Regarding the Teacher Work Stoppage in Wisconsin

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

In the second big “news story” in a week involving education, tens of thousands of teachers and other public servants have left their jobs in Wisconsin. As their governor said last night, 300,000 such workers showed up to work, while about 20,000 braved the night time winter cold to protest. There, they were joined by activists such as Jesse Jackson, one of the standard bearers of activism in America. Tomorrow (today), those who are protesting will be met by another group, protesting their protest, largely organized by people from out of state, and representing the Tea Party.

What a mess! And what is all the noise about? What are these teachers (and others) protesting? Are they protesting against the ruinous failure of the schools in which they work? Are they protesting their own disastrous performance as teachers? Nope.

Of those who protested last night, were they marching against their own unions, the unions that send lobbyists to Washington to guarantee that teachers continue to receive remarkable salaries and job guarantees unheard of anywhere in the private sector, such as tenure, even abusive and rotten teachers? Afraid not.

And the Tea Partiers, they must be showing up to march in favor of improved education? Ur, no, sorry, they’re not.

What is this all really about? It’s about the right to collective bargaining. It’s about business – business as usual in education. And let’s make no mistake, education is big business in America. There are five to six million teachers in America! They start with salaries of between $35 – $40 thousand per year! That significant starter salary does not reference the many, many perks teachers receive for working around 180 days out of the year, the required school year. (The rest of us work at least 240 days a year, and many work far more.) Of course, the poor teacher does not stay at this starter rate very long. As of about 15 years ago, tenured college professors in Los Angeles were making at least $50,000 a year – after retirement. I knew two of them quite well, they were my closest friends.

Teachers unions in this country help get Presidents elected. That’s why every person running for office makes a lot of noise about supporting education. They claim it’s for the children, but they really make all that noise for the votes and financial support. The Teachers Unions are extraordinarily powerful, given their numbers and the relative wealth and security of their membership. Their lobbyists are very well funded, amongst the best in Washington and in state houses across the nation. And heaven help the person who implies that teachers may not be “underpaid”, as teachers like to broadly promote. Heaven help the government official who murmurs something about failed school systems, dropout rates that tower over 50% in many large cities, and abusive teachers who cannot be removed from their posts thanks to their unions and tenure.

Please do not get me wrong. I think the self-named Tea Party is coming to Wisconsin for all the wrong reasons, which surprises me not at all. After all, they are a wing of a political party, and politics has utterly failed our children for over a century now. The Tea Partiers are winging their way to Wisconsin to support government and big business, to march against the right of collective bargaining. It’s big business against big business, all with an air of self-righteous indignation on the parts of both sides, and all while the children go to educational hell.

To quote Shakespeare, a curse on both your houses.

Do I think that teachers should be well paid? Sure – when they deliver extraordinary results. (So should a plumber who delivers great results, or a doctor, or a store clerk. Anyone who does a great job should be rewarded.) Given the dwindling condition of our country, it’s all too clear that very few teachers today (or for the past decades) deliver the sort of results that would justify teacher’s extraordinary perks and salaries. And as for schools and school districts that deliver such results, we all know that’s a joke.

Yet for reasons that passeth understanding, teachers are held in high esteem. Parents listen and believe when a teacher says that their child is doing well or poorly. Families believe the teacher when they are told that their child’s problems in school are the child’s problems, and the parent’s problems. A student’s problems in school seem mysteriously never to be related to a failure on the part of the school or teacher. No, they are simply never at fault, though they consume a massive part of our national budget each year, those nearly six million teachers. Still, they can’t be bothered to take any real responsibility for their failure to our children and our country.

It appears impressive, this marching, counter-marching, and noise. But really, it isn’t at all impressive. It’s depressing and it’s destructive. And most importantly, it’s off point.

Tea Partiers, if you want to impress the world with your genuine concern for your nation, march for children and their needs. If you want to break the teachers unions, that’s okay with me, but do it in order to replace them with something better, something far more responsive to students and their needs. Do you have a better idea, a plan in place? Of course you don’t, you’re a branch of a political party. Enough said.

I suggest that you consider true and institutional support of homeschooling, frankly, the thing that teachers and teachers unions dread and accordingly despise. They have reason to fear homeschooling, of course. Remember that schools, both public and private, are paid by head count. The more students that are forced to show up in their classrooms, the more they get paid. Hence, their lobbyists have worked for decades to enforce mandatory schooling. It’s all about business. Homeschoolers eat into the education industry’s bottom line. Homeschool is illegal in Germany, almost illegal in Sweden. You can be sure that teachers unions would love to make it illegal in America, if they could just get around those pesky civil liberty issues.

Teachers, if you wish to impress the rest of us with your genuine concern for students, then you’ll need to radically change your approach to education and to the business of education. Fewer perks, new ideas that will actually work, better results with students. Let’s see you earn those cushy salaries and rights that most people in a country teeming with unemployed would kill to have a shot at. And please, don’t protest that you teachers spent money and time going to college in order to be able to teach, and now should be recompensed. In a free market economy, which we supposedly enjoy in this country, you are paid commensurate to your products, your results, what you can and do accomplish. This country is riddled, is virtually diseased with the results of your work. If you were paid fairly, some of you would be looking at jail time for fraud.

In a recent poll, hundreds of students were asked if they thought they had a better chance at life than their parents. This same question has been asked of generation after generation. But this generation was the first to say “no”. They do not believe that their future is going to be better than their parents; they believe it will be worse. Now there’s something worth fighting and marching to change!

Of course, the two sides in this argument, unions and government, do not exactly specialize in change. Perhaps the children who were polled are right, given the current, grim circumstances.

I really believe that the best hope for our children and for positive change is found in education, in homeschooling. One by one, parents, families, homeschooled children can start to truly address the ills of our time. But business and politics as usual are not going to cut it.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

6 comments on “Regarding the Teacher Work Stoppage in Wisconsin”

  1. I’d like to thank the wi union for picking the worst possible time in history to start the debate about parasitic public sector unions, tho.

  2. Agreed.

  3. Wisconsin Dem legislators flee the state to avoid voting & losing? Did Tea Party activists smoke them out? You can’t write this stuff!

  4. Bianca, you miss the point, like most ideologues. It’s the kids who lose, and the tea party mentality is at least in part responsible. The needs of children transcend politics, and politics and politicians have utterly failed in the area of education. This is very much true of both political parties. Read it again, without your bias getting in the way, if you can. This is about the needs of children and not about “being right” or politics. When it comes to our kids, all political agendas are wrong.

  5. Antonio Buehler says:

    Please see this post on why the Wisconsin protests serve as a great argument for homeschooling:

  6. Good article, overall! Worth a read, folks.

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