Yesterday’s Bulls and Bears did its best to make mass school closures in Chicago look good by making protesting teachers look bad. But regular panelist Gary B. Smith went the extra public-education-hating mile by saying, “The teachers don’t care about the kids.” Fortunately, panelists Julian Epstein and Jonah Max Ferris pushed back on that. But not host Brenda Buttner.
Rather than discuss the substance of educational budgets and facilities, Fox made it about the Chicago teachers union’s motives for protesting school closure protests. Host Brenda Buttner set the stage with her opening, “Threatening to put their bodies on the line. The Chicago teachers union causing havoc this week protesting the proposed closing of 54 schools and 61 buildings. Union members outraged! They say kids are getting hurt.” Then she began the discussion by tossing to conservative panelist John Layfield, “But John, you say they’re just looking out for who? Themselves?”
To drive the point home, a banner on the screen read: MOTIVE OF CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION IN QUESTION AMID SCHOOL CLOSURE PROTESTS
After Layfield gave his predictable attack on the teachers union, Smith said,
The teachers don’t care about the kids. They care about having a job. That’s what they’re there for, but look what Chicago faces. Chicago faces two things. One, they say they face a billion-dollar deficit. What was their solution? I quote, ‘Consolidating underutilized schools will allow us to safely move these children to a higher-performing, welcoming school near their home with all the investments they need to thrive in the classroom.’ So how can you say that and the billion-dollar deficit and say the teachers are looking out for the kids? No, the teachers are looking out for themselves.
Epstein, a News Hounds Top Dog, said, “I think Gary B. may want to consider his comment that the teachers don’t care about the kids. Every single teacher I’ve ever met loves and cares deeply about the kids. It’s possible they care about their jobs and the kids at the same time. The problem here is you do have a billion dollar debt… That comes mostly from the economic turndown and the shrinking tax base.” He questioned the consolidation as “not going to be good for the kids and it’s not going to be good for the local economy.”
Jonas Max Ferris said, “You don’t just go into teaching for the money.” However, he, too, took a jab at the teachers union (albeit reasonably) by saying, “If you want to raise the pay of teachers to make better programs, incentive pay, whatever it is, for the students’ benefit, you can make a case for that. To just pay them more than the free-market wage because they’re in a union, doesn’t really solve anything for the kids. So I think higher wages can make sense but the way the unions go about it, doesn’t solve our problems.”
Meanwhile, Fox did its part to bash the unions, public education and public school teachers – while mostly ignoring what impacts the closures will have on the children.
Public school teachers live anything but glamorous lives. They work very hard, including many hours spent at home grading papers. The teachers’ union has at least given them a living wage, which is more than they had before the union existed and they were expected to work longer hours for much less. One must believe that the GOP union attackers think that public school teachers should be working for the same wages as a fast food employee to hear the attacks they regularly bring against the people trying to educate children every day.
The usual modes of attack have been to try to eliminate the funding for public schools – whether it be via vouchers (whereby poorer families get a small subsidy toward an expensive private school they will still be unable to afford and which will still bar them from admission on other grounds) or via charter schools (whereby instant schools are created without any regard for whether they have any stability or whether they can actually teach students).
Barring those approaches, pundits on AM radio or at Fox News regularly attack the teachers, insulting them with the idea that they somehow don’t care about their students or that they don’t spend the hours that they do spend working to educate them. Anne-claire’s point is well taken. I have several right wing friends whom I have backed down on this issue, simply on the basis that when they say that the schools aren’t educating their kids the way they think it should be done, I have reminded them that many parents aren’t totally reliable either. How many times have the schools had to deal with undisciplined kids coming from parents who can’t handle their kids, and then had the parents complaining after their child is cited for acting out in various ways?
The fact is that the Fox News pundits and many AM radio pundits don’t have their kids in public schools in any case. They send their kids to private schools and still complain, and they’d rather not pay their taxes to support schools that their kids don’t use. And many of their listeners have fallen for the liberterian scam and think that maybe they’ll be a millionaire someday and will be able to also opt out of the public sector.