Monday, May 14, 2018

Dangerous Minds

Last week I had begun composing a blog instructing the people of my home state, West Virginia, to get their shit together. Because the news was covering Don Blankenship like he had a real shot at winning the senate primary. If you're unfamiliar with Don Blankenship, he was the CEO of Massey Energy. The coal company is responsible for a mining explosion that killed twenty-nine people. Blankenship only spent a year in prison. It seems what I consider felony mass murder the justice system considers a misdemeanor of willfully violating safety and health standards. 

There was a lot of coverage concerning Blankenship's use of racial slurs in campaign ads. He referred to “China people” and when he was called out on it he said “China people” aren't a race. He went on to define what he considers to be legitimate ethnicities. It didn't help his cause much because he used the word Negro. You can only get a pass for saying Negro if your age is one hundred or older.

Although Blankenship's racist rants were both creepy and comical, I found the whole mass murder thing way more alarming. To my great relief, the people of West Virginia got their shit together without my help and Blankenship finished dead last. At least he'll have an interesting story to tell his parole officer.

This brings me to another time West Virginia got their shit together. That would be the statewide teacher walkout which has led to teacher walkouts in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and coming soon – North Carolina.

Regular readers of this blog know my sister is a teacher and may consider my opinion biased. You are totally right about that. If you read my last blog then you know my company just had a layoff. Though I still have a job I'm not entirely convinced the company isn't broke. I'm not moving back in with my parents in my forties. Living in my sister's basement seems a bit more dignified. Plus she has a fridge in the basement. Despite my repeated requests my parents have yet to put a fridge in my room. Regardless, I need my sister to be gainfully employed in order for this basement backup plan to work.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons the teacher walkouts are important that have nothing to do with my living arrangements. Of all the states experiencing walkouts, Colorado is the only one that didn't vote for Trump in 2016. West Virginia is reportedly the most pro-Trump state in all the land. I think it says a lot that West Virginia teachers started the Fuck This Shit Teacher Rebellion of 2018. If you don't educate kids they grow into stupid adults who make stupid choices. Like voting for Trump. A man who famously voiced his love of the poorly educated. And they were too stupid to know that was an insult.

The blame for stupidity cannot be placed on the teachers in these states, with a few exceptions I'll get to later. Most of these teachers are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Imagine spending all night Uber-ing around drunk people, then spending your day providing free childcare for all of America, and be expected to teach them something while using a map with the forty-eight states of America and history books that refer to African Americans as Negroes. And you only have thirty Negro history books for eighty students. And you have to use your Uber money to pay for supplies the school can't afford to supply. And you have to be prepared for a mass shooting which could happen literally any minute. On top of all that, your sister might be moving into your basement. 

Because they lack the motivation to take a bullet for a job which requires them to collect food stamps, good teachers are leaving to work in states with better pay. The food stamp teachers who have chosen to stick it out in their home states are being forced to teach subjects for which they are not certified. This has led to some epic stupidity.

For example, one of the dumbest people I have ever known is currently a teacher in West Virginia. This woman will misspell West Virginia nine times out of ten. She claims to have a degree in a field for which no such degree exists. I was perplexed as to how anyone would hire her as a teacher. I briefly considered I may have underestimated her and perhaps she is some kind of brilliant con artist. But a brilliant con artist would probably shoot for something better than a low paying teacher job. It would only make sense if she wanted in the school system as a diabolical pretense to murder someone. Then I read about the state constantly lowering certification requirements and realized they'll pretty much hire anyone willing to work for food at this point.

When I was in the ninth grade my high school had two math teachers. Yes, two. It's a small town. One was such a good teacher even the dumber kids did well in her class. The other math teacher would show up at the beginning of class, write something on the chalkboard, leave to go smoke for forty minutes, then return five minutes before the bell rang reeking of cigarettes. At the end of my freshman year the county had cutbacks. The good teacher was let go because the chain smoker had been there much longer, smoking on the grounds before the school was even built. 

For my remaining high school years, I was on a constant search for a math teacher. My sister was in college becoming a math teacher so that was helpful. I also discovered the drama teacher was good at math. He once spent an entire period teaching me what I didn't learn in geometry class. I found it to be fairly easy when someone was actually teaching me. As I was thanking him for his help I started to complain about the math teacher. I got out “Mr. V-” before he nodded his head and said, “I know.” All I learned in my actual math class was how to smoke and avoid people. Not that those skills haven't been useful, but they don't look good on a resume.

This week teachers in my current state of residence, North Carolina, will be staging a walkout. Someone actually asked why they don't strike in the summer when it won't effect the kids. I don't know. Maybe because the point of the strike is recognizing and compensating teachers for all they do which effects the kids. Somehow I think doing it in the summer may have less of an impact.

People who don't wish to see their taxes raised to adequately pay teachers tend to use the whole summers off thing as the basis for their entire argument. I've found most people who use this argument are burdened with the cost of day care when school is out.  And all day care is really required to do is feed your kid and, like, make sure they don't run out into traffic and shit. Teachers are required to do much more than that. Day care is overpriced because they know you can't do without it. It's like when you're stuck at the airport and pay five dollars for a Coke. They know it's overpriced, but they also know you can't leave. So you're going to pay five dollars for a Coke. But you don't expect the pilot to live on minimum wage to offset the price of Coke.

One need only consider the ignorant adults in your life who were failed by an overcrowded underfunded school system to see the importance of properly compensating teachers. I shall now provide examples of some or my personal interactions with poorly educated adults.

I once worked with a mother who thought “No Child Left Behind” meant schools weren't allowed to fail kids. True Story.

Years ago I worked for a realty company. One morning the power went out. My phone rang off the hook with tenants telling me the power was out. I began answering the phone by saying, “I know the power is out. CP&L is on the way.” Here is a conversation I had with one tenant:

Me: I know the power is out. CP&L is on the way.

Tenant: Oh, I know. I'm not calling about the power.

Me: How can I help you?

Tenant: The elevator isn't working.

I then had to explain how electricity works to a grown man. Because he was one of our tenants I had to do so without being sarcastic and bitchy. I did not pull it off. True Story.

Now journey with me all the way back to the year 2009. More specifically, to January 20, 2009. My company brought in a monitor so we could all watch the inauguration of Barack Obama. At the time, I sat next to this asshole who was pro-McCain/Palin and hated Obama. This is the conversation we had prior to the inauguration.

Asshole: I think it should go by the popular vote.

Me: Obama won the popular vote.


Asshole: Do you think George Bush will be there?

Me: Yeah, it's kind of a tradition for the outgoing and incoming presidents to meet on Inauguration Day.

Asshole: I'm surprised they didn't have it on Martin Luther King Day.

Me: That's because Inauguration Day was set in the Constitution long before Martin Luther King ever existed.

Asshole: So it's the same day every year?

Me: No. It's the same day every four years.

True Story.

America, we can't afford to keep producing poorly educated children who become poorly educated adults who become poorly educated voters. Kanye West talking about running for president is funny now, but we thought Trump was funny in the beginning too. Pay the fucking teachers whatever the fuck they want before Kim Kardashian is the fucking First Lady.

All I can hope for West Virginia is for it to be slightly better than Kentucky. And it is. I can prove it. Let us take a look at the responses to the teacher strikes by the governors of both states.

Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.”

West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice: "Believe it or not, I can be the town redneck too.”

They're both deplorable statements. But calling striking teachers rednecks is slightly better than blaming them for imaginary pedophilia.

Namaste, Bitches


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