Thursday, September 27, 2012

Misplaced Rage

I woke up to "breaking news" this morning and a smug Matt Lauer smiling ear to ear.  After a long night of negotiations, the NFL has settled with it's referees and answered the prayers of millions of Americans.  No more game changing bad calls, no more disrespect and disorder, and no more clogged Facebook feed with whiny football posts.  The referees got what they wanted (for the most part), and generally speaking, the American public is ecstatic.  Just in time for Thursday night football! 

Calls for the NFL to pay up because the refs were worth every penny was becoming deafening and the league owners and commissioners just couldn't ignore the fan base anymore.  They did something that doesn't happen much anymore: they listened to their customers.

But I'll be honest.  This entire thing has only made me sad about the priorities and passion of the American public.  The things that really seem to rock our worlds just don't add up. 

Anyone remember that other little strike that has been in the news this month?

The Chicago teacher strike was generally unpopular with Americans and the media.  Most strikes in public education are.  The strike in Chicago was basically over the following issues: limits to class size, health insurance, fair evaluations, and better working conditions.  When you have buildings where children are wearing winter coats in the winter to stay warm, there is something very wrong.  Americans should be disgusted and outraged about the conditions that our teachers and students are faced with in many public schools.  But we aren't. 
We are outraged by this:
This was the call that got things going.  Not necessarily changed everything, as coaches and players had made it clear that they had no respect for the "replacement referees". This was the moment where it clicked with millions how valuable the "real" referees are, how hard their job is, and how important they are to the NFL brand.
When the Chicago teachers were on strike the media and public turned their backs.  There were calls to just replace them with college graduates that needed jobs.  I mean, shoot ya'll, teaching is a breeze and anyone can do it, right?  The sentiment that these hard working teachers, teachers that had been in Chicago schools for decades, could just be replaced by 22 year old recent graduates (who cares what their major was, right?) was insulting and degrading.  But replace an NFL ref with an NCAA ref?  Ohmygoodness the sky is falling!
I am a believer and supporter of public education.  I have a Masters degree in Education, I worked in public schools as a counselor for several years, and I am the product of public schools (K-12).  I also realize that education has become a very low priority for a very good portion of this country.  Even as we are calling for schools to do more (to be the doctors, counselors, nutritionists, and coaches in addition to the very huge job of teaching to the very high federal standards), we are asking them to do it with less.  I have worked with thousands of teachers over the years, and the vast majority of them got into the field for the love of children and learning.  Not the money, not the glory, not the summers.  The kids.
Teachers are not martyrs.  They should not have to teach in impossible conditions with impossible standards and unfair evaluation practices.  When teachers strike, the major sentiment from the powers that be are "you are hurting the children".  Ouch.  To tell a group of professionals that they are hurting their kids because they had the audacity to fight for their professional selves is unbelievable and hurtful.  Forget about the years they have spent nurturing kids, staying late for conferences and tutoring, coaching into the late night hours, and spending their at-home time grading papers. Teachers should be in it solely "for the kids" - not "for the money".
For a long time I have said that teaching has gotten the brunt of gender inequality.   People want to see teachers as sweet, preppy, smiley little women who come to school to love on kids and make a few extra dollars to supplement her husband's income before she decides to have kids and leave the job to the next 24 year old fresh out of grad school. Not people who have a backbone to fight for issues that are important to them and their livelihood.  A livlihood that, in many cases, supports a whole family.

But alas, I didn't see my Facebook wall light up in support of teachers.  Nope.  It takes a pissed off NFL fan, or someone's messed up Fantasy Football game, to make us really mad about the state of things in the world.  The Chicago teachers were made out to look money hungry, with many outlets touting the average $74,000 per year salary (sadly implying that the teachers who are on the front lines don't deserve that much).  I didn't see anyone making a fuss about the NFL referees asking too much money (even though, even when you account for summers the teachers are working far more than the NFL refs).  If anything, people were screaming to give them whatever they wanted.  We need them.
I don't make this comparison to belittle the NFL or my NFL-loving friends.  I get that this is a multi-billion dollar industry and that people take major pride in their football teams.  I make this comparison because I truly believe, with all of my heart, that experience matters.  That we should never discount an experienced teacher as "replaceable" and then two weeks later be up in arms about how bad the "replacement refs" are.   We shouldn't value the Ravens vs. Browns game tonight more than we value a child's experience in the classroom.  I am hoping that this "national football crisis" opens our eyes and applies itself to more pressing concerns. 


Allie said...

Amen! This post is dead on, Jill. I felt like even NPR devoted more time to the NFL refs than the teacher's stike, and that's saying something.

Angie said...

I agree! It seems priorities in this country do seem to be out of whack. Teachers don't need money because they are glorified baby sitters in the eyes of some people. But, good gravy some bad calls in a football game outrage the entire country. It makes me sad for this country that the people who educate our children are pushed aside, and professional sports have become more important.

changa said...

It's funny that you mentioned the Ravens vs. Browns game tonight. I was out with a friend at a bar, with the game playing and a man in his 40's made the comment, "I was so enraged when I saw what those ref's were doing!" as he waved his hands in the air. I was alone, waiting for my friend to arrive and just rolled my eyes.

Leslie said...

I agree with you to a certain extent. I wasn't as outraged with the refs, but they didn't affect my team directly and I wonder if it was the same situation here. Our community's children were not affected by the strike in Chicago. We are fortunate to live in a county were the school system is pretty weathly albeit public. I have a lot of friends in Chicago from my midwest years and I did see a lot of posts on Facebook about the strike. And a lot of my friends who were posting about the NFL refs don't have kids. I have to admit that even though I'm for education and want there to be livable conditions, I wasn't as passionate about the Chiacgo strike as I was about the NFL. I watch the NFL, I don't have kids in the Chicago school system, nor do I work in a public school system. That's not to say that I don't care about the issue. I'm just less likely to post my opinion about it. Although I didn't post about either situation! :-) Just food for thought!

Megan said...

Amen!!! I also wish that Mike could go to work only 16 times and get paid a six figure salary! Ridiculous. When people were saying that the players should go on strike I said to Mike, "They're ENTERTAINERS!!! There's more important thing than effing football!!" but I realize that the majority of the American public would lynch me for saying that....

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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