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Battle in the Badger State

We all know:

“If you can read this, thank a TEACHER!” and

“Those who CAN – DO! Those who CAN’T – MANAGE!” :-) Gotcha!

Those who CAN’T certainly DO NOT teach!

If you don’t believe my earlier statement, you have not been reading “Dilbert.”

As you will recall from a recent blog entry, one of the reasons that incomes for 90% (or 99%, depending whom you believe) of the American public HAVE BEEN STAGNANT SINCE 1980 (sorry to “shout”) has been the decline of unions and erosion of collective bargaining, especially for blue-collar workers. (At this point, many of the “thinking-judging” Myers-Briggs types [well, JUDGING anyway :-) ] will stop reading and turn off the higher functions of their brains, if they had been using them earlier or at all.) Another effect of the decline of collective bargaining has been the SUCCESS of offshoring and “international competition.” Companies with union employees would not have had the opportunity to offshore American jobs (or discriminate on the basis of age), without a substantial penalty. :-) The unemployment numbers in many industries, including the largely non-union high tech sector, would no doubt be quite different.

Yet, many people are anti-union and pro-Republican, even in comparatively rational (compared to California :-) ) Wisconsin and Ohio (states in which I have lived and gone to school), which currently have Republican governors. Granted, some people are Republican because of the Democrats’ anti-historical view of the Second Amendment, even though Republicans have an anti-historical view of the 14th Amendment. Face it. It is easier to blame powerless immigrants than blame the top 1% of the wealthy, some of whom have power to match their wealth. Amazingly, many of the electorate are Republicans, :-) even though Republican politicians are doing what they can to protect people with the top 1% of incomes, even if the politicians themselves do not belong to that group. (Not everyone earns more than $380,000/year.) Yeah, keep the “underclass” fighting among themselves, and hope that they are stupid enough not to “vote their own self-interest.” Yes, many are.

So now we find a Republican governor, Scott Walker, and a Republican-controlled State Legislature in Wisconsin trying to do “union-busting” with the unionized public employees. Sure, this seems like the knee-jerk reaction of most Republicans concerning unions, but Wisconsin’s Republican governor ESPECIALLY wants to bust the teachers’ union, because public education is the single biggest expenditure for every state.

You would think that with all that money spent, we would have smarter politicians! :-)


Public schools in Madison and a dozen other districts CLOSED as teachers joined protests. Meanwhile, teachers in Wisconsin noticed that the governor offered generous tax breaks to businesses that were equivalent to the teacher “givebacks.” :-) Welcome to the economics of the private sector! (Steal from the poor, give to the rich… like Monty Python’s “Dennis Moore” [YouTube video])

Amazing! Republicans who favor business at the expense of public education…? Where have we heard THAT before? :-) Just part of the “dumbing down of America” (see above) and putting higher education out of the reach of the vast majority.

The teaching profession is under siege. Teachers have historically been underpaid, largely because the harder you work and the more important your job, the less you are paid in America, whether it is the people who educate our children or the people who pick our food. Theoreticians and politicians want test scores that do not reflect a “normal” (“bell-shaped curve”) distribution of scores that you would expect with a large population. The Obama administration’s Race to the Top encourages states to evaluate teachers in relation to student scores. I won’t even talk about “No Child Left Behind.” If you REALLY want to anger someone (especially parents), remind them of the FACTS that intelligence is GENETIC and that PARENTS have a major role in the education and discipline of their children! :-)

The CNN op-ed piece continues:

“There has recently been a national furor about school reform. One must wonder how it is possible to talk of improving schools while cutting funding, demoralizing teachers, cutting scholarships to college, and increasing class size.”

Some 55,000 people joined rallies at the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday, mostly in opposition to a state budget bill, pushed by the governor, that would severely limit collective bargaining by public employees. Several thousand MORE packed the state capitol today, when a group of firefighters (who, like the police) are exempt from the proposed bill, joined to support the teachers.

Madison, WI is a very political town. (It’s nickname is “Mad City.” :-) ) Even though some teachers in Wisconsin are returning to work tomorrow and Tuesday, I do not think that we have seen the end of demonstrations supporting public education and the rights of teachers.

A group of National Board Certified teachers (teachers from many states who have passed rigorous examinations by an independent national board) is organizing a march on Washington in July.

It appears that scapegoating, a practice that is prevalent and encouraged in corporate America and common with certain personality types, is alive, if unwell.

My advice:

  • Drink in some facts.
  • Avoid jerking your knee.
  • Don’t support politicians who don’t support you – most of us don’t earn $380,000/year.
  • As much as possible, look at where your money is REALLY going.
  • Put blame where it belongs, not on some easy-to-blame group, race, or nationality.
  • Realize that teachers perform one of the most valuable functions in our society, the education of the next generation.

Wisconsin teachers (and teachers everywhere) you have my support. Go Badgers! (…and Go Bucks!)

The fate of California’s teachers is still very much up in the air. We may yet hear an echo of Wisconsin’s battle to preserve high-quality education, from Washington, D.C. to the Golden State.

-Bill at

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