As teachers, administrators and district employees across the state of California protested cuts to education budgets yesterday, two disturbingly disparate bits of information kept bouncing across the airwaves and through the streets. We are the largest economy in the Union, and nearly dead last in education funding. Scores of talented and passionate young teachers were slipped their pinks last year and it looks like the one’s who were spared are next on the chopping block.
I know what most people are thinking, “Wow, that’s a shame.” NO, it’s not a shame, it’s an unconscionable disaster, a fundamental societal crisis which threatens to destroy the very fabric of American life. What would happen if we started laying off soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would that be a shame? No, it would be a threat to the security of the free world. What if we started laying off Supreme Court Justices? Would that be a shame? No, it would signal the downfall of our system of justice. What if we started laying off Congress? Would that be a shame? No, it would grind our nation’s lawmaking to a halt. What if we laid off the Secretary of State? The head of the EPA? What if we laid off the President? Would we sigh and say “what a shame” if those people were laid off? No, there would be riots in the streets and civil unrest like nothing the nation has ever seen because those positions are vitally important to ensuring our fundamental freedoms.
Well-paid, well-educated, well-trained, and well-situated classroom teachers are JUST AS ESSENTIAL to ensuring our freedoms as soldiers, lawmakers, judges and police officers. In actuality, they are MORE IMPORTANT, because you can’t have decent soliders or politicians if there’s no one left to educate them. Every day I see teachers burning away their zeal and idealism as they fight an uphill battle against larger class sizes and smaller budgets, refusing to give up even though they know that at any moment they could lose their jobs. The modern American teacher has taken on the role of Sisyphus, the mythical character eternally condemned to push a stone up a steep hill only to see it tumble to the ground when he finally makes it to the top, and then forced to repeat the cruel ritual over and over again into eternity. And despite this tremendous adversity the American teacher keeps pushing that stone up the hill. Why? Because it’s their job, and they are determined to do it.
Meanwhile, our country and our state are being governed by people who are NOT DOING THEIR JOBS. Our legislators and elected officials can’t pass a budget, can’t pass health care reform, can’t help people with their mortgates, can’t get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, can’t work together, can’t do anything. And we pay these people. We pay their salaries, we pay for their health care. We pay to give them all the things they can’t figure out how to give us. Not only is this absurd, it’s IMMORAL. People say that giving money to failing schools is “subsidising failure.” If so, then continuing to allow our tax dollars to pay for the welfare of powerless elected officials is subsidizing not only failure, but hyprocisy, selfishness, cynicism, and immorality. So let’s start laying THEM off instead. Let’s send pink slips to the governor of California and our state legislators. Let’s send pink slips to every member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Because in the end, what are layoffs supposed to be for? Getting rid of the dead weight in a given organization. And right now our government is the dead weight in America, not our teachers.