I went to get my haircut today. My stylist is an older gentleman, in his late 50’s I guess. He’s also conservative and not afraid to tell you about it.
Usually, I just keep my mouth shut. Why bother? After all, is it likely I’m going to change his mind during the 30-45 minutes I’m sitting in his chair? Probably not. But, today, I decided to calmly, politely refute his claims. Why?
He brought up teacher’s unions.
So, basically, he posited that teacher’s unions are “out of control.” How so? I asked. He said, “In every way. We pay more for education and get less now.”
So, I couldn’t let that stand. Test scores have actually risen over the last 30 years. He was positive that the majority of teachers are simply cruising in the classroom, but I don’t believe. That. I would say that I can only think of 1 or 2, maybe 3 teachers of 80 at my high school that might be accused of “cruising.” That’s 3 percent! I bet there’s another 5-10 that are not doing their best. That’s 12 percent. That means that I am betting that 80 percent or more of the teachers at my school are doing pretty good and trying hard to be better. That’s not scientific, but I bet it’s close.
He said that in the corporate sector, those 15% – 20% would be fired for incompetence. Oh really? I told him that maybe, unless they knew the right people or had the right family. Oh no, he said, things have changed in the private sector since I worked in it. Oh?, I said. In ten years? Oh yes, he responded.
See, as we talked, I calmly tried to present him with information. Yes, there are some bad teachers. But, is it the Union’s job to get rid of them? No, it’s the job of administrators to fire them. Show me a bad teacher that still works and I’ll find you an administrator unwilling to document why that teacher is bad and unwilling to take the steps to fire the teacher.
Well, he said, that’s because your union is good. Los Angeles is out of control. L.A. Unified is completely awful.
I began to see that, no matter what I said, he was going to position my experience, my information as the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself. He even said to me, “If all of our teachers were like you, we wouldn’t have these problems.” See, even I was an exception because I was being polite, thoughtful and reasonable.
Then he said, “Times are tough, we all need to tighten our belts.” I said, Teachers are sacrificing. We haven’t had a raise in five years and we have taken a pay cut by taking furlough days. He laughed and said he doesn’t get raises.
Now, bear in mind, this is a hair stylist who sets his own prices and can go cut hair anywhere he likes. He does a good job, knows what he’s doing. Truthfully, he should be getting $25 per cut, if you ask me. He charged my $18 and I tipped him $4. It took him half an hour to cut my hair. So, if he lined up clients, then he could, conceivably, make over $40 an hour. That’s more than I make!!! But, he pointed out that times are tough and it’s not his fault. But, honestly, I’ve been in a lot of hair salons. I go back to this one because they’re cheap and this stylist is charging less than he could. The salon is poorly managed and, compared to a high end shop, dirty. You get what you pay for. Usually. In this case, I could care less about the dust on the counters and hair on the floor. I get my hair cut for less than I would elsewhere. And, moreover, he can do a flattop which most hair stylists either balk at or butcher.
But, I digress. My point is that he’s pissed off because I make more money than him. He doesn’t have a college degree, he said, but he’s had as much education as me. Now, I respect his craft. He is an expert hair stylist. But, I don’t think his education is the same as mine. Getting training in a vocational area is not the same as a college degree. It doesn’t make me smarter than him, but it’s totally false to suggest that all education is the same if it’s the same amount of hours. He’s pissed off that I’m in a Union and have protection against being fired according to the whims of administrators (which I have been the victim of already). He’s pissed because he believe that “Fox News is telling the truth.” Those were his words.
Anyway, I guess my main point is, the man is a nice guy. He cuts a good haircut. He is ill-informed, misogynist (When I said that I had some bad haircuts, he said, “Well, I bet those ladies are typing in an office now.” Cause, only women give bad haircuts, see.) He’s borderline racist (“The other problem is that we have to pay for all these illegals in California, too!). And, he doesn’t give a crap that Wall Street and the banks are what crashed our economy. I said to him that teachers didn’t get us into the problems we’re in, that they’re getting plenty of raises and bonuses on Wall Street lately. He said, “Well, I don’t work on Wall Street.”
That’s where that ended.
This is what teachers are up against. It’s all our fault. Teachers are responsible for the whole thing. It’s not the administrators who are hiring bad teachers or not firing them. It’s not the district office for making poor decisions about how to spend money and use resources. It’s not the parents who don’t support education. It’s not poverty that keeps kids from doing better in school. It’s not kids being lazy and unwilling to work. It’s teachers and the unions who are wasting money and making kids stupid.
It’s sad because education is really important and too complex to reduce to such simple terms.