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Yes, 'Wendy C.', you are a special interest

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posted on Aug, 11 2010 @ 11:44 AM
I just opened my email inbox and saw a subject that caught my eye... "I am not a special interest"... and the attached email made me think.

It was all about a schoolteacher who was in jeopardy of losing her job. She was lobbying for some bill that gave Federal money to her local school system to cover budget shortfalls, and was complaining because some had called the bill a 'special interest' bill. She emphasized at one point "I am not a special interest - I am a teacher".

There is a thread in this email, and a conspiracy. The thread you are reading now; the conspiracy is this:

Yes, you are a special interest!

Now I have no problem with this bill in particular. IMHO teachers are some of the most under-paid and under-appreciated people in the public sector. They deserve their jobs much more than CEOs who have failed deserve their bonuses. That's not the point, and if you think it is you have missed the entire point of this thread.

A special interest is an interest which is special, i.e. not general. A highway serves everyone (or at least the vast majority) by allowing easier travel and transport of goods. A park serves everyone by providing a place to enjoy oneself and experience nature (or a facsimile thereof) for those who are unable to see the real deal. A library brings knowledge and information to everyone around it. These are general interests, as they provide a benefit for everyone.

In opposition, a special interest is an interest which provides benefits primarily for a special group or class of the citizenry. In this case, a bill aimed at funding a school system which is experiencing a budget shortfall. The school itself is a general interest, as it provides education for the surrounding public, but keeping on more teachers than it could otherwise afford to do is a special interest aimed at one 'special' group: the teachers.

In one way or another, we are all at some time a special interest. Unemploment extensions are special interest. Minimum wage laws are special interest. Most tax breaks are special interest (those which cover the majority of the citizenry, such as 'earned income' notwithstanding). These are all special interest considerations, and yet, here we have someone trying to explain that she is not a special interest because she has a job title.

Folks, we are in the midst of a economic downward spiral into oblivion here. Some have already experienced the horror; others are watching it approach them; some have been fortunate enough to escape it thus far. That's the way it works. We are all interconnected economically. Your neighbor losing his job might not affect you the way it does him, but it does affect you! The economy is a massive web of interconnected monetary pipelines, and just as you cannot affect one part of nature without affecting the whole of it, so any effect experienced by one sector of the economy will have ripples throughout the entire economy.

There is the illogic in this argument: what is more important to this woman, her job/income/livelihood? Or another entry in an accounting book that handles sums so great she cannot fathom them? Obviously her job is more important to her. But then again, if her job is to take precedence over the Federal budget, then her job loss becomes a public problem. No one, not even the Federal government, can spend forever without paying. There is an end to this gravy train, and that end means the devaluation of our money internationally (imagine bread at $500 a loaf, gas at $2000 a gallon). Now imagine what would happen if all the products we depend on were made overseas. It's happening now; this is no longer a 'what-if' scenario. Your TV, your computer, the chips inside them, your appliances, your car, the trucks that bring in the food you eat, all are manufactured by foreign interests. So when the vaue of that almighty dollar collapses, the prices for these things go through the roof.

If the economy were sound, then special interest would not be a problem. A bill sending emergency funds that are available to a local school system would be a wonderful thing: it would promote learning and education among our youth, protect jobs (maintaining an economic base), and it would ease the worry among the general populace and allow teachers to concentrate on teaching. But the money is not available; it does not exist. What is being sent is borrowed money which has to be repaid. The teacher will not repay it; the local economy cannot repay it as they cannot maintain their stature as it is. We, every one of us, will have to repay it, or we, every one of us, will default on the loan.

Consider this analog: if my neighbor gets sick and his insurance is running out, if he is struggling through a hard time making his bills and keeping food on his table, will I hep him out? Most people would say 'YES!' without thinking. However, it is not realy a yes. Sure, if I am doing OK I will help him out, bring him groceries, loan (or give) him money for his bills. But what happens if I am deeply in debt? What happens when I can barely make my payments? In that situation, $1000 given as a gift without any idea of how it would be repaid would be a terrible move on my part! It would place me in the same position he is in now, or perhaps worse, as my home could be repossessed or I could find myself unable to feed my family as well.

He is a special interest, a need that benefits only a few (or in this case one family). That doesn't mean that he is not in need, nor that he shouldn't be helped... it means that his need must be weighed against the amount of help that is available and the number of people that the availabe help could assist. It would be a crime against humanity to give one family all the available help while allowing an entire region to suffer.

This term 'special interest' has been bandied about in political circles to give it such a negative connotation that it has become a badge of shame. And as a badge of shame, it is being abandoned by those who truly are special interests as some sort of derogatory term. In the process, we have lost track of what we should be doing. We should be helping as many of those unfortunate people as we can, beginning with the programs that help the most for least, and moving through the ranks until we can hopefully help everyone. But reality places a limit on how far we can move; when the money runs out, we have to be able to say 'sorry, there is no more we can do'. The value to society has to be weighed against the cost.

The cost of failure due to this is that eventually, the well will run dry; the money will run out. When that day comes, we will all wake up to realize that we have nothing left.

And on that day, 'Wendy C.' will have nothing left either. Our failure will will encompass both her... and us.


[edit on 8/11/2010 by TheRedneck]

posted on Aug, 11 2010 @ 01:57 PM
Great post. I may excerpt this to my blog, as you put it so well.

The only thing i might disagree with is the amount teachers are paid. Not all teachers are under paid. I know of a married couple where both are teachers. Been doing it 30 years each. They combine for about 10k a month. They are not hurting.

It all boils down to people are going to have to focus on quality instead of quantity. Throwing money at problems is not a viable solution when you have no money to throw.

As it regards schools, we need to ahve another look at the quality of educational materials, not the quantity.

posted on Aug, 13 2010 @ 03:43 PM
Along with being some of the most "underpaid" and "under appreciated" workers in America, teachers are also some of the most under performing workers. We've now managed to develop a generation worth of stump dumb supposed "graduates" and much of the blame for that I lay on the doorstep of unionized, secure in their job regardless of performance, education "professionals."

Years ago teachers had to actually do the prep work before their school day began and at the end of the semester they were evaluated based on their graduation rates and student test scores. Just try applying that today. Good Lord look at the teacher union outrage over the teacher evaluation portions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Obviously the Act wasn't perfect, but the initial furor over it had nothing to do with whether standardized tests were fair to students, it had completely to do with whether student successes were reflective of teachers.

As is often the case with unions, the teachers union has become powerfull enough to permit their members to simply slop their way through a career, blissfully ignoring any real performance standards aside from keeping the chair at the front of the classroom warm and scribbling down an arbitrary letter grade on each student's record. They even went so far as to support the idea of "alternative education methods" in the 80's, many of which relied on elimination of testing, approving "creativity" in English & math by which there was no right or wrong answer because such standards limited the child's "creative license," and in some districts even going strictly to a pass/fail grading system by which there was no need whatsoever to justify a pass/fail based on performance as it was all at the discretion of the teacher.

The United States would advance education tremendously if they would enact a 5 year evaluation plan, starting now, by which every teacher would be analysed based on their students' STANDARDIZED (no, Standardized tests are not racist or discriminatory... every high schooler should be able to do long division, regardless of their color, creed, or economic background) test scores, their overall knowledge assessments, and, ultimately, their poass/fail rates. Set a threshold. If a teacher's students routinely demonstrate a deficiency in learning compared to other teachers' students, FIRE THEM.

Virtually every other career position in the US is held accountable to the performance of their product. If an engineer had a failure rate anywhere near what the average educator has they would be fired immediately. Imagine if you ran a restaurant and had a waitress who dropped scalding coffee in 20% of her customer's laps... think you'd retain that waitress? What about a plastic surgeon with a 20% breast implant drooping failure rate? Maybe a plumber with a 20% flooded bathroon rate? Only in the teaching profession (and politics) do we see people demand to be rewarded with a straight face following routine failures to even perform the most basic tasks of their job adequately.

Then they have the audacity to be outraged when they fall victim to the economic troubles they largely contributed to by producing a stupid, less than productive generation of idiots. If that isn't indicative of a special interest group, I do not know what is.

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