Tag Archives: education

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Who’s Really To Blame for Brexit (and Trump)

At this writing, securities markets and the international community are reeling at the news that British voters have opted to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” has provoked angry reactions from the pro-Remain camp, who accuse Leave voters of stupidity, shortsighted ignorance and, worse, thinly-disguised racism and nativism posing as nationalism.

Political analysts point out that British voters were divided geographically – Scotland wanted to stay, England wanted to leave – as well as demographically. One chart that managed to go semi-viral online displayed high support for the Brexit among older voters, opposition among the young, alongside the actuarial average years remaining that each age group would have to live with the consequences of the vote. The smartest of these pundits focus on the class divide between shiny expensive youth-oriented cities like London, where pro-European sentiments are strong, and England’s version of the Rust Belt, abandoned hellholes where citizens barely subsist in a ruined landscape of shut down factories and widespread unemployment.

“If you’ve got money, you vote in,” a voter in Manchester told The Guardian. “If you haven’t got money, you vote out,” she said.

Amid all the concern about a collapsing British pound and the possible dissolution of not only the European Union – looks like France and the Netherlands may have a similar plebiscite in the near future – but also the United Kingdom, everyone’s out to cast blame. However, no one is pointing at those who are most responsible if (and it’s far from certain) Brexit leads to an economic downturn and/or a political debacle: the West’s incompetent political class, and its idiotic enablers in the corporate media.

The postwar order began to fray during the 1970s, when business leaders and their allies in government started to push aggressively for policies that encouraged the transfer of manufacturing industries to the developing world away from what was then called the First World in preparation for what we now call the information economy. Globalization is the shorthand term for deindustrialization – some call it outsourcing, others prefer the simpler “shipping jobs overseas” – and digitalization of culture and intellectual property.

This essay isn’t about whether globalization is good or bad. It’s about the way a trend that has been consistently declared irreversible has been poorly managed. That mismanagement led to the Brexit, and may elect Donald Trump.

Even during the 1970s, globalization’s downward pressure on wages was easy to foresee. Capital was becoming increasingly fluid, crossing borders with incredible ease in search of places and people where the production of goods and services could be done as cheaply as possible. If you own a factory in Michigan, and you can figure out a way to transport your product to market at reasonable cost, doing the patriotic “made in USA” thing feels like leaving money on the table when you consider what your expenses would look like in Vietnam or Indonesia.

Workers, on the other hand, are confined by international borders, linguistic and cultural limitations, family ties, and just plain inertia, to the nations — and often the regions within those countries — where they were born. If the highest wages in the world are paid in the United Arab Emirates, you can’t just hop on a plane and expect to find a job, much less a work permit. Workers are stuck; capital moves freely. This economic imbalance between labor and management is a significant contributing factor to the decline in real median wages in countries like Great Britain and the United States since the 1970s.

Now let’s say that you’re a high-ranking member of the ruling class: a Fortune 500 CEO, a head of state, a congressman, the publisher of a big-city newspaper. You don’t need a major in history or political science in order to anticipate that subjecting tens of millions of people to long-term unemployment and underemployment is a recipe for social dysfunction and the kind of class resentment that can be exploited by a demagogue or radical populist movement.

You can do one of two things with that knowledge. You can ignore victims of economic dislocation. Or you can help them.

If you ignore them, if you greedily grab up every dollar and pound and euro you can while city after city slowly collapses into alcoholism, drug abuse and rising crime, you know you’re setting yourself up for a future of political instability. It may take a long time, but the chickens will come home to roost. When things turn ugly, it could cost you a pile of cash you amassed during your orgy of greed.

That’s what happened during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan dismantled the post-World War II social safety nets. Precisely at a time when the UK and the US needed more welfare, national healthcare and public education programs, they slashed them instead. Those austerity policies continued under Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, David Cameron, and – against reason and common sense – under Barack Obama after the 2008 economic meltdown.

The British and American political classes made a conscious decision over the last 40 to 50 years not to lift a finger to help those who lost their jobs to deindustrialization and globalization. Go back to college, they say. Get retrained. But most Americans can’t afford college tuition — the jobless least of all! We need(ed) a GI Bill for the dispossessed.

Even this week, many establishment types continue to criticize aging pensioners and unemployed workers over age 50, denigrating them as selfish, clueless, unwilling and unable to adapt themselves to the new – brutal – world in which we find ourselves.

No doubt: nativism and racism played a role in the Brexit vote. England is an island nation with an island mentality. Though only a few thousand Syrians entered the UK last year, with nary a passport check, images of refugees riding the roof of trains from France through the Chunnel felt like an invasion to some Britons. But bigotry shouldn’t let us ignore the economic factor. When jobs are plentiful and salaries are rising, no one minds immigration. Xenophobia grows in the soil of scarcity.

What did the elites think? Did they really believe it was possible to make so many people so desperate and so angry for so long without a risk of them lashing out?

Donald Trump is not a brilliant man. But the political classes could learn a lesson from him. He knows that an awful lot of people are angry. And he knows why.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

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6 Crazy Things Donald Trump Says That Are Absolutely Right

Originally published by SkewedNews.net:

Donald-Trump-9002Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican heap by saying outrageous things, issuing over-the-top insults, and making ridiculous proposals. Some of his utterances, like his sexist remarks about Carly Fiorina’s looks, are offensive. His nativist demagoguery, calling for mass arrests and deportations of Latinos and a visa ban to Muslim visitors, are outright fascist.

Trump also says stuff that other politicians, and the media are afraid to say and need to be said. Here is a sample of the top six.

  • Invading Iraq was stupid. The pundits say San Bernadino changed everything, at least the race for the Republican nomination, replacing pocketbook issues with foreign policy and terrorism as voters’ main concerns. If that’s true, if hawkishness is king, then why is the GOP frontrunner doing well despite his consistent opposition to invading Iraq — the most significant Republican-led foreign policy initiative of the last 30 years? “Right now we have ISIS, which is worse than Hussein. Hussein did one thing: he killed terrorists,” Trump said in May. “We are in worse shape than we ever were. It’s a mess.” Most American people agree — but even Democrats don’t come down as hard on Bush’s Iraq War as Trump. (Maybe that’s cuz Hillary voted for it and Bernie, supposedly the wild socialist of the campaign, voted to fund it.) Everything else aside, Trump deserves points for hammering away at this.
  • Interventionism in the Middle East is stupid. Bernie Sanders criticizes America’s penchant for “regime change,” but Trump uses a sledgehammer where Sanders is content with calm analysis. Trump is also more willing to say that a secular socialist dictator beats the after-me-the-deluge play-it-by-ear approach we’ve seen lately, creating power vacuums filled by radical Islamists. She is the one that caused all this problem with her stupid policies,” Trump said December 13, referring to Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state. “You look at what she did with Libya [assassinating Moammar Khaddafi and funding Benghazi-based rebels, including many radicals], what she did with Syria [supporting the Free Syrian Army, parts of which became ISIS]. Look at Egypt, what happened with Egypt, a total mess. [The Obama Administration secretly supported the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, then yielded to buyer’s remorse and backed the military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected president.] They don’t back — we don’t back any of our allies. You look, she was truly, if not ‘the,’ one of the worst secretary of states in the history of the country. She talks about me being dangerous. She’s killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.” “What do you mean, hundreds of thousands?” a TV host asked, clearly shocked at his candor. “She was secretary of state. Obama was president, the team,” Trump replied. “Two real geniuses.” Trump has it right — dead right.
  • Good relations with Russia would be a good thing. Reading and watching corporate media, you could easily forget that the Berlin Wall ever came down or that the Cold War ever ended. Never mind that post-Soviet Russia has never directly confronted the United States in its sphere of influence. To his credit, sees the wisdom of not picking fights with a nation with the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, a colossus that spans nine time zones and possesses vast natural resources. “I believe I’ll get along fine with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Trump reiterated “I believe I’ll get along fine with other leaders. Obama doesn’t get along with Putin. Putin can’t stand our president and it’s causing us difficulty. And, frankly, and I said it a long time ago, if Russia wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS and join us in that effort, I am absolutely fine with it. I think that’s an asset, not a liability.”
  • Electoral politics in America are corrupt. I will tell you that our system is broken,” Trump said during one of the debates. “I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me.” No one else, certainly not Hillary or his rival GOP contenders who are on the take, has the credibility of a guy who can personally attest to using his billions to buy Congressmen and Senators.
  • We need more legal immigration. As noted above, immigration policy is where Trumpism goes off the rails. Even so, Trump makes one reasonable point: we need less illegal immigration and — this next parts gets lost a lot in the furor over his calls for magical walls he’ll somehow get Mexico to pay for — more legal immigration. “Build a wall with a big beautiful door for legal immigration,” Trump said. Granted, he has flipflopped on the issue. But increasing legal immigration is still a conversation we need to be having — even though a lot of the new arrivals ought to be (sorry, Donald) Muslim refugees from places we screwed up, like Syria.
  • Common Core sucks. Like many of Trump’s stances, he’s on the right side of Common Core for the wrong reasons — he doesn’t like federal control of education. (Frankly, all the countries the U.S. is falling behind have centralized educational curricula.) But the Common Core standards enacted by the Obama Administration really have been a “disaster,” as Trump says. “I believe Common Core is a very bad thing,” he says. Last year, most students failed the way-too-difficult test in 49 states, destroying confidence and self-esteem among millions of American children. Meanwhile, teachers — who can be fired if their kids don’t do well — are spending scores of hours teaching to this stupid test as opposed to, you know, teaching actual knowledge. You won’t get this straight talk on Common Core from Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders.

For Skewed News, I’m Ted Rall.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and So Are You

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/socialism/images/c/ce/Socialist_party_of_america_logo_.gif/revision/latest?cb=20090319232217            When it comes to politics, Americans are idiots.

Because American voters are political ignoramuses, Bernie Sanders found it necessary to take the stage at Georgetown University yesterday to explain what socialism, and democratic socialism are. The point being that too many Democratic primary voters plan to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton, not because they like her or her ideas, but worry that a self-declared socialist (or democratic socialist) won’t be able to beat the Republican nominee in the general election.

Setting aside the rather idiotic idea of voting for a candidate because everyone else is voting for her — what’s the point of holding an election? we’d might as well turn elected office over to the candidate with an early lead in the polls — I have to wonder whether an electorate that knows nothing about socialism is qualified to vote at all.

And remember: these are Democratic primary voters. One must shiver in fear at the colossal dumbness on the Republican right, where climate change denialism is normative, Ronald Reagan was brilliant (and brought down This Wall) and Tea Party marchers famously carry signs demanding “government get out of my Medicaid.” To them, socialism means Stalin — if they know who he was.

Socialism, Marx and Engels explained, is the long transitional economic form between laissez faire capitalism and communism, an ideal utopian state that will only become possible after the rise of a New Man (and Woman) whose total commitment to communitarian ideals over individualistic concerns allows the state to wither away and people to rule themselves in small collectives. This true ideal communism, Marxists believe, is centuries away at best.

In contemporary politics, Communist Party rule in nations like the Soviet Union and China led to confusion, especially in the West, where capitalist news media was only too happy to turn a relatively simple idea into a muddle. Neither the Soviet nor the Chinese Communist Parties ever claimed to have achieved communism. With the exception of Pol Pot’s bizarre Kampuchea, communist parties governed self-declared socialist states, not communist ones. It was, after all, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

When Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, he’s drawing upon a tradition of Western European electoral politics in which socialist principles live alongside free-market capitalist ones, rather than a fully fleshed-out transformation of the economy into one in which the workers control the means of production. For Sanders and the hundreds of millions of citizens of the nations of Europe and their post-colonial progeny (Canada, Australia, many African countries), democratic socialism is a system that looks a lot like the United States of America.

In the ur-democratic socialist nations of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, citizens’ elected representatives propose and vote on laws — just like here.

There is no state economy. There are, like here, small private businesses and giant corporations.

So what makes them socialist? Government regulations and the social safety net. Government agencies tell power companies, for example, how much they may pollute the air and sets the minimum wage. There is, as in all capitalist societies, poverty. But the government mitigates its effects. Welfare and unemployment benefits, social security for retirees, free or subsidized healthcare make things easier when times are tough.

The United States is a democratic socialist country, albeit a lame one.

Senator Sanders wants less lameness.

In his speech, The New York Times summarized, “he said he wanted an America where people could work 40 hours a week and not live in poverty, and that such a society would require new government entitlements like free public colleges, Medicare-for-all health insurance, a $15 minimum wage, $1 trillion in public works projects to create jobs, and mandatory [paid] parental leave.”

These benefits are standard in almost every other technologically advanced nation on earth, as well as many developing countries. Democratic socialism? It’s like that old dishwashing liquid ad: you’re soaking in it.

Yet here is Sanders, in what pundits are calling a do-or-die speech attempting to fix his “I like him but America won’t elect a socialist” crisis. David Axelrod, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign, says, “The issue here is, is that word [socialism] a barrier for a sufficient number of voters that it creates an electoral ceiling for him?”

As far as I know, Bernie hasn’t emphasized the quality of public education in his campaign. But something is, no pun intended, radically wrong when so few Americans understand basic political and economic terms — especially when they apply to the political and economic system under which they themselves live.

By global standards, Sanders’ campaign is calling for weak socialist tea. In most European countries, all colleges are free or charge nominal fees. Socialized medicine, in which your doctor is a government employee and there’s no such thing as a big for-profit hospital corporation, is the international norm. Paid leave? Obviously. And most governments recognize the importance of public infrastructure, and not relying on the private sector to provide every job.

There can only be one reason Americans don’t know this stuff: they’re idiots. Their schools made them that way as kids. Media propaganda keeps them stupid as adults.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Are “Feminists” Telling Women Not To Protect Themselves from Rapists?

Identity politics, a writer friend reminds me, is where liberalism goes to die.

The oceans are boiling, freelance journalists’ heads are getting lopped off, and there’s not the slightest sign of resistance to income inequality so out of control it would worry Cornelius Vanderbilt. Yet the Internet’s politically-correct “social justice warriors” are dedicating their formidable energies into attacking pissant trivialities.

Anyone who doubts that online slacktivists have their heads so far up their collective asses that they can’t see daylight need only read up on the controversy over Undercover Colors, which is a nail polish that allows women (or men, but they’re not the target audience) to discreetly discover whether their drink has been spiked by one of several common “date rape” drugs.

(My advice to women: if you’re at a party or with a guy so sketchy that you think you may have been slipped a mickey, don’t bother with the fancy polish. Just scoot. You don’t want to be there anyway.)

Better safe than sorry, right?

Wrong.

“Anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point,” writes Jessica Valenti, a once-influential feminist blogger whose hammer-to-the-skull-obvious post-motherhood columns for The Guardian add to the case for automatically censoring any piece of writing by a parent about their children. “We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it.”

Um, what?

Valenti is serious about this: “So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape. ‘Undercover Colors’ polish and products like it only offer the veneer of equality and safety. And that’s simply not good enough.”

Which is true. And stupid.

Like: wearing shoes isn’t an effective strategy to stop assholes from breaking glass bottles on streets. Since assholes do leave shards of glass all over the place, however, walking barefoot isn’t smart.

Installing a car alarm or using an anti-theft device like The Club is an example of “individual avoidance.” One wishes that it were possible to leave one’s automobile unattended free of fear that someone might steal it. But reality dictates that, if you park in a high-crime neighborhood, you take measures to deter thieves. True, it’s a “so long as it isn’t me” strategy. But what else can you do? We’re not likely to see an effective strategy to eliminate car theft any sooner than “an effective strategy to end rape,” a crime endemic in every culture throughout history.

How removed from the real world are writers like Tara Culp-Resser of Think Progress, who also criticized the entrepreneurs who invented the anti-date-rape polish? “It would likely be more effective to focus on larger efforts to tackle the cultural assumptions at the root of the campus sexual assault crisis,” she wrote. “Like the idea that it’s okay to take advantage of people when they’re drunk.”

To my horror, I have known men who bragged about having raped inebriated women. (Since their accounts were devoid of details, it would have been pointless to report them to the police.) They didn’t violate women because of “cultural assumptions.” They did it for the same reason that CEO pigs issue themselves huge raises the same day they fire thousands of employees: because they can.

This reminds me of the complaint against liberals who claim to support public education, yet send their kids to private school. If your local public schools are decrepit or dangerous, it’s unconscionable to subject your children to them if you can afford not to. Obviously, we should fight to ban private schools, and for that matter the capitalist system that separates American kids into pre-poor and pre-rich educational systems — but until the revolution is achieved, it’s every man and woman for himself and herself.

Feminist propaganda can’t stop rape. No marches, no poster campaign, no hashtag bullshit. Men will stop raping women when they no longer can.

Neither I, nor the social justice types, know how to achieve that better society. Until someone comes up with that Big Idea, anything women can do to protect themselves — self-defense classes, carrying pepper spray, even a nail polish — is just common sense.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Schools Should Teach Nowology

Everyone has a strong opinion about education. But the controversies are always about the same topic: testing, teachers unions, funding, merit pay, vouchers/school choice, charter schools. Is college a smart investment? Is affirmative action fair? Has political correctness supplanted the basics?

I keep waiting for someone to bring up Now. As in the study of now — what’s currently going on in the fields of politics, history, literature, mathematics, science — everything.

Can we call it Nowology?

From K through 12 through senior year of college, American education focuses obsessively on the past. No matter what you study, the topics either relate to the past or the knowledge is dated.

Since I was a history major in college, I’ll focus on that.

I’ve never understood why history is taught chronologically. A book’s opening is crucial; either you get hooked straight away, or you get bored and turn blasé. So how is it that textbook publishers think it makes sense to start a fourth-grade history textbook with prehistoric humans who lived 10,000 years ago? It’s tough enough for me, at age 50, to relate to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. How can a typical American 9-year-old, who lives in the suburbs, connect intellectually to people who foraged for food (not in the fridge)?

Another problem with teaching history chronologically is that teachers rarely make it to the relevant, interesting history students might actually care about — what’s going on now. From junior through senior high, my high school teachers got bogged down in the battlefields of the Civil War. We never once made it as far as Reconstruction (which is actually fascinating), much less to the controversies of my childhood (Vietnam, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis).

TV, radio and newspapers — that’s where what mattered was discussed. My classmates and I had fathers who served in Vietnam. We had neighbors who’d dodged the draft, whose faces stared at us from wanted posters at the post office. We argued over Nixon and Ford and Carter, but all that stuff — the controversy, the drama, the Now — took place outside school.

The not-so-subliminal message soon sunk in: school is where you learn about old stuff. Now stuff is everywhere else.

This is, of course, exactly the opposite of how we choose to teach ourselves.

Example: pop culture, like movies and music. No one’s musical education begins with recordings of recreations of primitive music, simple claps or banging objects together. Most children start out listening to contemporary music — whatever they hear on Pandora, Spotify, the radio, TV, etc. Those who decide to dig further usually work backward. They listen to older works by their favorite artists. They hear a musician talk about the bands that influenced them, and they check them out.

(When I was a kid, friends were surprised that Paul McCartney had been in some other band before Wings.) They might wind up getting into ragtime or Bach. Last. Not first.

Ditto for movies. No one starts out watching silent films.

There is some discussion of teaching history in reverse chronological order in other countries. Writing in the UK Prospect last year, Christopher Fear of the University of Exeter argues: “We should begin by showing children how to scratch the surface to find the recent pasts of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations — pasts which they can talk about together.” But the British too continue to teach history the boring/chronological way.

We’re constantly worrying about whether our schools are preparing children to compete in the global marketplace. To support their calls for reform, activists (mostly, but not exclusively, on the political right) point to surveys that show that Americans are woefully ignorant about basic facts such as evolution, essential geographic knowledge as the location of the country where U.S. troops have been fighting, killing and dying for a decade and a half, and even heliocentricity.

Sure, it would be nice if more Americans cracked open a newspaper (or its online edition) now and then. On the other hand, a lot of this material ought to be taught in schools — and it isn’t. Day one of American history class should begin with Obama, Congressional paralysis, the early jockeying for the 2016 presidential campaign, America’s clash with Russia over Ukraine, and the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. All of these subjects naturally require digging deeper, back in time, to explain why and how what’s going on now is happening.

And it’s not just history. Studying physics at Columbia in the 1980s, no one taught us about the latest advances in cosmology and quantum mechanics — some of which, ironically, were being discovered in labs in the same buildings by the same professors who were filling our heads with obsolete material.

Nowology: better late than never.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: The War on Teacher Tenure

Become a California Teacher

This week:

My mother retired recently from teaching under pretty much the best possible working conditions one could expect in an American high school: she taught high school French in an Ohio suburb whose demographics are at least 90% white, ranging from middle to upper-middle class. By the end of her career, she was relatively decently paid. Her students weren’t hobbled by poverty or challenged due to not having mastered English. Since French was an elective, her kids pretty much wanted to be there (though getting cut due to low enrollment was a worry).

Still, it was a tough job. Sure, class is 8 to 3 and she got those long summer vacations. But I remember watching her get up at 5:45 so she could prepare for class during the calm before the morning bell. She rarely got home before 5 — there’s always some meeting to attend — and then she had to grade papers and prepare the next day’s classes. Teaching is a performance. You’ve got roughly six hours to fill, keeping the kids entertained and engaged enough to get them to pay attention to what they need to learn. It’s exhausting, especially when you were up until 11 the night before correcting tests and averaging grades.

The summers were nice, but my mom spent the last half of June and the better part of July crashed out, recuperating. As for the last half, it wasn’t like we could afford to go on any trips. Not on a crummy teacher’s salary. For the first few decades of a teacher’s career, the pay is crap.

Raises don’t keep up with inflation. Parents constantly complain, often without cause. Administrators constantly lard on more responsibility, more paperwork, more rules, always more stuff to do on the same crummy salary. Moreover, budgets are always being cut. Even in lily-white districts like my mom’s, teachers find themselves hitting the office supply store to buy stuff for their students — out of that crummy paycheck.

During the last few decades, particularly since Reagan, the Right has waged war on teachers and their unions. From No Child Left Behind to the sneakily anti-unon, anti-professionalization outfit Teach for America to the Common Core, conservatives are holding teachers accountable for their kids’ academic performance. Sometimes it’s fair. Sometimes it’s not. Even the smartest and hardest-working teacher is going to have trouble getting good state test scores out of a classroom full of kids brutalized by abuse at home, poverty, crime and neglect.

The latest skirmish in the edu-culture war is over tenure, and it’s unfolding this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Superintendent John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District is supporting a lawsuit, backed by a right-wing front group called Students Matter, that would eliminate teacher tenure as we know it in California. Tenure, say nine students recruited as plaintiffs, makes it too hard to fire bad teachers.

Not so fast, counter the unions. “Tenure is an amenity, just like salary and vacation, that allows districts to recruit and retain teachers despite harder working conditions, pay that hasn’t kept pace and larger class sizes,” James Finberg, a union lawyer, told the court. It also protects workers/teachers from being fired over their political beliefs, gender and religion — or just being too “mouthy,” i.e., speaking out against budget cuts.

As a parent, it’s easy to see why it would be good to make it easier to fire bad teachers. As the son of a hard-working teacher, it’s easier to see why teachers would need tenure. As in any other workplace, which teachers are judged “good” or “bad” falls to the boss — in this case, usually the school principal — who may or may not render a fair judgment free of personal bias based on personality or philosophy. Accusations of wrongdoing or incompetence levied by parents may or may not be fair.

Until my mom got tenure, she was afraid of disciplining students. She didn’t dare be active in her union. She didn’t want to reveal, in a Republican town, that she was a Democrat. Tenure didn’t make her lazy after she got it, but it did make her more relaxed, less terrified of her boss. Which made her a better, wiser, smarter teacher.

Tenure doesn’t prevent districts from firing teachers. It makes it hard. (Not impossible: two percent of teachers get fired for poor performance annually.) Which, frankly, is something that every worker who has ever experienced an unfair review should be able to empathize with. If anything, the only thing wrong with tenure is that only teachers can get it.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Cal Bunker

What Happens in the Cal-Bunker

 

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: The hiring of former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as president of the University of California prompts a debate over whether or not to be more transparent.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Help Wanted – UC President

Help Wanted: UC President

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: The University of California is reaching outside of academia in its search for a new President for the nation’s largest state college system.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: College Debt Class

College Finance Education

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: A bill before the California legislature to address soaring student loan debt would require high school students to take a personal finance class.

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