Kris an’ Murphy: Teach Or Union

crossing guard made of snowKris: “Did you hear the latest outrage, Murphy?”

Murphy: “No. And why should I?”

Kris:What?!?

Murphy: “Why should I? If it’s out, if it’s passé, then let it go. The students will have, so I won’t have to care to keep up with them. And your blood pressure will thank you for it. Now if it’s an inrage …”

Kris: “… it’ll be raging at every party on campus. Jebus. I don’t know if I should congratulate you or hit you.”

Murphy: “I usually recommend congratulations. Keeps the lawyers out of it. Most of the time, anyway.”

Kris:Sigh.

Murphy: “Hm?”

Kris: “Well, the story I heard got me in a r … er … damn! It got my dander up. And don’t you dare make any cracks about ‘Head and Shoulders!'”

Murphy: “Who, me? That would be ruff.”

Kris: “[…] I don’t know what they put in that drink, Murphy, but I want some. For self-protection if nothing else.”

Murphy: “You were saying …?”

Kris: “You know as well as I do that the primary school teachers have it much worse than we do. More than twice the work for less than half the pay at comparable levels of seniority and experience. And that a lot of them, to try to get their job requirements done and be sufficiently clearheaded to greet their hordes of mostly clueless and unmotivated children at the crack of dawn, show up at work a couple of hours early.”

Murphy: “Volunteering their time?”

Kris: “Or risk getting fired, or subjected to hours of ‘remedial’ meetings and the associated paperwork, which is worse. Well, now they can’t do that!

Murphy: “Says who?”

Kris: “The janitors!

Murphy: “You mean the custodial staff?”

Kris: “Oh fer crissakes don’t go all PC on me! I’m calling a janitor a janitor, so sue me. They don’t want to have to cope with teachers who are trying desperately to get themselves and their lessons in fit shape to cope with kids, so they’ve convinced the school district that they have to have the buildings all to themselves, until half an hour before the children arrive. And if they had their way, they’d bar the teachers from entering the school until ten effing minutes before the buses chug into the yard!”

Murphy: “That doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error. What if there’s a major traffic jam that morning …?”

Kris:They don’t give a damn. They’re not the ones at risk of killing kids because they haven’t been given enough time to unwind from the stress of getting to school in morning traffic so they can cope with the stress of starting school.”

Murphy: “So what you’re telling me is that the teachers can’t do their jobs and stay sane unless they volunteer time to the school district. And the school district has turned around and said they can’t volunteer their time. Doesn’t that mean that the teachers have no choice but to not do their jobs?”

Kris: “And be called on the carpet for it. You got to teach the kids, grade their papers, prepare their lesson plans and get them reviewed, and complete all the assessment metrics they’re told to do, all in an eight-hour day, seven of which are spent with the kids in the classroom? All for $40K a year? It can’t be done, and at that salary you ain’t attracting the people that have a prayer of getting it done, Master’s degree or not.”

Murphy: “Well, we know what those degrees are worth …”

Kris: “Don’t get me started. And don’t bite the hands that feed us, neither. Anyway. You might get one or two teachers in a school who can work miracles and will do it for slave wages, but a whole district’s worth? Take another hit. And it don’t matter to the principals or superintendents, or voters. Do it, or face that ‘remediation’. And you can forget raises.”

Murphy: “Sounds like making bricks without straw.”

Kris: “Without clay, more like it. Something’s got to be done!

Murphy: “Such as?”

Kris: “Teachers are unionized, right?”

Murphy: “In the public schools, yes, most of them.”

Kris: “I should think that wages and working conditions have eroded enough that a nationwide strike is in order!”

Murphy: “Perhaps. But since the unions have negotiated no-strike clauses in their contracts, a strike is a non-starter. Not to mention state and local laws that make public-employee strikes a crime.”

Kris: “Fine. Work to rule! The school districts don’t wish to grant teachers the freedom to volunteer time that preserves what’s left of their working conditions, the teachers should simply refuse all volunteer effort. And when the metrics aren’t met, the unions trot out just how many unpaid hours teachers have been spending to accomplish the metrics. You want them done, pay up.”

Murphy: “Uh huh. You know what will happen as well as I do. Any wealthy families left in the public schools will bolt for the private schools – and agitate against tax and bond monies for the publics. Good teachers will quit the ugly administrative and social climate for more lucrative and satisfying jobs – for example, at McDonalds …”

Kris: “… or as (ahem) ‘custodians’?”

Murphy: “… and other teachers who try to uphold the job action will be replaced by even less competent teachers who will gladly work as scabs, for scab wages and under scab conditions. Your “work to rule” will lead to more onerous rules under which an even less competent workforce than the one now in place will work, and without complaint lest worse befall. And the products of the public schools will be even worse than they are now. How long has the Occupy movement been in place?”

Kris: “What? Two years? Three?”

Murphy: “And the rich/poor divide has gotten smaller?”

Kris: “No. Dammit.”

Murphy: “Precisely. So much for activism. Not only will your job action not make things any better, it will make them worse faster.”

Kris: “So we should open a clothing store for public school teachers? Specializing in unbleached muslin?”

Slave clothes: pre-stressed unbleached muslinMurphy: “Pre-stressed.”

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