Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Apathy in the Face of Crisis

There's an interesting trend among teachers.  I see it locally.  I see it at the state level.  I see it at the national level.  Teacher pay and benefits are under attack from all angles.  The response:  Apathy.

At the local level, my district is at the bottom of our county in regards to pay, yet we are above average in per-pupil spending.  Essentially, other districts pay their teachers more with less resources.  Yet we're expected to "make sacrifices", which is code for taking a pay cut. 

At the state level, legislative bills have been introduced that will force all public employees to pay 20% of their heathcare costs.  Another bill would lop off 5% of our pay by side-stepping collective bargaining.  Finally, our tenure laws are going to be seriously weakened.  These three measures would likely cost every teacher thousands of dollars per year.  The bills seemingly have support in both houses of the legislature and from the governor.  Public support is on their side.  It's not a matter of "if", rather "when".  The collective response:  Apathy.
At the national level... well, I think most of us are familiar with the plight of public education at the national level.

The apathy I see is a little shocking.  Teachers (and support staff and administration) are on the bring of losing thousands of dollars from their yearly salaries and an erosion of our powers to collectively bargain, yet nobody seems to care.  It is as if they think this won't happen if they just ignore it.  

Psychologically, we have a tendency to ignore disaster preparedness.  If we know something bad is inevitable, we still won't prepare.  Why?  Preparing creates a sense of pessimism and uncertainty about the future.  Go to an earthquake-prone area.  How many people are prepared for "the big one"?  Not many.  

This may be the same phenomenon.  We have a belief that if we just put our heads down and go about our business, everything will work out.  Unfortunately, this attitude is the exact reason these things are happening in the first place.  This attitude is the exact reason these changes are inevitable.  This attitude is the exact reason these things will continue to happen.

Maybe legislation is too abstract.  Maybe people would have a more visceral response if someone actually took several thousand dollars from their checking account.  Maybe it would be helpful to point out how much those thousands of dollars could add to their children's college fund.  Maybe a pamphlet for a tropical vacation would elicit some type of response. 

Apathy.  [sigh]

1 comment:

  1. I think sometimes we feel powerless regarding the government and, thus, fail to take any action.