Yes, like most teachers, I’ve been greedy all my life. The Republican candidate for President was just doing his civic duty when he pointed it out.
To quote Mitt Romney:“He ( President Obama) says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”1
He was of course speaking about Obama calling for more teachers and other public servants to be hired or those to be rehired who had been laid off. Romney points out that in his belief more government jobs do not help the American people. To me it’s as if he is saying, “Haven’t teachers acquired enough wealth already off the backs of the American middle class?”
Granted I was using Barack Obama as my proxy in thinking this, asking the president to proselytize for the retention of public employees. I admit that in this I am culpable. But someone has to make sure we teachers stay among the moneyed elite.
Of course, I am being absurdly ironic. But I have also been a registered Republican most of my adult life. Many people who know me find this hard to believe. I answer that there has to be one progressive in the GOP so I volunteered. Yes, it’s a dirty job (filthy, actually) but I do get to look at the absurdities of what has become the Republican Party and point them out to anyone I please. Most days I lose count, there are so many.
The growth of that list is one of my worries and I worry about many things.
I also fear the Republican Party is about to commit political suicide. I believe that a government by the people cannot exist without viable choices being offered to those people and what the GOP is offering leaves me wondering what they are thinking. Without the Republican party we lose the two-party system and a surprising number of teachers identify themselves as Republicans. At least it is a surprise to me because most teachers are also members of the middle class.
Traditionally we have had highs and lows in our economy and this current phase represents one of those lows. Also traditionally people have sought education to help them rise up out of economic distress. Education is what drives growth. It also drives democratic and republican principles (as opposed to Democratic and Republican principles which may be an oxymoron in duality). Education is critical to growth and prosperity. Without an informed, active constituency, freedom has no chance. To say that fewer teachers is ever a good thing is patently counter-intuitive. It is also really a bad idea in an economy already reeling from unemployment.
But I believe there is a greater danger here than simply people being out of work.
Though retired in name, I can’t stop teaching, it’s been part of my life too long. Let me begin this lesson in politics with a calculated truism. The basis of our economy is the free enterprise system. As a Republican I have always believed in the premise that supply and demand will drive economics. But that is in an ideal model. What we currently possess is considerably less than ideal. When wealth seeks to control what is available rather than allow free enterprise, we no longer are operating in a Free Market system.
Representative government is also a hallmark of Republicanism. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people not, run their lives.” I was never a big fan of the ‘Gipper’; he was too conservative for me, I’m more of a Bull-Moose Republican, but even he would have a very hard time measuring up (down?) to the standards set by the GOP these days. Most Republicans have completely departed from Reagan’s stated principle. They seek to put massive government controls on personal freedoms and greatly restrict the ability of the middle class to exist while at the same time ignoring the pressing needs of the very source of their legitimacy: that middle class.
It is easy to draw allusions from economics back to education.
As a teacher I have seen the disasters wrought on education by interference where it is not needed and the casual disregard of glaring necessities. And I want you to recognize that in this I am not just indicting the GOP. Under Arne Duncan, Obama’s hand-picked education czar, the lot of public education has not significantly improved. While NCLB was a disaster, ESEA offers little in the way of substantive growth of educational policy and only seeks to justify its own existence through punitive action. The number of states now requesting waivers from the mandate continues to increase almost daily.2)
I give kudos to Vice President Biden for the inspirational aspect of his speech to the NEA but it is still just words unless actions follow.
Education is too important to be a political pawn. We risk our future by such malfeasance. It is time Washington recognizes that their perceived short term political and financial gains will destroy our country’s continued growth and significantly alter the future.
A future that is another of those nightmarish worries.