Tuesday, September 25, 2012

# 16 Can't Buy Me Love

   Lately, I having been listening to younger teachers talk about the current labour confrontation with the provincial government. Many of the questions and opinions are very familiar to me, but one stands in front of all the others. "Why are people always attacking teachers?"

  Unfortunately, for many people, either because of necessity or choice, the means becomes secondary to the end. For these people life is about the pursuit of money to pay for a lifestyle. This ambition is encouraged by our culture and in many cases is expected and respected. At the extreme end there are people such as military mercenaries and security personnel who will jump in front of a gun for a paycheque.

  However, there are people in our society who do not subscribe to that expectation. People who will not risk their lives for money, as easily as they will for an idea. People such as social workers, nurses, police, fight fighters and teachers are only a few examples of workers who do not perform their jobs strictly for monetary gain; they are our servants of the public.

  As a community, we hire these people to maintain stability and take care of us through difficult times. In return, they are provided with a middle class salary, health benefits, and most of the time, public respect.  Of all the public servants who walk through our lives, teachers are the most recognizable; everyone has felt the presence of a teacher in their lives.

  If you were to ask any society to name their greatest resource it is always the children. While adults earn a living to keep them fed, clothed and housed; they ask teachers to keep their children safe, and to recognize and act on their inner potential. This is a huge honour and responsibility given to teachers. Similar to most public servants teachers don't do their job for the 'money', as the financial gratification rarely compares to the emotional rewards.

   So, why all the hostility from the people who seem to love us so much? One possible answer is governments either mismanage the public purse or they lose it playing in the world economy. As a result, the first group of workers to suffer are those in the the private sector. They'll take pay cuts, lose benefits, pensions or jobs.

  Not long after the private sector starts to suffer, anger and finger pointing erupts. Then, the public turns their anger on the government's incompetence.  If the anger toward the government gets too intense, tactics will be employed to divert the negative energy. So they look for an outlet, a 'scapegoat'. The government sees an opportunity to both divert aggression from the public and make a money grab from the public service. They point to the public sector and with the help from the mainstream news media the public anger is funneled toward a recognizable target.

  The government knows that the public loves their teachers so they are careful to say their anger is directed at 'faceless unions', and teachers are victims of a monster.

  When this strategy is successful, an angry public realizes that they have provided for their public servants in a way they themselves are not experiencing.  They might think,  "Not only are all these people earning a stable income with benefits, but they have job satisfaction too!, I don't have that!"  So, the abuse begins. Angry at world they live in, the public vent all their jealous rage on the very sector they depend on for so much.

  This is one of the largest reasons why teachers are resented by so many members of the public. We are not driven by money with the same intensity as the rest of society and we are the most visibly vulnerable target to unleash anger.

   So, when does the  abuse of teachers end?  There was a similar assault against public servants in the late 1990s and then September 11th 2001 happened in the United States.  All over the world people watched fight fighters, police, paramedics and a host of other public servants risk their lives to help regular people. They weren't doing it for the money and people recognized that fact.

   That catastrophic event reawakened people to the respect they have for all public servants, including teachers. My prediction is that assault of teachers will stop when society experiences another major calamity or the economy turns around.  Once that happens, they'll realize they love us all over again.