State officials back off Capitol damage claim
e-mail print By Jason Stein and Sharif Durhams of the Journal Sentinel
March 4, 2011 11:36 a.m.
Madison — State officials charged with overseeing the state Capitol are now backing away from their estimate that demonstrators did more than $7 million in damage to the building.
The purpose of reported rumors using words like “could” or “might” or “up to” are deliberately constructed to report the rumor with plausible deniability in mind, avoid responsibility and escape legal slander or libel lawsuits from damaged parties.
The result is that the focus of the public discourse changes from the facts of the actual issue to arguments over deliberate, designed rumors, i.e., distractions that may not even be real from the outset. And, more often than not, those reporting the rumors know this to be true, but also know well that once a headline story is out most listeners/viewers will not bother to research the facts, much less read the retraction in small print in the end of the next issue or in the closing credits streaming by in lightning speed at the end of a program. The damage is done and the desired effect has been accomplished once the words jump off the page or out of the mouth of the reporter.
You have to learn to be a smarter reader/viewer when listening to this garbage from any source, otherwise you will be sucked into the blackhole of oblivion from which there is no solution sought, planned or possible.
Let me say this much about teachers: both of my parents were nationally honored and recognized educators with advanced degrees who spent decades toiling in unair-conditioned classrooms or offices with 30-40 students (elementary) and up to 300 students per day in high school. My father was a curriculum and instruction administrator who first brought special education to Mobile, which, for the first time, serviced physically and mentally challenged students (started at home, then classrooms for kids that could be mainstreamed, then an entire school dedicated to mentally challenged children).
I watched them get to work at 7:00 a.m. and work at school until about 5:00 p.m. or later, only to come home, get supper on the table, then retreat to their separate workrooms to grade papers, prepare lesson plans and do homework — that is, when they weren’t attending school functions, PTA meetings or working with smaller groups of kids needing extra help.
We got calls at home all time of the day and night from parents about their kids, teachers about their students or the students’ parents, etc. My father and mother both worked at home on weekends and often spent one or more days during the weekend putting up bulletin boards in their classrooms or going to their offices for other tasks.
For all this work and aggravation, neither of my parents were ever paid more than $45,000 per year with medical benefits and retirement, both of them retiring in the 1980s. Our family sacrificed time together more often than not. Neither of my parents were ever able to come to my PTA meeting or my sporting events because they were tied up with their own school’s functions. We could rarely afford to eat out or go on vacation on their combined salaries. The few times we did were tense with calculating the lowest-priced items on the menu or eating picnics while on vacation. We didn’t run air conditioning during the summer because we couldn’t afford the power bills. Buying a new pair of shoes required an Act of Congress, and my mother sewed most of my clothes (including bathing suits and prom dresses). Going to the hairdresser was out of the question: perms were administered at home. We had economy cars. There were no graduation trips to the Bahamas or Spring vacations to the beach. We did our own yardwork. Both my brother and I walked to school (including college) until we saved and bought our own cars and paid for our own gas.
So, as you can well imagine, when people talk about “greedy” teachers and how they only have to work nine months of the year (which isn’t actually true, since they are usually having to take college courses to keep their licensure up and/or attend inservice training and meetings), and when this criticism comes from financial analysts (mainly FOX News) who helped destroy our economy while still keeping their outrageous salaries and taking their outrageous bonuses on the taxpayers’ dime, remarking in outrage that THEY had earned THEIR money, intimating that teachers did not…. well, I guess you can imagine that it enrages me to a level and degree that’s hard to imagine.
Finally, I would like to point out that both of my parents (and I agree) that, like the ministry, medicine and public service, education is a “calling” not just a profession or a job. I certainly wish doctors and politicians thought of their professions in that way.
That does not mean, however, that teachers or any other “called” professionals have not earned our respect along with adequate financial compensation. My father often told me when I was debating in which direction I was going to go professionally, that teaching did not pay well, but the benefits and retirement made it financially feasible and the rewards were spiritual more than financial.
But let it be said loud and clear: neither of my parents went into education “for the money.” “Greedy teachers” — what a joke!
My Mom remarked that she wished all the politicians and talking heads could spend one day (I drew it out to one week) in a classroom with 30-40 elementary school kids, no air-conditioning and all the other conditions that teachers deal with daily before they were allowed to attack teachers! I would like all those financial analysts who think teachers are greedy to try to live on a teacher’s salary for a couple of months….
When Walker, the State Legislators and the State cabinets are willing to forgo with their salaries FIRST, pay rent for staying in the governor’s mansion, travel coach on their own dime to all the unnecessary trips to “encourage and promote tourism and business to their state” which translates into “vacationing on the taxpayers’ dime” in real-world terms, then I will consider their requests for salary cuts or benefits cost-sharing from public employees at least reasonable. And when they are willing to tax people earning over $250,000 (or higher) a small amount to make up the deficit, then talk to me.
Another ridiculous statement I would like to clear up is that the comment that public teachers make “more than their private counterparts” is misleading and misrepresentative. First of all, you have to know which private schools are included. Do they include any private school, including those that do not have the same accreditation as public schools (not only by the State, but also by accrediting agencies that accept their graduates on par with public schools)? All private schools are not created equal. The exclusive ones where broadcasters and politicians send their kids probably pay significantly more and charge significantly more per student for tuition than the public pays or receives from the State. And they can count on rich parents to provide for school supplies, nutritious meals, healthcare, a safe place to sleep, homework, tutors, etc. Many religious schools are not properly accredited and their graduates have problems getting accepted by better colleges and universities.
There was a book written by Huff entitled How to Lie with Statistics. Wikipedia says in its article about the book: “…The book is a brief, breezy, illustrated volume outlining common errors, both intentional and unintentional, associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors can lead to inaccurate conclusions.”
Back to the issue at hand: to use the issues or “greed” and “irresponsibility” against teachers and attacking teachers in order to try to “break the backs of public unions” and eventually all unions (a Democratic stronghold) in preparation for a Republican victory in 2012 and beyond is despicable and un-American. To shut down government services or lay off teachers rather than make reasonable deals (the teachers’ unions already agreed to make all the financial concessions asked for by Walker) just so that you can railroad your bill and benefit your political party rather than the People is beyond despicable.
A side note: I wonder how much of the People’s tax dollars has been spent on having State Police camp out at the doorstep of Democratic legislators homes and offices…. (An example of a side-issue, but at least here it is more pertinent to the issue!)
We should demand better from our public servants. In fact, one of the problems is actually in the word we normally use for governors, legislators and presidents/vice-presidents: politicians.
It is not their job to be a politician, and by calling public servants by that name, we are tacitly agreeing to their change in focus from serving the public to running for office.
We, the People, do not elect them to run for office; we elect them to serve the public. Our Constitution does not recognize the office or official state capacity of “politician.” Nor does any state constitution that I am aware of.
We need to call them by the name that they are and call them out for pretending to legitimately be what they legitimately are not being paid for, constitutionally speaking. There is great power in using the right noun to describe the right person, place or thing.