Biff America: Reading, writing and spellen
Vail, CO Colorado
I don’t mean to brag, but one of my greatest assets is that I know what sucks about myself.
In fact, that was one of my campaign slogans when I first ran for public office.
“Vote for Jeffrey; he knows what sucks about himself!” (Some say a slogan almost as catchy as Eisenhower’s “I like Ike.”) And when you couple that with my other catch phrase – “A vote for Biff is not a vote for those other losers he is running against” – it’s little wonder I have been able to squeak by for two terms.
When I brag that I am cognizant of my shortcomings, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of being otherwise conceited; that’s the beauty of schizophrenia. But what it does mean is that I am usually not married to a political or social stance to such a degree that I can’t, by sound logic, at least be tempted to change my mind.
Politically, I lean slightly left of way left. That said, I am of the belief that there are often compelling arguments on each side of most contentious issues – issues ranging from immigration, Second Amendment constraints, entitlements and federal funding of NPR to the ongoing debate regarding whether Rush Limbaugh is obese or simply full figured. Certainly I have my opinions, but I acknowledge there are pervasive arguments on both sides.
But there are issues that, for me, are not negotiable. Issues that I could not be persuaded to abandon. Same-sex couples’ right to marry; a woman’s right to choose; separation of church and state; and the obligation of corporations and government to protect the air, water, wildlife and forests. I’ll grant that there are arguments on the other side of those issues, but to me, they are as weak as the coffee at a Mormon wedding.
One other issue that, to me, is non-negotiable, is my belief that I have never met an overpaid public school teacher.
There is no guarantee that salary compensation is always going to be commensurate with a worker’s value to society. Certainly it is not reasonable that ambulance drivers and nurses make a bare fraction of what a doctor makes – cops and firefighters much less than politicians and bankers – but life and wages are often unfair. I would argue that teachers are often underpaid considering the importance of the job they do and the difference they make to the social order.
I graduated from high school with a grade-point average of a plant. But that was entirely my, and my parents’, fault. My fault because I was lazy, disruptive and distracted; my parents’ fault because they allowed me to be that way. I would hate to be the teacher who was placed in a merit-pay position with me as the benchmark.
Though I was mostly unreachable, I can honestly say some of my teachers and coaches were positive influences on my life and behavior during a time when it was much needed. I doubt any educator could have enticed me to be a good student, but what they did encouraged me to be a better person.
It seems public-school teachers have become the whipping boys over the past few years. I’m not sure if this is a product of “No child left behind” or parents looking for someone to blame for their own lack of parenting.
I’m not sure exactly what went on in Wisconsin; I don’t know enough about the governor – other than his stance on collective bargaining – to form an educated opinion of him as a politician. But I do believe having good, well-paid educators is an investment in any state’s future. A school system that turns out good citizens saves the state money on cops, social services, prisons and various safety nets to later catch the disenfranchised.
It drives me crazy when I hear parents claim their “gifted” child is bored, neglected or unchallenged in the classroom and that is the teacher’s fault. If that’s the case, when the kid gets home the parent should have him read aloud from the encyclopedia or the Wall Street Journal and discuss the subjects. Or better yet, have him or her go to the local nursing home and read Proust or Walt Whitman to the elderly.
When I was growing up, there were a few smart kids. I don’t think I knew anyone who was “gifted.” And I will say that these smart kids were in the same classroom as lunkheads like me and some of them managed to still go to Harvard while I matriculated in Breckenridge.
My old man used to have a bumper sticker on his car that read, “If you don’t like cops, next time you need help call a hippie.” I’ll paraphrase that slogan by saying if you think teachers have it too easy, try teaching your own damn kids …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.