Monday, February 21, 2011

Public Teachers Publicly Sinning in Madison

While it is false to teach that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is guilty of Seventh Commandment sins against the public teachers in proposing an adjustment to what they pay on their pensions, there are actual open and scandalous sins involved in the protests in Madison. 

For example, if stealing is a concern among us, and I hope it is, then all Christians, especially those responsible for speaking out on moral issues, like preachers, no matter what one's own political leaning is, ought to be decrying the fact that thousands of teachers are stealing time and resources from school districts, and ultimately from the people, by refusing to show up and do their jobs, which, I must remind some, is actually to teach kids (and not teaching them a life lesson in politics or integrity or some such phony rationalization, but to teach their assigned subject in the classroom). 

Then there is the Fourth Commandment, by which a teacher owes faithfulness in his job to those above him.  Or the Eighth Commandment, about bearing false witness.  That one should bring shame to all those who openly lied about being sick, to get a "sick day" to go and protest at the capitol.  And now we find out that there are actually people at the demonstrations, dressed in doctors' coats, handing out sick notes to any who wants it.  They might or might not be real doctors.  If they are, that brings shame on that profession as well.  We also know that in some cases union leaders are telling lies to their rank and file, about what is in the proposals, and what is at stake in all of this. 

Teachers in our public schools are ministers of the state, if you will.  In other words, they are public servants.  Their work is on behalf of the public and for the public good.  Therefore, it is especially grievous to see the type of conduct we have seen from many of them gathered in Madison for the past several days.  Besides the outright and plain sins as we have already mentioned, there is a lot of childish behavior in the demonstrations, and some that can only be defined as thuggish.  Many of these teachers are an embarrassment to Wisconsin, to America, to our municipalities, to our schools, and our whole modern system of education. 

Yet ironically, the teachers would tell us that their job is special, that their role is special, that they are special.  We should treat them as a special caste, but apparently they are not so special that their presence in the classroom is crucial, or that it is important for the children to see them conduct themselves with integrity and make sacrifices like those in the working class have done.  No, they are a delicate, special group.  Another blog entry will have to be devoted to the Lutheran teachers who think they are so special that they have a "ministry" and a "call," but in the present case the public school teachers, at least those who blindly follow union-think, and have run off to Madison to protest, need to be taken down a notch.  Why?  For one thing, they have, by and large, done a shameful job teaching our children.  If the American public school teachers' collective performance over the past generation had matched their collective rise in pay and benefits, I would be praising them.  Even then, however, I would nonetheless be calling for them to agree to these minor, minuscule sacrifices because the fact is that we simply cannot afford these extravagances.

Truth be told, I have a great deal of love, respect, and esteem for primary and secondary education, for our kids, and for the profession.  In some ways, indeed, it is a special role in society and in a child's life, which is one reason it is especially shameful that some are acting this way.  Since I have left the seminary, I myself have thought a great deal about going into teaching.  It would require certification, which is a commitment I simply cannot afford at this point.  At any rate, I respect and appreciate the profession of teaching, and I call upon all to practice some maturity, reasonableness, and integrity.  To borrow the words of the Blessed Reformer, in regard to the teachers, and legislators, I urge them to stay and do their duty.

The Christian teacher, no matter where he teaches, ought especially to remind himself that his model is the life, and sacrifice, of Christ.  For Christ is the Teacher par excellence, and He shows us by his eternal teaching, and by the exemplary dignity of His humility and sacrifice, how the Christian is to see his own life and work.   For our life is bound up in the wounds of the One Who is, for His Church, Christus Magister.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tif, you couldn't be more wrong in your take on the political actions of Wisconsin's Unions. As a teacher who has been under the oppressive foot of the whims of a district and state Qualified Economic Offer for my 15 year career I certainly haven't made myself rich by teaching. The Wisconsin unions have agreed to give up what amounts to a 12-15% reductions in take-home earnings. But we refuse to give up our rights to collectively bargain as a united group. I spent two days at the capital. No thug behavior or arrests were made despite 70k protesters Saturday. Every school day missed by teachers will be made up. Fast-tracking the bill in less than a week's time has forced teachers to make a stand now or loose their voice forever. In that sense Tif we are alike. It would take an act of God to silence me now. I will not stand up to the tyranny of a power hungry Gov. any more than our founding fathers would have against the British. Jesus stood against Gov. Pontius Pilot in his own way, as will WI Unions stand against Walker. Society will crumble when Walker dished out his huge tax breaks to the rich and steps on the middle class.

If the Lutheran church becomes as blindly conservative as you Tif, becoming Catholic would be inviting.

Your childhood friend, Jeff

Bushido Lutheran said...

render to Caesar much, Jeff?

-Rachel

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

"Blindly conservative" is one thing that I am not. In fact, I am not even "conservative," which anyone who really knows me, or who reads this blog objectively, would sense. Rather, I am a theologian.

By the way, no one at this blog has claimed that teachers are "rich." If you do want to admit to this discussion, however, what your district pays you, please tell us, and we will judge for ourselves how much sympathy you should get from Jesse Jackson and the crowds in Madison.

I said there was thug behavior not because I saw arrest reports, but because I know of eye witness accounts of thug behavior. Your own experience may have been different, but let us be logical and adult here.

The days will be made up? First, not for those districts that did not officially call off school. Second, that doesn't excuse the mass lying. Third, that does not help those parents who have had to scramble to figure out what to do on those days. Nor will it help the situation of the summer very much.

Collective bargaining is neither a divine nor a constitutional right. And I hasten to add that it is a phony, corrupt way to bargain, when the only real participants in the bargaining room are the union leaders on the one hand and the public representatives who are in the pocket of the unions on the other. I wouldn't give that up either. It's a nice deal.

My reflections here, let me now state clearly, are in truth not anti-union. Teacher unions existed before collective bargaining, and the teachers' pensions and benefits will still be top shelf when all is said and done. We need, however, some realistic thinking in these economic times.

Paul said...

I would like to see a union sympathizer actually address the Scriptural points you raised. I doubt that will happen.

Daniel Gorman said...

Is it possible that at least some school districts in Wisconsin permit teachers to be absent from the classroom without sickness (i.e., personal days)? If so, is it possible that protesting teachers who followed all of their district guidelines for non-sickness related absense may not have been lying, stealing, or cheating their employer or their students in any way?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Daniel:

You ask, "Is it possible that at least some...districts...permit teachers to be absent...without sickness (i.e., personal days)? etc"

This possibility is not denied by my blog post. My commentary decries the lying and irresponsibility of the proven and documented cases of the thousands who lied and were irresponsible. It does not claim to pertain to every teacher who was, or is, at protests in Madison, just as my remarks are not against teachers generally, or unions generally.

Therefore, could you offer an opinion on the issues to which I did in fact speak?

Daniel Gorman said...

Fair enough. My opinion is that you have failed to clearly identify the teachers you are accusing of sin and the public basis of your accusation. You write, "For example, if stealing is a concern among us, and I hope it is, then all Christians, especially those responsible for speaking out on moral issues, like preachers, no matter what one's own political leaning is, ought to be decrying the fact that thousands of teachers are stealing time and resources from school districts, and ultimately from the people, by refusing to show up and do their jobs, which, I must remind some, is actually to teach kids (and not teaching them a life lesson in politics or integrity or some such phony rationalization, but to teach their assigned subject in the classroom)."

1. Are protesting teachers who obeyed all school district guidelines for non-sick leave personal days or whose schools were not in session "stealing time and resources from school districts" when they failed "to show up and do their jobs"? Or, is your accusation limited to those lied to obtain sick leave benefits?

2. Could you provide a link to "the proven and documented cases" of "thousands of teachers . . . stealing time and resources from school districts"?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Daniel:

When I ask you to speak to the actual issues raised by my post, you respond, "Fair enough," yet oddly go on to give a comment the bulk of which still seeks to address an issue or a scenario not even touched by my blog post. That is what some call a straw man.

Re: your questions. Your first question lumps together two different scenarios, and so it calls for two different answers. (Are protesting teachers who obeyed all school district guidelines for non-sick leave personal days or whose schools were not in session "stealing time and resources from school districts" when they failed "to show up and do their jobs"?)

Those who properly obtained real personal days are within their legal rights. One can only assume that when they are in the classroom they are fine upstanding teachers. You have no reason at all for asking this question, for my words in no way imply anything about them. One must wonder how large this segment of the crowd was, however, (and therefore why you are quick to bring it up) since I have not seen coverage of these poor souls who were at the demonstrations just using up personal days. Every district might be different, but in some, such as Madison, a sick day requires at least three days' notice. That alone begs the question.

Those protesters, however, whose schools closed, due to their "sick out" actions, are not as blameless. For even though one may argue that in those cases there is no issue of official time or resources, and that the time "will be made up," nevertheless, their lies are still lies, and their dereliction just as real.

You then ask, "Or, is your accusation limited to those lied to obtain sick leave benefits?"

That was what I specifically referened. So of course that is the natural meaning of my words. except that now I am officially adding those who won't get the days marked as sick days because their schools closed, but whose actions led to those closings.

Finally and most amazingly, you ask, "Could you provide a link to "the proven and documented cases" of "thousands of teachers . . . stealing time and resources from school districts"?"

You could come up with any number of links yourself. All you need to do is check virtually any major paper that has been covering these events, even papers unfriendly to Walker. I have seen many people defend what's going on, but you might be the first to hint that what's going on is not actually happening. One can observe how many schools closed after the sick outs. (Some districts did so out of sympathy for the teachers, some were surely forced to do so because too many of their teachers were involved in the sick outs to be able to open.) One can observe the doctors in white coats who boasted of giving out sick notes at the protests. We know of the unions' encouragement, even pressure, for much of this (their level of involvement, by the way, floats just a hair's-breadth under the technical definition of organized walk out, which is illegal). And we have the testimony, in print, online, and on camera, of countless teachers, boasting of and defending what they have done. I will not give you "a link." I also won't give you a link that shows that two plus two is not eighteen.

Daniel Gorman said...

The eight commandment demands that we not falsely implicate the innocent in the sins of the guilty. I brought up the protesting teachers who used personal days in lieu sick days because I thought your condemnation of protesting teachers in the original post was too vague. There were also teachers who did not call in sick but joined the protest after school was called off.

Thanks for clarifying your comments. A link will not be necessary.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Daniel:

Indeed it is the case that since this all began a couple weeks ago, there has been a lot of overgeneralizing, on all sides, in the newspapers, on TV, on blogs, &c. And I appreciate your concern. I don't say this to boast, but I really do not think my remarks have fallen into that category, yet I do welcome the chance to make my statements ("accusations," as you termed them) more clear.

Let me also emphasize that my blog is apolitical, and that the concerns I raise on this issue should be taken to heart by Christian hearers of any political persuasion.

You bring up the eighth commandment. In fact, the spirit of the eighth commandment requires that the Christian think and speak well even of the guilty. Of course, some will say that this means that it was inappropriate of me to condemn the misbehavior of the teachers who have so shamefully misbehaved. Let us be clear, however, that a large part of the reason I did so is that , as I say, or hint, in the title of this blog entry, these are very public matters. The teachers are in very public roles of responsibility in our community (and in the life of our children) and the sins of which I wrote are also public in nature.

The standard is high, or should be, and we all, including their fellow teachers, should hold them to it.