Somebody Save Us

I had a love/hate relationship with school when I was a kid. I loved learning but I hated doing homework. I preferred recreational reading and writing my own stories to completing assignments given to me by teachers. I went to several different schools in different states, and I can remember having some really bad teachers along the way. One teacher, however, changed my life; Nita Norwood taught my 7th-grade English class. Even the most boring subjects were interesting in her class. She had well over a hundred students during the course of a semester, but she found a way to make my recreational reading habits a part of my lesson plan. When she saw me getting bullied in the cafeteria – I had lunch during her class – she offered to let me have lunch in the classroom with her. When she found out that I liked to write, she wanted to read it all. Despite how juvenile I’m sure it was back then she encouraged me to never stop writing. Mrs. Norwood was, by far, the best teacher I ever had, and she’d been teaching for eons.

I have just finished watching an eye-opening documentary about the public education system in America called “Waiting For Superman”, and I am floored. I have known for a long time – since I was a kid – that our education system has serious problems. I saw it firsthand when kids I went to school with were coming into class drunk, high, angry, and not paying any attention to the teacher. I saw it when teachers would leave us to do whatever we wanted while they did whatever they wanted. I went through grade school in the 80’s, jr. high and high school in the 90’s…we’re talking two decades ago that I was in elementary school, and I had teachers that I knew didn’t care. I had classmates who were so used to other teachers that didn’t care that when they came into a class where the teacher DID care, they all but ruined the profession for that teacher.

I knew nothing of teacher’s unions when I was a kid. I never heard about it. Now, it’s all I hear about anymore – when teachers are mentioned in the news, they are invariably coupled with unions. Not long ago I linked Matt Damon’s uber-liberal rant about how teachers deserve tenure because, if you believe him, they make next to nothing and there’s not a teacher in the system that doesn’t care, because nobody gets into a profession like that without caring.

(To that, I say this: in EMS, or emergency medical services, we make less money than teachers do, and we have to go through a lot more to prove that we’re worthy of keeping our credentials. I have worked with more than a few who had no business working on ambulance crews. Every profession is plagued by those who don’t want to work.)

In the documentary, writer/director Davis Guggenheim spotlights DC schools chief Michelle Rhee and her quest to do what no superintendent of the DC schools district had ever done: reform the district and improve the state of education in the area. I remember a few years ago, when Rhee caught unimaginable vitriol from teachers and their unions for closing 23 DC schools and firing several principals. She fired a total of 266 teachers whose evaluations revealed remarkably poor teaching skills – what’s more, 76 of those teachers did not even have the proper credentials to teach, yet they were still defended by their union. Rhee also suggested a reform that gave a few union leaders gray hair: she offered salaries in the mid-six-figure range to high-performing teachers who were willing to give up tenure and offered much smaller pay raises to those who refused to give up tenure. The AFT, or American Federation of Teachers – the union that covers DC schools – was so threatened by the proposal that they refused to even allow the body to vote on it. It was never even considered.

What is tenure? It began in colleges and universities, where professors used to have to teach for years and jump through a myriad of flaming hoops to achieve it. The point was to protect them from losing their careers based on bias or political motivation. When I was a kid, tenure was unheard of for public school teachers.

The unions began back in the 1950’s when teachers organized to protect themselves from unfair pay rates. Back then it was believed that men were the primary bread-winners, and since women were teachers, they didn’t need to make much money. Those unions have evolved into massive money machines that give more money to political campaigns than any other special interest group – and over 90% of their money goes to Democrats and liberal causes. Why? Because the Democrats will fight for anything the unions want, including teacher tenure.

The United States sits at the bottom 10% of developed nations for education rates. In most states, math and reading comprehension rates are abysmal – they tend to run between 15%-35%. The last public high school I went to was in Demopolis, Alabama, and as a sophomore (I was homeschooled after that) I had seniors in some of my classes who could barely read, and they were taking these classes because they wouldn’t graduate without them. Many of these kids graduated despite still failing. In the years that have passed, I have seen the paper in that town report that a number of them are either in prison or well on their way.

And we wonder why idiotic shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” are all the rage with kids.

We have tried every single reform we can come up with. The one thing that stands in the way of true reform and an education system that is workable is the union and it’s demand for teacher tenure. Once a teacher is tenured, by contract, they cannot be fired – no matter how often they miss work, no matter how poorly their students perform, they cannot be fired. We need to put an end to that. The unions need to stick to defending the actual rights of teachers, not keeping poorly-performing teachers in their positions. I would be willing to bet that if teachers had to prove that they deserve their jobs, just as I and my fellow EMT’s and paramedics must, there would be an incredible turnaround.

Fair Is Fair

Of my two jobs, my EMT work is my favorite. It’s made me a little cynical, and every day I do it I go on at least one call that will never have a happy ending, but I enjoy it. I’m not the kind of person who would enjoy doing whatever it took to make as much money as humanly possible; I do like making money, but I also have this unnatural need to work a job that means something more than money (besides, even though I’d fight to the death for their right to keep their money, those with lots of money and high social status always seem to lack even the most basic manners and can be outrageously inconsiderate – I don’t want to be that).

Once I make paramedic, I’ll be in a union. That union will be able to do a lot of things for me, but there’s a lot of others it won’t be able to do. Public safety jobs don’t always pay well. There is not a public sector union that can obtain the kinds of pay and benefits that the United Auto Workers’ union can – not by a longshot. UAW workers have, for a long time, enjoyed six figures a year plus amazing health care, vacation and sick time. Since Obama took office he has elevated unions to a status that Adolf Hitler did, calling them important to the function of our society – even calling upon union leaders for advice and support. Many of those union heads are well-known as thugs.

As an EMT-I, my pay tops out around $12.50 an hour. As a paramedic I’ll start somewhere around $15. I’ll have to not only do drug AND alcohol tests (which I’ve already done) to achieve that position, I’ll have to keep doing those tests to maintain my position and I’ll have to keep up with my immunizations. I face exposure to various pathogens via bodily fluids, and could end up with Hep C with the stick of a needle (which has happened to others in my profession). I have been called to domestic violence incidents, sexual assaults, gunshot wounds (with the gunman still running loose in the area), stabbings, police standoffs, you name it. I have been there to see medics inject a heroin addict with Narcan to save his life, only for that addict to get pissed that we ruined his high. I cannot ever say I’ve seen it all, because as soon as I do, that bastard Murphy will come around to kick me in the ass with some heretofore unseen calamity that will become the stuff of legend (I have three words: lost condom call).

All that considered, it pisses me off to no end that this was captured on camera outside a plant staffed by UAW workers.

I have an education. I am very good at writing reports. I have a freakishly accurate memory. I paid for my original EMT school and am working my way through my continuing education. Yet I, who have obeyed the law my whole life, make around half what UAW workers make and they have repeatedly been captured consuming alcohol and using illegal substances on the job. These guys are convicted felons and gang-loving thugs and they’re making twice what your average cop or EMT makes? And they can imbibe during their break times? How in the hell does this work?

Unions like UAW are largely responsible for the obscene amount of outsourcing that American companies do nowadays, yet you won’t hear a single damn one of these occu-pests calling them out or marching to their homes. They have played an enormous role in pricing us out of our own market. They went from fighting for the basic rights of workers to fighting for pay and benefits that most companies cannot sustain. Factories have since been moved to Mexico, with parts being made in China and the Philippines. The liberals make demands that companies can’t live up to and then they act shocked when those companies ship the jobs overseas – and THEN they claim that “the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer”.

What really roasts my ass about this incident is that every single one of the deadbeats you see in the video kept their jobs. They were suspended rather than fired. If any member of my crew pissed hot for narcotics or drank booze on the job, they’d be booted out the door so fast it would be painful. There would be no negotiation with the union. They’d be prosecuted, too.

I have to wonder what is so damned stressful about their jobs that they need to drink halfway through their day. I’ve gone on calls where I’ve had to tell a parent that we’ve just pronounced their child dead in a suicide attempt – believe me, I’ve wished I could have a drink after those. If assembling body armor is a new kind of stress that requires chemical intervention, then this is something that I’ve gotta try.

How Do You Spell “Union”?

G-R-E-E-D.

Just a week ago, Mark wrote quite eloquently on the subject of the public worker strikes in Wisconsin:

Today, most labor unions are very similar to the “evil corporations” they so frequently rail against. They claim big business doesn’t care about its workers, only profit. But are unions any different? They need members to pay dues, or they cease to exist. Clearly they are also profit-driven. They believe industry has too much influence compared with the working class. But unions have far more influence than their numbers would suggest, given that only 8% of Americans are in unions. And what do many of these labor organizations do with the hard-earned dollars they take from their members in the form of dues? They give them to politicians running for office – almost exclusively in the Democratic Party – whether their members support them or not.

The bill being bandied about in Wisconsin, AB-11, would end collective bargaining rights for state employees (excluding public safety workers), require that state employees pay more than the paisley 5% they’ve been paying for health insurance and the ridiculous 2% they’ve been paying for their pensions, and would cut medical services to the poor and uninsured. During all the brouhaha going on at the state capitol, this woman was filmed to make a statement:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2hgu_2NWpo&feature=player_embedded]

Don’t worry, dear damsel! Obamacare will save you!

First of all, we all need to understand something: corporations can simply go out of business if a union or special group continues to push for what they cannot afford. Government bodies – local, state or federal – cannot go out of business. They are unfortunately necessary to survival in our country. While corporations will do nearly everything to save face all the way to the bankruptcy line, governments that need to save money start cutting things from the budget. What does that mean? It means that in governments such as those in Europe, which have multitudes of entitlement programs to include socialized healthcare systems, they simply start cutting out things they can’t afford. It usually starts with healthcare; what Sarah Palin dubbed “death panels” are bureaucratic panels that convene to determine what they can change and how they can shuffle things in an effort to cut costs. Since healthcare workers are already paid peanuts, they start with services. Are you too old to benefit from a transplant or chemotherapy? Sorry, the state can’t afford it, especially since you probably won’t go back to work when you recover, anyway. We’d rather spend that money on a teenager who will benefit us more. Is your prognosis too grim? Sorry, we’re not going to pay for any treatment at all because you’ll die anyway and it would be a waste. Do you have a minor illness? Well, you’ll wait a while to be seen, we only have doctors available during certain hours and they have to triage their patients. Once you have pneumonia give us a call.

How does this not make sense to people? We already have entitlements for welfare, unemployment, healthcare for the uninsured and all kinds of grants for college, the arts, and home buying. Our tax dollars are stretching thinner and thinner with every passing year, yet here we have left-wing moonbats still demanding that the government give us what they literally cannot afford. If we keep going down this road, we will one day find ourselves watching the US dollar collapse and the Democrats will still try to blame the right wing.

Greed is not solely a label for the wealthy. Every human being is greedy to some degree…it’s in our very nature to want to look out for number one. Even the Founding Fathers tried to remind us long ago that our rights end when they infringe on the rights of another – that means that when we demand we be recognized for the right to have what we want at the expense of the government and the government can’t afford it, the rights of the majority who ARE paying for it trump yours.