Here's a lesson that is both ironic and sad at the same time. According to the U.S. Department of Education, two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin cannot read proficiently. But assuming the kids are skilled enough to watch TV, they can now see their teachers demonstrating to keep their generous union benefits. So while things do not seem to be going well in the classroom, any thought of holding teachers somewhat responsible is cause for a protest march.
As a former high-school teacher, it pains me to criticize those trying to educate American children. You will never become rich doing that, and the job can be maddening. Today, many children are the victims of a permissive society that often refuses to hold kids responsible for their actions. Cowardly parents make excuses for the failures of their kids, rather than finding a solution to their poor academic performance. Instead of preparing their children for rigorous academic challenges, derelict parents sit it out.
But teachers are supposed to overcome apathetic parenting and at least give the kids a fighting chance to succeed. That is a challenge that's supposed to be met.
As I've written before, in my eighth-grade class at St. Brigid's School on Long Island, there were 60 students and one nun in the classroom. We all could read proficiently, and believe me, some of the parents were not exactly Ozzie and Harriet, if you understand what I'm saying. The nun brooked no nonsense. She forced us to learn.
But that was then.
In 10 years, starting in 1998, Wisconsin doubled the amount of money spent on each public-school student to more than $10,000 per pupil per year. And test scores went down! Doing the math, the equation seems to be that money is not the key to knowledge.
The teachers in Wisconsin should be compensated to the best of the state's ability. But the educational gravy train is off the tracks. There's no more money. The taxpayer is tapped out.
In the future, if you want to teach kids you'll have to accept less to do it. That may not be fair, but it's the lesson Wisconsin is teaching us. The writing is very clear on the blackboard: No more public money is on the way.
I left teaching because I understood the limitations of the job. I knew at a young age that my income would be restricted and my life would be fairly predictable.
Selfishly, I wanted more.
But I respect immensely those who devote their lives to teaching. I want them to have as much as the market will bear.
Sadly, that point has now been reached.