Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lassen County Times Propaganda

This is what the Lassen County Times published this week regarding the "worth" of teachers in our area. The story gets exceedingly worse than this, but I'll start here. Teachers in the local school district have not asked for a pay increase in 5 years. However, the district has decided to cap their benefits and the result is that without a pay increase, the increasing cost of benefits will result in a net pay loss. The teachers are only now asking for a pay increase to compensate for the cap in benefits. This is not extra money going to buy Cancun vacations...this is extra money requested to make up the difference for health insurance.

Instead of supporting the good work and public service of teachers, the right wingers at the Lassen County Times prefer to demean teachers and the job they do. The editorial staff consists of typical Christian hypocrites, who demonize the greater good of others and then pat themselves on the back at Sunday services for the "moral" choices they make during the week. They exemplify the kind of self-righteous idealogues who are so blinded by their own faith that they don't see the incredible harm they cause to others. Throw out the morals of the "Good Samaritan", because these hacks have traded in their morals for politics. Better to save tax money so we can add to our collection of OHVs (off-highway vehicles - sorry, this northern Californian, where status is measured by the number of OHVs you have and the height of your rig above the ground...personally, I've always felt that the higher your vehicle above the ground, the less competent you are in bed).

I wrote a letter to the editor (as I am wont to do these days), describing the usual lack of facts on which the editorial is based. Here is my submitted letter:

True to form, the Lassen County Times substitutes conjecture and ideological posturing for fact in its editorial on Susanville’s teachers (How much money is enough for teachers? September 12). Certainly the self-righteous tone of the editorial is consistent with the frequent evangelism and disdain for public service commonly expressed at the Times. And as usual, the errors are legion.

Am I really living in the Twilight Zone, or do only stupid people believe that teachers “work on average a six-hour day” and “only work 182 days out of the year compared to the average worker”? The data I researched suggests 50-60 hour work weeks are typical for the average teacher; certainly more for beginning teachers. School days are packed with student-focused work from the teachers’ arrival in the morning until their departure, often in the early evening. Class preparation, correcting homework, developing activities, not to mention administrative paperwork is usually completed outside of the “six-hour day” pay period. That’s non-compensated time, people. How many business men and women expect non-payment for services rendered? How many editors at the Times take work home with them? Apparently the Times must be using Haliburton math because the $32 per hour teachers’ make is now looking closer to $15 per hour. And what about those lunch breaks, the average of which for a teacher is 32 minutes? Taken within the calm serenity of the great outdoors, serviced restaurant or quiet lunchroom I suppose? Word I get is that it’s slamming down a sandwich while making sure the kids eat, getting the first bathroom break of the day, and making sure the next lesson is ready. Plus I bet they don’t even get to take that time off on their taxes. But then what about those long summer vacations teachers receive while the average worker slaves away. Ever heard of classroom clean-up? Class room preparation for next year’s class? How about taking classes and professional development? Is any of that compensated? Are we now down to paying our teachers $10/hour to educate the next generations?

I didn’t have to go far to find actual data on the effort teachers put into the education of children. I also know this from personal experience working with teachers. It really doesn’t take much effort to find real data on a subject, and the fact that the Times editorial staff commonly fails to back opinion with fact suggests ideological posturing on their part. Research is probably an anathema to the Times staff; after all, you might find data that runs counter to what you already believe, so best to state the belief and make the facts up to support it. The editorial was a purposeful and malevolent misrepresentation of teachers’ work efforts and it belies a broader underlying agenda that most of us suspect is behind the Times’ selective reporting efforts. Even the backhanded compliment contributed is disingenuous. Having the editorial staff at the Times refer to teaching as a “calling” is akin to the Pharaohs considering Hebrew bondage a “calling”.

Is teaching a calling? Absolutely (they’re certainly not getting paid enough to put up with all the bovine fodder dished out by the public on a regular basis). But the Times fails to seriously consider the implications of that statement, certainly in light of its own perceived purpose in the broader scheme of things. What a calling really means is that teachers’ efforts are further along the yardstick of moral relevance than most jobs. They sacrifice much in the achievement of a greater good. Their annual pay pales in comparison to big business, for example, which provides commodities but largely no redeeming social value. Yet in America today we accept, even applaud the obscene profits of oil companies while demonizing public servants asking for a meager 5% pay increase to help sustain the greater good. Where has our moral integrity gone?

Our teachers put in a lot more work than they get compensated for. The community would be wise to embrace and support this gift horse while it lasts. New data suggest that nationwide teachers are demoralized because of low pay, long hours, and lack of recognition. They’re leaving the profession in greater numbers and entering the field in fewer numbers. Think $90,000 is a lot of money for an experienced teacher? – in another decade the district might have to pay that just to get a young person interested in teaching on a temporary basis.

Shame on the Times for lacking the moral courage to stand up for teachers’ contributions to society and instead taking the cowards’ approach with innuendo, faulty data and cheapshots. Shame on the simplistic malcontents who think the need for some extra money to pay for medical insurance isn’t nearly as important as a yearly vacation to Cancun, outfitted hunting trip to Canada or the next addition to their personal OHV collection. And shame on anyone who thinks the number of digits on their paycheck is any relevant measure for the work they do when compared to that of a teacher.

Here is the response I received from the Managing Editor:

Thank you for your opinion. However, because you are not a member of STA I can only run you letter as a letter to the editor and it is 350 words to long. The Times reserves the right to edit letters, therefore according to you request, we will not publish your letter as it is currently written.
Thank you for your interest in the The Lassen County Times


Barbara France
Managing Editor
Lassen County Times

Now, perhaps I actually am too arrogant to think that the mental midgets at the Lassen County Times have reverse breached some intellectual barrier that makes them think they could reject my insightful wit. Perhaps, because this is a teacher's issue, the Susanville Teachers Association (STA) should actually have priority in upcoming editorials. Reasonable positions, and I do not question them. But the excuse of exceeding the Letter To The Editor word limit by 350 words is fact-dodging bullshit. I've seen far longer "Letters" addressing the virtues of God, Country and Evangelical Fundamentalism printed before. What the Lassen County Times is engaging in is censorship.

Certainly to be expected from a paper that promotes narrow perspective as intellect, innuendo as fact, and information control as a God-given right.

Believe me, there's more to come....

No comments: