I’ve been avoiding writing about the Chicago teacher strike because I don’t like writing about education. I’ve never understood education very well, beyond the Socratic idea that all you can do is start a spark in a student, which is why it is good that I am at a small private school with sparkable kids and not trying to do something more difficult.
But some readers have sent me some very interesting observations. The commenter formerly known as matoko_chan notes that the so-called “merit pay” provision weights student performance on standardized tests very highly (pdf). It’s not unreasonable that teachers don’t like feeling pressure to teach to some idiotic standardized test.
Commenter Upper West notes that Bobo is being disingenuous (don’t make me show you my shocked-face) when he says:
The Chicago school system is a classic case of a bloated, inefficient … organization. The average Chicago teacher makes $76,000 a year in a city where the average worker makes $47,000 a year.
Upper West notes that it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, since most workers are not college-educated. A better comparison (note that this is for all high-school teachers, not just Chicago high-school teachers):
The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of a average college-educated worker in the United States. The comparable figure is 82 percent across the overall O.E.C.D.* For teachers in lower secondary school (roughly the years Americans would call middle school), the ratio in the United States is 69 percent, compared to 85 percent across the O.E.C.D. The average upper secondary teacher earns 72 percent of the salary for the average college-educated worker in the United States, compared to 90 percent for the overall O.E.C.D.
I do think that there’s reflexive hostility towards teachers among the TED class. Unlike Corey Robin, I believe that this hostility extends to professors (I also disagree with Robin’s assertion that people in general hate teachers — the assholes he went to high school with in Chappaqua are not representative of the whole country — but I recommend you read Robin’s piece anyway because it is excellent).
The TED class — which I’ll loosely define as establishment pundits, think tankers, and academics who have turned themselves out — likes to believe it lives in the REAL WORLD, MOTHERFUCKERS and that all sorts of teaching are a refuge from this world. We beat the pavement while you sit in your ivory tower masturbating to deconstructionism, or in a TAXPAYER-FUNDED classroom reading “To Kill A Mockingbird”. We know what it’s like to compete in the FREE MARKET.
All that bullshit. Even though they all work for outlets that are either themselves non-profits or money-losing divisions of some large company or magazines that whore themselves out with salons.
Maybe when papers and magazines made money, they had some kind of a point. Not anymore though.