I realize that dissecting comedy to explain why it’s funny isn’t funny, but I want to use this Daily Show clip (via Daily Kos) in the service of a higher cause. Stewart’s joke, that teachers are destroying America, is funny because it’s quite clear they aren’t. In fact, rather than the profit-maximizing monsters that Scott Walker wants us to think they are, teachers do crazy things like buy supplies for their classes out of their own pockets. I think they even get a tax deduction for that memory serves me well.
Many others have pointed that what’s going on in Wisconsin is more about destroying the Democratic Party (which public employees union help at election time), rather than saving the state budget. What I think is less understood is that education in general is collateral damage. While teachers are in many ways strangely immune to normal economic incentives, I don’t think it’s insane to suggest that higher salaries and better benefits would be the best way to attract better teachers. Yet, as Worst Professor Ever points out:
But why, oh why, do people assume that teaching is easy and Wall Street banking is hard? The only, obvious answer is this: society at large judges your job’s value by the money it pays. Period. Full stop. End of sentence. I don’t wanna hear about abstract respect, I don’t wanna hear about your family or spouse or whoever else appreciates you as a whole person. I’m talking big picture, cultural trends, etc. And I’m talking about the main reason I tell people not to become teachers: this, the blatant disrespect you’ll suffer for not wanting to make scads of money.
Darn those teachers and their sanctimonious benevolence! If they only responded to normal economic incentives, maybe they’d let the Republican Party gut public education in peace.
The same dynamic applies to higher education too. This tale from Clio Bluestocking in Historiann’s comments (which is just about the only blog in the world where I always read the comments) made me smile:
At our place, the upper adminosphere (populated by Ed.D.s) wanted us to implement a distance learning program that our department found entirely questionable and cynical. The adminosphere asked us to discuss the plan in our department. We did, and said “no thank you, we’ll do it our way.” They asked us to discuss it again. We said “no, but here is our alternative.” They ignored our alternative and asked us to discuss it yet again. Yet again, we said, “no.” Then they came down with “do it or we will do it to you.” We asked, “how, exactly, will you do this to us?” We really wanted to know since we were all the experts in the field and the only other option that they seemed think of was to purchase software from a company, and they sure didn’t want to do that. We also suggested that the union might be interested in the whole procedure. Suddenly, the upper adminosphere went from “do it or we’ll do it to you” to “oh, no one is being required to do this! We just thought it might be a good idea.”
Solidarity not only allows you to do crazy things like make more money, it can preserve academic integrity as well! You’d think something so handy would be more popular in higher education circles.