I honestly feel for the protesters in Wisconsin. Not that I agree with them. I rather think they are gravely mistaken about any number of things. My reasons for opposing collective bargaining of any kind in its present incarnation have been covered here before. Let us focus today on the human toll all this will take, starting with teachers.
When someone is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, we do not expect recovery to be easy. In extreme cases, a sudden removal of the offending substance can result in hospitalization or death. The addict is faced with a hard choice–continue abusing and die or stop abusing and go through the hell that is recovery. The difference is clear–the latter ends with a new life and a new hope. The former leads one deeper into the dark until light is a distant and foggy memory. Death is anti-climactic.
Teachers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are addicts, but not quite like the typical street user. It is as if heroin had been secretly slipped into the water supply in public school buildings. Rumors may have surfaced now and again, but no one really bothered to check it out. People noticed that they felt better and without realizing it, they drank more and more of the contaminated water. By the time they realized what was happening, they were hooked.
Taxpayers did not have to think much about how their children were being educated. Parents put them on the curb and that big yellow thing swept them away until latchkey time came. It was easy, thoughtless, mindless. They watched as their tax bill grew, grumbled a bit, and then went on about their business — until things got really tough. Then they noticed that the teacher/addicts were supporting their habit by force. Legislators were not negotiating on their behalf, but on behalf of the unions. They decided to put a stop to it.
Legislators and unions have every reason to keep public workers addicted. Union bosses make a living wringing everything they can out of taxpayers. Legislators get part of that money back in the form of endorsements and contributions. When the going gets tough, cowardly legislators and their union counterparts pick one side or the other to blame. Like a divorce trial, the opposing parties get taken to the cleaners and the lawyers have a steak dinner together.
Public workers and the taxpayers who pay them are the least concern of these more visible players. They want the game to continue for their own benefit and will do nothing to solve the root problem because the root problem is them. And, in their own shortsightedness, they either do not understand or will not admit that the jig is up. The game cannot continue. The party is over.
The solution? Get rid of them both.
Citizens and their children need teachers; teachers need someone to pay for their services. Somewhere in that wonderful dynamic is a solution. I advocate the complete privatization of all education. Let the people who need education and the people who provide it work together directly.
What will change? After some serious pain, teachers will realize that they answer to parents, not bureaucrats. Parents will realize that they cannot foist responsibility for their children’s education off on the state. In the clear light of substance-free living, both parties will realize it was the middleman pusher who kept them in the fog.