27 May 2015

To the top of my bent


I read in The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that a provision of the K-12 budget items passed by the Joint Budget Finance Committee this week allows that “anyone with a bachelor's degree could be hired and licensed to teach English, math, social studies or science in Wisconsin and that any person with relevant experience — even a high school dropout — could be licensed to teach in any other non-core academic subject in middle and high school, according to the provision. Of course, Republicans compose a majority of the JFC.
          And I am sitting here (today working at a coffee house) about to begin my forty-fourth year as a teacher and I’m wondering, “How much can one man stand before he says, Enough, and begins to talk back?”  Czeslaw Milosz (1981, xiii) writes: “A man may persuade himself, by the most logical reasoning, that he will greatly benefit his health by swallowing live frogs; and, thus rationally convinced, he may swallow a first frog, then the second; but at the third his stomach will revolt.” This proposal demeans the work in which I and my colleagues have invested our lives, in order that the proudly ignorant Republican majority can continue their blind mission to dismantle the public school system and put in its place a series of privatized schools without any allegiance to the public space that the public schools have historically represented to (and for) society and have offered to the citizenry for the past century and a half. Of course the schools are not perfect nor is every teacher Mr. Chips. And neither is every teacher Miss Jean Brodie. (It strikes me that the Republican majority might not recognize the allusions. Of course!) Indeed, most teachers (and I was teaching before Mary Czaja was born and so I have seen a great many schools and a great many teachers; I have helped to prepare more teachers than Ms. Czaja might have ever talked to in her life. Her proposal indicates a remarkable ignorance of the work of teachers, of the work of education, and even of the history of the United States. I know that it was not her teacher’s fault that she knows so little.
          I can’t argue intelligently with a proposal as absurd as the one passed by the Republicans of the Joint Finance Committee; really I can’t engage in such idiocy. And I won’t stoop so low as to feel it necessary to defend my profession from people who are not ashamed to display their ignorances. I will not discourse on the complexities of the teaching profession and the realities of learning. I will not address the impossibilities of the profession and the courage of those who undertake it. (For the interest of the Republicans, I have just used a rhetorical device called apophasis.) It hath made me mad! But God hope that Ms. Czaja does not have to see a physician who has completed 9th grade biology, 11th grade chemistry, and read at least Arrowsmith and has seen a few seasons of Dr. Kildare and/or Gray’s Anatomy.
          Harry Truman (for Ms. Czaja’s sake, Harry Truman was a President of the United States) once said,  “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But
I repeat myself."


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Also see "They really are the party of stupid: The real story behind Scott Walker’s war on higher education" published June 7 on Salon.com by Heather Cox Richardson.

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