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Teacher Walkout Just More of the Same


Sunday brings us the Charlotte Observer and another of their ubiquitous rants in support of bigger, irresponsible government. Mr. Kevin Strawn, no doubt a shill for the union styled North Carolina Education Association, writes about Monday Teacher’s Walkout, prior to its occurrence. He gives us as examples teachers who left teaching in public school to go elsewhere, the first being a young teacher who left to teach in private school for a $7,000 per year raise. Now Mr. Strawn is a high school math teacher so we have to presume he can do basic arithmetic, but one can only wonder if he put in all the parts of the word problem. For instance, teaching at a private school lacks certain benefits such as the very lucrative state retirement plan. Did Mr. Strawn account for these in his example or is his math fuzzy in pursuit of his union goal which is always less work for more money.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue: public schools are about two things. Except for the cursory plaint of all those seeking more money from the taxpayers: “It’s for the children”, paraphrased by Mr. Stawn to be “…dedicated to public education and to a quality education for all children.” he addresses neither. Let us be clear about the two issues of public schools. They are about educating children and the tax burden on the people. Teachers are but a means to an end. Mr. Strawn, as is typical of most bureaucrats of any organization, believes the purpose of the public education system is to provide for the bureaucrats, in this case, teachers. He makes that clear with his list of demands: “shrinking teacher’s salaries, absurd testing demands”, tenure and respect for professional teachers (whatever that means), while leaving out anything which might improve educational results. Let me help him out.

In the North Carolina Constitution we find: “Education. The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.” and close by “Education encouraged. Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Towards achieving that end, teachers are hired by the taxpayers and they have a singular responsibility. It is to educate and inculcate morality in the children placed in their care during the school day. Nowhere in the Constitution, which, I remind you, is a pact between the people and the government, is the plight of teachers addressed except perhaps here: “Exclusive emoluments. No person or set of persons is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community but in consideration of public services.”  But the concerns of the taxpayers ARE addressed: “The equality and rights of persons. We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.” Let Mr. Strawn and all others of his mindset be reminded that one of the listed inalienable rights is “the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor.” This is not to say Mr. Strawn is completely wrong, just mostly.

During 1966 I had a math teacher, Mr. Cannon. He was an excellent teacher of algebra but he left the public school system to make more money doing something else. If Mr. Strawn had been writing then he would have warned us of a future bereft of teachers because of the example of Mr. Cannon, yet forty years later there are still enough teachers. There is also the example of every other industry. Mine for example, the trucking industry. Drivers leave regularly for various reasons. Most recently the federal government, that bastion of unnecessary, overbearing, rulemaking, has given us new regulations which among other things, penalize drivers for things over which they have no control. In addition they get points against their driving record for lights being out on their vehicle. In all, the rules are overbearing in an industry which has a difficult time keeping enough employees. Should the taxpayers pay them more money? To hear Mr. Strawn tell it, the answer is yes.

No, the problem with public schools and teachers pay has little to do with the issues Mr. Strawn raises. The fact is, the government, along with various advocacy groups, lawyers, weakspined judges, parents who want their little Johnny to be equal to everyone else and legislatures and school boards who can’t say no, has given the public school systems a burden it is difficult to bear.   For instance, the NC Constitution says: “School attendance.The General Assembly shall provide that every child of appropriate age and of sufficient mental and physical ability shall attend the public schools, unless educated  by other means.” Read that again, appropriate age and of sufficient mental and physical ability. What we have instead is a day care service for every child no matter his ability. What is a quadraplegic doing on the school bus going to public school? Additionally the teachers have had the authority of the classroom taken from them: they can’t touch a child. Remember Mrs. Smith from 4th grade? She rapped our fingers, shook us, whatever it took to get us to pay attention and act responsibly. Then she took us out to recess where we could run the energy out of us so we would to be able to sit still. We were considered children with children’s bodies and minds. Not any more. Currently my grandson, age 6, has had his nap time taken from him by the administration, in following new rules, say they don’t have time for naps for 6 year olds. WHAT? And how attentive will he be without a nap? What kind of treatment is this for a child of 6?

No the problem, Mr. Strawn, is the stupidity of those who use or are in government, who believe children to be something they are not. The problem is not teacher’s pay and it is not teacher’s tenure. The problem is people, like Mr. Strawn, who want the public school system to be for something other than teaching children of sufficient age, mental and physical ability. The problem is typical of every bureaucracy: it has evolved to serve everyone except those who are the reason for its being. In the case of public education: the children.

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