to Russ Roberts at EconTalk.
      Russ is a libertarian economist and very level-headed. It would be a good start at learning to apply your brother’s critical thinking skills to things other than his job. Also School Finance 101 is a fabulous blog that frames education in a way he should appreciate, not to mention there is a Superman article.

      I have a dear friend of many years that spews the same FUD about school reform (and global warming). He tries to hide the origins of what he dredges up but if you can find it, it’s easy to refute. The most important thing is you have to lay down rules about who can and can’t be used for support. After you have proved that someone is a shill that takes money from a special interest to produce FUD, you have to stick to your principles and not let him drag that particular zombie out of the grave six months from now.

      • November 27, 2010 1:53 pm

        Thanks for the websites. Russ Roberts sounds interesting. I really appreciate it

  5. Georgie permalink
    November 27, 2010 1:29 pm

    As a teacher who quit the system many years ago, I shake my head every time I hear about ‘bad’ teachers or ‘pay commensurate with product quality’. It’s all fine and dandy, but no one ever talks about the kids. How many really WANT an education? How many would rather do something else? You can’t compare today with the ‘Beaver’ years because there have been 3 generations of kids through the system since than and each generation has its values of education handed down from the parents. C students beget D students who beget F students. Hence we have private schools for the few who can afford them and those who were from an A student upbringing. The rest are in the public system.

    Would never teach school again. That’s why I’m in the corporate training BUSINESS rather than babysitting .

    • lyn permalink
      November 28, 2010 6:39 pm

      Sorry that you feel you were babysitting. Apparantly you were not a REAL teacher. REAL teachers don’t babysit, they teach.

      • Barbara permalink
        November 28, 2010 6:55 pm

        What she meant was that she was dealing with kids who are not socialized for the school experience by their parents. This creates a large part of the problem at schools but instead, teachers are blamed.

  6. November 27, 2010 1:57 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that you left. Diane Ravitch talks about the self -selection of teachers out of the field. There were many times I might have left but I was lucky to come in at a time with lots of support and great colleagues. I think often in teaching it is situational. Maybe if I had started at a different school at a different time I would have left too.
    We are bombarded from all sides: the privatizers, our own district and “experts” like Harry Wong who say if you only set up your classroom like this, everything will work. And I like some of Harry Wong’s stuff but classroom management is so dependent on the situation.

    In addition, like you say, “product quality” is difficult to determine in a teacher. Some students do well with some teachers while others don’t.

  7. lyn permalink
    November 28, 2010 6:36 pm

    I’m a teacher for students with disabilities and have earned my Specialist degree in Admin. I work very hard and long hours for my pay. In fact, last week, I worked in my classroom until 10:00 pm one night.
    I too, went through this same type of ridicule this Thanksgiving.My family celebrated at my home this year. In a rather large crowd, the topic of conversation turned to my husband and I purchasing a very small (800 sf)vacation home and the trials and troubles that come with purchasing a second home.My brother (who made a killing in sales and financing his product to the underpaid out there and then went on to become an EMT when he saw the economy busting) began to tell me that we didn’t need to be buying anything right now with the way education is going. He told me and everyone else in the room that my high paid babysitting days may soon be over. He went on to lament on how the students I teach should be at home and the public shouldn’t be providing an education for a child who will never be any good to society. What he doesn’t even realize or want to hear is that “my students” aren’t the students with severe disabilities but the ones who are just like his very own child with ADHD. Not that that matters to me. I feel all children are entitled to an education. He continued to loudly protest against sorry-ass teachers, the big bucks we make, our time off,benefits, etc., etc. I finally had enough, realized I’d never ever win that argument, and slipped off to another room. This has happened so many times. I dn’t understand the reasoning. I’ve heard high-paid babysitter until I’m sick of it and it’s not only from this brother but another one as well.I pray to God that they never have a child or grandchild who might need the special services of a Special Ed. teacher. What I need is a comeback that will stop them in their tracks.

  8. Barbara permalink
    November 28, 2010 6:58 pm

    I wish I had one, but I’m really bad at snappy comebacks. You know they would never do the jobs we do and this is typical of people who aren’t in education.
    Think about it, firefighters start at what teacher’s pay ends at in 25 years. I guess we are an easy target but I have never figured out why.

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