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What If Everybody Worked for the Government?
I can still recall the professor from my undergraduate years who once stated cynically that the USSR enjoyed 100 percent employment. I don’t recall that his comment was politically charged in any way. His smirking tone toward anything soviet was simply his way of alerting students to the flaws inherent in communism. I was made aware through his instruction, even before the rise of Ronald Reagan, that the Soviet Union was a tottering giant doomed to fail. A book by journalist Hedrick Smith, entitled simply The Russians, only confirmed what a lot of people understood at the time. Smith was employed by no less than the New York Times. The year was 1976.
So here I sit some 40 years later ruminating over whether or not to throw my lot in with a soviet-style system. Should I return to public education or not? I daresay the system could use a few conservatives in the classroom, but there’s only so much one man can do. The size of the school bureaucracy has tripled since I first stepped into the classroom back in 2001. The price of admission back then was 30 credit hours at the community college to complete the licensure program. Today, the system has been larded over with two additional layers of bureaucracy. I’m not even talking about No Child Left Behind or Common Core. I suppose NCLB is still out there somewhere, hanging like a useless appendix at the end of the public school alimentary canal, but who knows? And Common Core will simply be ignored by any teacher worth his salt.
The absurdity in my current situation is amply illustrated by the following: Whereas I used to teach five sections of 15 students each, I’m being asked today to instruct six sections of 25 students each. My workload has doubled with no commensurate increase in compensation. Now pay close attention, class. I used to work for a charter school with four office personal, two support staff, and 24 teachers. If I return to the classroom this fall, I’ll be working for an institution with eight administrative staff, two support staff, only 12 full-time teachers, and a similar student body at 300-strong. What are all these additional administrative staffers doing for the school? I frankly don’t know, but most of them have a private office.
Those additional layers of bureaucratic fat that I mentioned include a requirement to post all my lesson plans online and align them with the state’s requirements for benchmarks and standards. I don’t really suppose anyone from the Department of Education is actually reviewing my efforts, but the exercise is good for a few extra hours each week of unpaid labor. I’m also being assessed on multiple levels for my effectiveness as a classroom teacher. I won’t bore you with the arcane details other than to compare the process to a colonoscopy. I just wish the state and federal bureaucracies would kindly climb out of my rectum.
To be entirely candid, I made the decision not to go back to my classroom a few weeks ago. There are times when a man just needs to rant. The only thing government does well is produce more government – at least until the day when the entire public edifice collapses like a decrepit outhouse into the mire of its own manufacture. And that, my conservative brothers and sisters, is exactly where we stand today as a society and a culture. By the way, the State of New Mexico is administered by a Republican governor in the person of Susanna Martinez. You can see now why the process of collapse is inevitable, right?Published in General
I remember getting into a brief spat with Frank Soto and Sal about public schoolteachers’ frustrations with the administrative bureaucracy. I expressed myself badly and was roundly mocked for saying that, once in a while, I could almost sympathize with public teachers’ impulse to strike as they found themselves increasingly entangled with a system that wouldn’t let them, you know, teach. Frank and Sal pointed out, rightly of course, that teaching in a public school is a choice – those teachers choose to be beholden to the administrators.
Even so, I haven’t seen evidence to convince me that the administrators are any better than the teachers’ unions. Rather, the administrators seem to exist to allow the worst excesses of the teachers’ unions while increasingly hindering the members of those unions from doing what good they can, which is actually teaching.
It doesn’t surprise me that some of my public schoolteacher friends naturally look to their union as their one big weapon against their administrative overlords. They are misguided, of course, but part of the support for public schoolteachers’ unions comes from the belief that the union is the only effective cudgel against the administrative bureaucracy.
I wonder if you contacted Hillsdale College, if they might have some career-path suggestions.
Whenever I see the per-pupil cost of public education, I think to myself “that’s twice what we spent on our kids for private school. This make me want to scream VOUCHERS!
I’ve thought about being a teacher, probably high school math and physics. However, the stories my kids told me when they attended our public high school (private school only through 8th grade) made me change my mind to “No way in hell would I teach in a public school today.” However, my concern wasn’t the school’s bloated, PC admin establishment. My concern was the ability to maintain discipline in the classroom.
When I was volunteering in schools, I always felt that the underlying problem was that classes were a mix of students who wanted to be there with those who did not.
I think people who are serious about teaching particular subjects need to work in schools with motivated learners. And those schools exist.
To be fair to the schools, you outline partly why private schools can be cheaper. Private schools can trust the students more, worry about security and childcare bureaucracy less, and hand more of the duties over to parents. They can attract better teachers by offering a pleasant and rewarding life rather than extra pay. We can trim a lot of the fat with charter schools and such, but non-charter private schools will probably always be more financially efficient.
Be careful what you wish for. I’m also for school vouchers assuming that the schools and institutions who receive voucher money are not influenced by the government—this is a VERY big assumption. Some (e.g. Charlotte Iserbyt) have argued that a voucher system would ruin the private education system by forcing private schools to implement government regulations just like they do for colleges.
Kudos to you for joining the public teachers again.Regardless of how much the State has piled on teachers, competence is more effective in a student’s success than bureaucracy every time.
You should go work for the government. It is good paying reliable work that you can’t get fired from. Chances are you can not make the system any better or worse than it already is. Eventually government work will be the most desirable work, maybe the only work, as it pushes private jobs out of the market.
I was once looking through the directory for my local school district. I came across someone whose title was “music program coordinator.” She had no other duties. She worked at the district office. Why on earth this required a full time, salaried employee rather than being a collateral duty of one of the music teachers was beyond me. The administrator to pupil ratio should never equal the teacher to pupil ratio. Ever.
About 10 years ago I was talking with S. Fla. friends who were public school teachers. I asked about the growing number of administrators vs. teachers. Their comment was that most of the admins were counted as teachers. This made the student / teacher ratio look better. Also, the Admins were not required to be in the teacher’s union. Thus, less power. Kind of a twofer for the school board.
I thought the administrators were often members of the same teachers union. Then “for the teachers” becomes the same as “for the administrators.”
I taught in a local school for two years, and I had a blast. But it was a private school, and an elective class for which I was given absolute liberties (I made a point of using the phrase “commie fag” at least once each class). I made up each lesson as I went along. It was a rush.
The cool result was that I emerged with some amazing stories, AND several of the kids chose entirely different life paths because of my influence on them. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would.
I know one of these “music program coordinators”. She believes her job is immensely important – and that she’s overworked. She’s not a bad or lazy person, though she’s very bossy (and maybe that’s the point). I don’t have the heart to ask her, “Could you tell me why your job even exists?”
What I can say is that, while nearly everyone who develops outstanding musical skill takes private lessons – and private music teachers are beholden to no centralized curriculum and indeed have a well-earned reputation for idiosyncratic teaching styles, public schools still feel like it’s their sacred duty to find a one-size-fits-all music curriculum for everyone.
That private or other decentralized music instruction (like children’s church choirs) actually works better than crushing musical conformity won’t stop them.
That may have happened already. :)
Isn’t the solution obvious? If you want to teach, find a charter school to work for. If you want a job that pays relatively well, isn’t terribly challenging, doesn’t require much from you and throws in the perk of allowing you to sit in judgement on those actually providing the services for which the organization exists, become a school administrator. If you choose the second choice don’t be surprised if your co-workers are named Screwtape and Wormwood.
My sister works for the VA she said she feels like Neo in the Matrix
Good point. Excessive government regulation would effectively kill one of the major benefits of private schools.
Ask any government bureaucrat and they’ll tell you that’s just crazy talk.