On Wisconsin: Comparing Madison and Cairo
The behavior of the union-led school administrators and teachers of Wisconsin around their Capitol in Madison reminds one of Germany in the early 1930s or of Cairo in early 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, the sick-out “strikers” pay nothing for their pension costs and only 6% for health-care benefits. Asked to contribute 6% toward their pensions and an additional 6% for their health-care, the teachers turned tempestuous.
Wisconsin faces a $3.5 billion-dollar budget gap. The governor the people of Wisconsin just elected has no choice but to demand that all government employees pony up their fair share to close the budget gap.
That said, this writer tends to be pro-teacher because my sainted Mother taught for decades in the public schools. The pay was meager, the hours were long. She spent her evenings and part of her weekends preparing for classes or studying for an advanced degree that would make her better able to serve her students. Or, she would be talking with parents about how to help their children learn.
When she was teaching 5th and 6th grade, she discovered a young man whom everyone had written off as dull and uncoordinated. At a time when most people had never even heard of dyslexia, she found ways to help him overcome his learning disability. He went on to be valedictorian of his class in another school in Oklahoma. He got so good at basketball that he was recruited by the legendary basketball coach, Henry Iba. Eventually, in another state, he founded a successful chain of outdoor outfitters.
My Mother often said federal aid to education would be the death of teaching the 3-Rs. She said, “If you take Caesar’s coin, then Caesar tells you what to do. School policies will be set by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
In those days, there were few school administrators and they did double duty as classroom teachers. Each school had a principal and a secretary. The overall system had a superintendent and a secretary. That was it. Outside the 3-Rs, we had chorus, band, and sports led by teachers who, for the most part, volunteered their time to support after-school activities.
Granted, one’s memories of those Days of Glory may be less than precise. The great English historian, Sir Lewis Namier, wrote, "One would expect people to remember the past and to imagine the future, but, in fact, when discoursing or writing about history, they imagine it in terms of their own experience. So, they imagine the past and remember the future.”
Therein lies the problem with an imagined past. It forms a shaky foundation for predicting the future. For example, the mainstream media and the Obama Administration imagine what they want to hear from the Middle East: Arabs chanting about a yearning for Jeffersonian democracy. Not so.
Yes, the people on the Arab streets would like more food, better transportation, better sanitation, better medical care, and less government corruption. But they are not chanting for freedom of speech for all, for tolerance toward all religions, for women’s rights, for doing away with marrying old men to nine-year-old girls, for doing away with honor killings, for stopping the routine mutilation of female genitalia. No way.
Our form of Jeffersonian Democracy would not allow them to continue their barbaric practices with regard to women and to continue to persecute non-Muslims. So, in addition to wanting better food, transportation, sanitation, medical care and less corruption, their basic demand is for a semi-police state that prevents them from slitting each other’s throats. Therefore, watch for them to “legitimize” a junta of military officers whose primary function will be to stifle internal violence and, now and then, wage war on Israel.
In that context, the Wisconsin teachers look rather pathetic.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2011. William Hamilton.