In the last 12 months, local governments have lost more than 130,000 teaching jobs alone, according to monthly jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. In June 2011, local governments employed more than 7.9 million teachers. A year later, that number has dropped to 7.8 million, as Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal notes. Since June 2008, when local governments employed 8.1 million teachers, they have shed more than 300,000 teaching jobs
Time was when I thought teaching was a noble profession that contributed to the greater good. I still do, I suppose, but I understand something now that I didn’t when I was a teacher. Americans don’t view education and teachers as an investment. American see these things as overhead, money spent to babysit children while parents are at work. It’s not about providing our children with tools for the future. The idea that education prepares children to compete in an increasingly global economy seems lost on most Americans, and certainly on politicians charged with funding our public schools. Our priorities are distressingly clear: thre Pentagon and tax cuts for billionaires.
There’s simply no way that America will remain competitive in the global economy if we continue traveling this path. We can’t continue providing tax cuts for those who need it least and untold trillions for the Pentagon and retain any hope of remaining a world power. We may not notice a difference now, or five years from now, or perhaps even ten. Eventually, though, our collective inability to compete will be impossible to ignore…and the damage will be too pervasive to counteract.
The American philosophy continues to be, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Perhaps we’ve all forgotten that we are what we are today because of the teachers who taught and influenced us. There are times when I find myself thinking about getting back into teaching…but why would any sane person subject themselves to the low pay, the almost complete absence of job security, and the lack of respect accorded to teachers today?
We’re well on our way to becoming an idiocracy, and the charge is being led by those on the Right who value obedience over critical thinking. All I can say to that is to be careful what you ask for; you might not like the results when you get what you’re after.