Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Tea Party's Attack on Unions and Social Rights

In my book, anytime the working man can stick it to the rich man it's a good thing. In Wisconsin, that is precisely whats happening. As Scott Walker, the Republican Governor attempts to turn the working man upon his fellow working man (non-union workers vs. union workers), I hope that his transparency is as clear to them as it is to me.
Here's the facts: Walker wants to eliminate the unions ability to collectively bargain pension plans and benefits. Currently, union members are paying astronomically low rates; less than 1% into their pension, only 6% into health care. In exchange, the unions take on lower salaries. Less money now, more down the line. All in all, the deal is a sweetheart deal, but let us be clear, there was no divine order stricken down from the heavens demanding that union members will only pay X amount into this or Y amount into that. The deal was negotiated. It was collectively bargained. But now, when its time to pay the "more later" bit, the government, headed by Scott Walker is attempting to renege. Instead of focusing on the facts, Walker continues to point out what a great deal these union workers have, correctly stating that other "working men", i.e. his relative at Sears, would love such a deal. It is a relatively smart bit of thinking, but with the aforementioned facts brought to light, it is also completely irrelevant.
If the fight were really about making economic concessions, though, the strikes would be over. Wisconsin union members are willing and ready to make the necessary compromises, so long as their ability to bargain collectively remains intact. Walker, though, refuses to allow it. Because, alas, it has nothing to do with the economic climate, it has to do with another "Tea Party Governor" trying to union bust and infringe on basic social rights of Americans. It is happening all across the country. Thankfully, Wisconsin has put its foot down, hopefully America takes notice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teach For America Not For Yourself

Richard Cohen, Op-Ed Columnist over at the Washington Post, wrote a column today in defense of Teach For America. The real point, a point by the way in which I wholeheartedly agree with, was that Tea Party Republicans are trying to slash programs they don't like under the guise of budget cutting. In reality, you don't get rid of "useless" programs, such as Teach For America and expect all of our problems to wash away. Swing for the fences. Eviscerate the defense budget. Tax the hell out of the top earners in the nation and reinvest it into those who never stood a chance. But, that's just an opinion and it's not what this blog is about. I'm not going to blast Cohen, because frankly, I just think he is ignorant - a fact which he essentially admitted to in the column - about Teach For America.
In full disclosure, I was one of the 48,000 Teach For America applicants this year. I was not selected for an in-person interview. Only 5,300 were, so I guess at first I didn't feel too bad that I wasn't amongst those invited to partake in the cause. Then again, I never really stood a chance did I? For one thing, the TFA Corpse is largely an Ivy League affair, about 1/5 of the graduating class from Harvard applied to the program. Plus, I'm white. I'm from a relatively middle class family and I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., not exactly the redemption story that would captivate the application reviewers. But, perhaps, the cookie-cutter billboard faces that illuminate the TFA ads adorning college campuses across the country aren't actually the answer to the education crisis. They're not the type of people capable of making a difference. Not in my mind anyway. A potential flyer might highlight the plucky Latina from Los Angeles, or Joseph, the Jewish guy from New York City, or Derrick, the good-looking black guy who rose from the mean streets to the ivory towers going back into urban school systems to change lives. Sounds great on paper. Sometimes, I think that's all that matters to a lot of people.
All the while, the types of people who genuinely could make a difference are bypassed in the selection process to make room for self-serving, pretentious, frauds. It starts from the top at TFA. No doubt, the program is noble in its ideals and perhaps, sometimes, in its practice. I certainly hope that dividends are yielded, but I fear that the people at the frontline are not properly equipped to invoke change, let alone inspire a revolution. In my experience, the types of people who apply for TFA, try as they might to convince you or prove to you otherwise, are more interested in garnering the revere and praise of their peers for their "nobility" than actually making a difference. What about staffing yourself with people that genuinely care about kids? People who sincerely want to see others actualize their potential. They do exist, believe it or not. People that kids can relate to. They don't have be black, or latino, or white, or whatever, they just have to be funny. Or be passionate about real things, like sports, or music, or movies. Things that people can relate to, because without that nobody can trust you, you're just another stiff teacher that doesn't get it.
If we're going to spark a change with the youth, we need to enlist more real people, not the heroic University graduate who so humbly is donating their precious, valuable time throwing the less-fortunate a bone. What about hiring a man of the people, rather than someone who somewhere in their subconscious can't wait to write Teach For America on the resume so that their future interviewer at some Fortune 500 Firm can laud them with praise? It's pathetic, almost a way to equal military service for the "intellectually elite," an Iraqi war for the educated; let's go help these poor people turn their lives around so they can turn out to be just like me. The arrogance is astounding.