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Author Topic: C.T. on the frustrations of a teacher
Zyne
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Cary Tennis, Salon's most excellent advice columnist, on the frustrations of a teacher, in its entirety:

quote:
quote:
Dear Cary,

For two years I've been teaching in a very poor, rural area. The past two years have seen amazing accomplishments and the lowest of defeats. Right now, the defeats are winning out. I'm tired of seeing my middle-school students arrested for selling drugs. I'm tired of seeing my 13-year-old girls impregnated by adult men. I'm tired of having students who have grown up in American schools unable to speak English fluently.

I'm feeling frustration and rage toward the system, toward the schools that let students down constantly. I'm angry with the teachers in my school district, with the parents of my students, with my students themselves and, mainly, with myself. How much can I do in two years? Do all of my accomplishments leave with me? If I haven't made a fundamental change in my students' lives, have I failed all 260 of them?

I believe completely that education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty, but how can I change the entire school system? I came into teaching with the idea that testing is a horrible idea. I now realize that the only subjects taught, at least at my school, are those that are tested. But that isn't a cure when students aren't learning half the subjects they need. It's a Band-Aid for a much wider problem.

My main problem now is what to do. I find myself so angry and frustrated at times that it's difficult to get through the day. I know that I'm the best teacher some of my students have ever had, and that makes me sad. I want to leave, but I find myself chained to this place. Someone needs to step up and break this cycle of ignorance and poverty, but who? I need my kids to feel anger instead of hopelessness, passion instead of apathy. But how much am I forcing my biased, liberal viewpoint on them, and how much do they need to hear? How do I tell them how to stop being victims? How do I fix the root of the problem, not just the symptoms?

Exhausted (enraged?) Educator

Dear Exhausted Educator,

I do not think it is possible to do the work you are doing without experiencing the frustration and doubt that you describe. If it were, all your former classmates would be teaching fifth grade in the Appalachians instead of selling real estate in Malibu. Soon society would be completely fixed and you'd be out of a job. So you are in the right place and are doing the right thing, and are experiencing the expected emotional challenges. The problem before you is practical, not ideological: How can you go on without succumbing to despair?

You come up with day-to-day ways to keep going: Vacations. Massages. Camping trips in the hills. Sandwiches eaten on the roadside. Memorable bugs watched for hours on the sunny porch of your sister's house. A book that takes you somewhere you didn't know existed. And you keep dreams alive: A student suddenly begins to sing like an angel right in the middle of class. Years later an anthropologist sitting in a tree in New Guinea writes you a letter and says I remember what you taught me and I'm teaching it to others.

Get a box and put these things in it and keep it. Look at it when you're down. You know what Jesse Jackson says, keep the dream alive? Well, it's corny but it's true. Because you're not doing it for the trips to France and the 401K. You're doing it because you wouldn't feel right if you didn't. You're doing it because it has to be done. You're doing it because everybody else is in France, drinking wine while the kids are starving.

The rest of us are counting on you. If we were in your shoes, we would drop of exhaustion, or lash out in frustration, or lapse into catatonia for lack of good cappuccino. So you find ways to keep going.

Maybe you'll find just one genius who changes the world. Wouldn't that be enough? Maybe you'll come to work one day and find that your favorite dour, gloomy victim of poverty and abuse -- who can hardly read, whose eyes seem empty of all childhood curiosity as though he'd already seen more than any of us could bear! -- has pulled his dastardly dad's guitar out of the back of his truck and started with a few blues chords to cook up a boogaloo that will change what's on everyone's iPod. Maybe you'll find a dancer who goes to New York and between classes happens to cook supper for a composer who needed just that one meal to finish a sonata that heals an ancient rift in the soul of a diplomat who goes on to bring peace to Israel and Palestine. Who knows? You've got to feed yourself with dreams of change. You've got to be the butterfly wings that start a typhoon.

You're dangling off the side of a mountain, exhausted and dizzy for lack of oxygen and dreaming of the feel of the sheets in a bed in a suite on the top floor of the Four Seasons, and you are seized with the thought: Maybe this is not what I should be doing!

It's just the exhaustion talking.

I know it sounds corny when you're up to your armpits in failure but what did you expect, "Mr. Holland's Opus"? Speaking of which, actually, I suggest you seek out uplifting experiences in film, music and literature. I don't know about Mr. Holland, or "Dead Poets Society," but I just saw "Les Choristes (The Chorus)" and it was wonderful, and I suggest you see it if you get the chance.

And while you're looking for inspiration, read the short story by Rick Bass called "Field Events" in the "Anchor Book of New American Short Stories":

"Lory ... taught in a little mountain town called Warrensburg, about thirty miles north. She hated the job. The children had no respect for her, no love; they drank and died in fiery crashes, or were abused by their parents, or got cancer -- they had no luck. Lory's last name, her family's name, was Iron, and one night the boys at her school had scratched with knives onto every desktop the words 'I ****ed Miss Iron.' Sometimes the boys touched her from behind when she was walking in the crowded halls."

Sound familiar? The children at her school were "foul, craven, sunk without hope. She would resurrect one, get a glimmer of interest in one every now and then, but eventually it would all slide back; it had all been false -- that faint progress, the improvement in attitude. Sometimes she hit her fist against the lockers after school. The desks with 'I ****ed Miss Iron' on them were still there, and the eyes of the male teachers were no better, saying the same thing ... She was up until midnight every night, grading papers, preparing lesson plans, reading the barely legible scrawled essays of rage -- 'I wont to kil my sester, i wont to kil my bruthers' -- and then she was up again at four or four thirty, rousing herself from the sleepy dream of her life."

Expect the unexpected rescue: Hers comes in the form of a giant naked man swimming upstream, doing the butterfly, pulling a canoe full of darkened cast-iron statues. You just have to know that sooner or later something marvelous and unexpected will happen. If it doesn't happen often enough in real life, well, that's what art is for.


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potemkyn
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"You just have to know that sooner or later something marvelous and unexpected will happen. If it doesn't happen often enough in real life, well, that's what art is for."

That's not good enough and a complete copout answer.

Seriously, Tennis' answer is to ignore the problem because this one teacher isn't enough to make the difference. In fact, he ignores this teacher's problem. The teacher doesn't have an issue with doing his job; its the fact that he has to do everyone elses job as well. I know exactly how he feels, and this answer solves nothing. And why are all of the potentially great students entertainers? Entertainment isn't going to the solve problems of American society.

Trudging through life and an important job with the thought that it'll get better one day is a recipe for not getting anything done.

Sorry Zyne, I don't think Cary Tennis did a very good job answering this teacher's question.

Potemkyn

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towellman
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"How do I tell them how to stop being victims?"

Loved the answer: just think of them as victims! "Maybe you'll come to work one day and find that your favorite dour, gloomy victim of poverty and abuse..."

Another great one:

"How do I fix the root of the problem, not just the symptoms?"

"Hope one becomes a rock star or a NYC cook" Wait for a naked man to swim into town? What the heck?

Sorry Zyne, but the response is a load of crap (perhaps sympathetic and inspirational crap to some) that refuses to provide a useful solution because the advisor dedicated to the preservation of some of the root causes.

For example, would it not be unrealistic to expect at least a 5% reduction in the teen pregnancy rate and 10% reduction in gun violence if extramarital sex and violence weren't constantly paraded and taught to these children in the media? From what I've seen in Salon, I'm guessing Cary would howl at the suggestion of "censorship."

At least Cary's inspirational story is consistent: "The desks with 'I ****ed Miss Iron' on them were still there, and the eyes of the male teachers were no better, saying the same thing" Blame sex-obsessed men/animals for the problem and then hope for salvation from one of them "Expect the unexpected rescue: Hers comes in the form of a giant naked man swimming upstream, doing the butterfly"?

Oh wait, it makes no sense and is completely contradictory.
------------------------------------------------

I guess that instead of just ripping on the article I should propose some positive solution. I would suggest actively trying to find anyone in the town or district that shares any of the values you espouse and ask for their help. Go to ministers, coaches, parents, policemen, anybody with any influence and ask them to help these kids. Explain the situation and some, not all, would respond. Get the ministers to focus on abstinence and respect for teachers...offer compromises like not insulting their beliefs in class. Let the football team our early for a special practice to get the coach to enforce GPA requirements. In other words, use the power structures already in place in the community to broaden your influence.

Sure the teacher would have to make compromises that may go against what she stands for, but being an inflexible liberal trying to change everything in small town USA will only lead to burn-out and failure.

I'm curious what other people would suggest in this situation?

And I promise to be nice since you're real people and not a silly magazine advice columnist.

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potemkyn
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"I need my kids to feel anger instead of hopelessness, passion instead of apathy. But how much am I forcing my biased, liberal viewpoint on them, and how much do they need to hear?"
Anyone have an answer to this? My only thought is to get the class to sit down and generate a list of their problems in their neighborhoods and in their lives, calculate how much is their fault and how is other's fault, and then in class, come up with realistic solutions to their problems. Start small, then bring it big. Get other teachers to do the same.

"How do I tell them how to stop being victims?"
You need to equip them to be able to stand up on their own two feet. That doesn't mean that they need advanced math skills but analytical ability, they don't need to know what the topic sentence, they need to know how the news affects them. And if none of the news affects them, have them ask why. Why aren't they in the news, whay are they being left out?

"How do I fix the root of the problem, not just the symptoms?"
Revolution.

Potemkyn

[ December 07, 2004, 01:35 AM: Message edited by: potemkyn ]

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potemkyn
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Zyne,

No defense of this column?

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The Drake
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I've often thought of becoming a teacher, but several items seem stifling. First, unions. Second, rigid testing and guidelines. Third, compensation.

It would be tough to give up my, er, ample paycheck to work for the government on wages not tied to my own performance.

I know this is somewhat orthogonal to the original posting, but it's been on my mind for a while, and I thought visitors to this thread might have some insight.

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Zyne
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Not really. I thought it was different enough to bother to post, but I'm not really invested it in either way.
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Everard
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"I've often thought of becoming a teacher, but several items seem stifling. First, unions. Second, rigid testing and guidelines. Third, compensation."

My experience with teacher's unions is that they aren't nearly as stifling as the right likes to make them out to be. Obviously, different perspectives can tolerate different levels of involvement. Right now, my brother's union is fighting hard for the teachers in his town, because the town is trying to force them to sign a contract with a pay cut. He's a first year teacher, so he's got to be involved for political reasons, but the union hasn't interfered with his teaching at all, nor have they made unreasonable demands on his time.

The rigid testing and guidelines depend on what and where you teach. If you teach 8th grade english or math in mass, then you have to deal with MCAS. And there's a body of knowledge, in any grade. But, for example, in English, you generally have about 30-50 texts to choose 4-8 novels from during the course of the year. While 2 may be required, there's a large amount of flexibility in the specifics of what you teach. My brother is doing english, and he's got 4 units he's required to teach, but only 2 required texts. The poetry and short stories are all up to him, and most of the novels they read are also his choice.

Compensation is a problem. In every state in the country, Teachers get paid the least based on required education for the job. If money matters, you won't be a teacher. (One of the reasons more liberals go into teaching then conservatives... less emphasis on economics. Also one of the lies of the right perpetuated by things like that "red baby" article, that the left is materialistic and individualistic, both opposites of requirements for being a teacher).

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ATW
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quote:
Originally posted by towellman:

I'm curious what other people would suggest in this situation?


Since you asked nicely.


1) "I'm tired of seeing my middle-school students arrested for selling drugs."

You can't stop someone from making easy large wads of cash if that's what they want to do.

You can stop them from dealing drugs at school. If your kids are dealing, its time to get the school administration involved before the police get involved.

Around here, they try to nail the kid on other infractions and get them sent to an alternative school. Basically, they sit in their chair and work all day without the normal opportunities to socialize and sell drugs before, during, and after school.

Besides being in a different location, there's travel time and other delays involved. Cuts into their profits to be separated from their customers.

They've had some good success in moving the drug dealing off campus


2) "I'm tired of seeing my 13-year-old girls impregnated by adult men."

That's a crime.

In my state the teacher is supposed to report that to the administration who get CPS involved for an investigation.


3) "I'm tired of having students who have grown up in American schools unable to speak English fluently."

I get the impression this man is not a southerner but is teaching in the South. I'd suggest that perhaps his students are speaking english fluently and that its he himself who has not yet learned to speak properly. [Smile]


4) "If I haven't made a fundamental change in my students' lives, have I failed all 260 of them?"

First realize you're a teacher, not a diety.

And you aren't in any position to know whether you've made a fundamental difference in those kids lives or not. Even *they* aren't in a position to know that.

The only way you can know that is to meet up and talk with them later in life.

Be patient.


5) "I came into teaching with the idea that testing is a horrible idea. I now realize that the only subjects taught, at least at my school, are those that are tested."

Testing *is* a horrible idea.

The testing isn't creating the teaching that's happening in your school. The testing is eliminating all other teaching except for teaching what's on the test.

The school, the administrators, and the teachers are having their jobs evaluated on how well the students do in the testing. Of course they are focusing only on teaching the test.

At its very best, testing is a snapshot of how a student is doing on one particular day. If tested on a different day, you'll get different, sometimes dramatically different, results.

Your first instinct was right. Testing is part of the problem. Don't be gulled into thinking its part of the solution.


6) "I need my kids to feel anger instead of hopelessness, passion instead of apathy."

Why don't you try teaching your kids something besides anger? I understand that "righteous" anger is part of the liberal heritage in this country. But your kids aren't needing a Malcolm X to rise up from the sixth grade and lead them to the promised land.

The remedy for hopelessness is hope, not anger.

There are many american success stories out there of public figures who pulled themselves out of situations as bad or worse than any your students are in. Try teaching about some of them.

(insert additional rant about the value of competition as tool to teach kids to better themselves)


7) "How do I tell them how to stop being victims?"

You won't have to after you show them some hope.


8) "But how much am I forcing my biased, liberal viewpoint on them, and how much do they need to hear?"

It sounds like they are in too delicate of a situation to be mislead by any liberal claptrap. Might want to keep it to yourself until they are well into recovery. [Big Grin]

8) "How do I fix the root of the problem, not just the symptoms?"

Join the coalition to legalize drugs to get the profit out of them. Then advocate using the money saved in the war on drugs for enterprise zones to help impoverished areas like yours through lower tax rates and a generally friendlier business climate.

You're telling me the problem is poverty. To fight poverty, you need people to have jobs. To have jobs you need employers. To have employers, you need a friendly environment for employers.

[ December 08, 2004, 01:11 PM: Message edited by: ATW ]

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Ivan
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quote:
To fight poverty, you need people to have jobs.
Incorrect. To fight unemployement, people need jobs. To fight poverty, people need to have jobs that will pay them enough to get them above the poverty threshold. Many people in poverty have jobs. The problem is that their jobs (both of 'em) are at WalMart.

The way to fight poverty is to give these kids the skills they need to not only get better jobs but also manage their money well when they have it. Someone above (might have been in the article) mentioned analytic skills. These are what needs to be taught in schools and are also what is most difficult to test. When people are able to think effectively, there will be far, far less poverty.

-Ivan

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philnotfil
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@ATW- Good answers

@Ivan- things may have changed in the 5 years since I was working at Wal~Mart, but I was getting paid enough to be out of poverty, and since I had a second job (at Taco Bell) I was able to pay for college also. Now I only have to work one job, and I have free time to spend on internet forums [Smile]

As an aside, if there weren't overtime laws I could have just worked 80 hours a week at Wal~Mart and been better off, both financially and in hours spent at work.

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ATW
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quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
quote:
To fight poverty, you need people to have jobs.
Incorrect. To fight unemployement, people need jobs. To fight poverty, people need to have jobs that will pay them enough to get them above the poverty threshold. Many people in poverty have jobs. The problem is that their jobs (both of 'em) are at WalMart.

The way to fight poverty is to give these kids the skills they need to not only get better jobs but also manage their money well when they have it. Someone above (might have been in the article) mentioned analytic skills. These are what needs to be taught in schools and are also what is most difficult to test. When people are able to think effectively, there will be far, far less poverty.

-Ivan

I disagree. There are always going to be low-paying jobs. People take those while they're gaining the job experience necessary to land a better job.

But if there's no better jobs out there, it doesn't matter what employment history you build for yourself or what you learn in school.

You have to structure your economy so that businesses can form the ladder for employees to climb before employees can climb the ladder.

Employees can't climb a ladder that doesn't exist.

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Ivan
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What, pray tell, are the career advancement opprotunities available to someone who works at Walmart?

In order to get a higher-paying job, you need school. That's the way today's economy works. The income gap between individuals who have high shcool diplomas and those who don't has grown over the past 20 years. Same with the gap between those who have BAs and those who don't. The problem is that the growth in the economy is in dead-end service jobs that don't have the possiblity of advancement beyond shift leader. The US will not defeat other nations on cost of labor. That's an unavoidable fact when China and India have vastly more citizens than we do, all of which live at lower standards of living than comperable Americans. They will make it cheeper and we will buy it from them.

The only way for us to deal with this is to become a nation of thinkers and creators rather than manufacturers. We need to be able to find innovative methods of production that we can sell to other countries. We have to make ours the smartest citizenry in the fields of engineering, chemistry, and physics. Otherwise, we will continue to move in the direction of a service-based economy where people either pay others to make their lives easier or get paid to make other people's lives easier, and that's not good for America. The best way to avoid this is through education.

You can't climb the ladder if you can't get on.

-Ivan

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
What, pray tell, are the career advancement opprotunities available to someone who works at Walmart?

If I hadn't gone back to college I would have happily stayed at Wal~Mart. I worked there for a year and a half and was next in line to be a department manager. They have matching contributions to retirement plans, I believe after 6 months. They also provide extensive training that you could take into other employment opportunities. I learned how to run a forklift, cash register, and the awesome inventory system. Any one of those skills qualified me for a better job somewhere else, or I could stay with Wal~Mart and move up the ladder. Wal~Mart is serious about the ladder, and hiring from within.
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ATW
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quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
What, pray tell, are the career advancement opprotunities available to someone who works at Walmart?


My neice worked her way up from being a cashier to being a district manager over a number of stores.

No college. Poor grades in high school.

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Haggis
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Phil and ATW make some good points. Of course it's possible to move up in a Wal-Mart. Of course, not everybody can move up. Many corporations are set up somewhat like a food chain. Obviously, the further one moves up the food chain, the fewer peers they have. As one moves up, there are also fewer and fewer opportunities for advancement. I think Ivan's argument is that many front line employees will have limited advancement opportunities and become stuck in a low-paying job. And while many could better themselves by becoming more educated, there are also those who lack the ability to do so, thus, they can become trapped in a circumstance where they do have a job and are in poverty. So I can see both sides.
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ATW
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You also have to be willing to do whatever it takes to move up.

My neice moved from one end of the country to the other twice and worked some pretty insane hours for a few years.

There are definitely fewer opportunities as you move up the ladder, not everyone can be the CEO.

But realize there are also increased demands moving up the ladder. Many people don't want to move, don't want to travel, don't want to work 80 hours a week, don't want the headache of being in charge, etc. The number of opportunities narrow but so does the number of people who want to take advantage of those opportunities.

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The Drake
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I'd be curious to find out how many of those "stuck" at Wal-Mart bother to fill out applications anywhere else, or even read the want ads. I remember working at various Pizza Hut restaurants for five years, 18-23, and I heard some of the old-timers bitch about their pay, lack of benefits, etc. It was pretty open, because management already knew you didn't love working there.

Never once did I hear that small sample of people say that they were looking for another job. Nor did I see them trying to gain new skills. Some of them are still there, ten years later.

At the same time, I saw a line cook become an auto technician. Several of us graduated from college. Some of us, like myself, were promoted into management before leaving.

In a merit-based society, those lacking in ambition will achieve only bare survival. I wouldn't want it to be any different. In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover to show how bad it is at the bottom. She meets a minimum wage maid who expresses admiration for her boss, and the company that she works for. She goes on to say that she is determined to have her own cleaning business some day. Ehrenreich is baffled by this behavior -- Doesn't she KNOW she's being EXPLOITED by THE MAN? I imagine that maid is probably now a district manager.

It is entirely true that if EVERYONE were ambitious, it would be one hellacious game of musical chairs to get up the ladder. Luckily, there are enough slackers to go around.

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philnotfil
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@Haggis- Many front line employees don't come to work on time, and call in sick when they aren't [Smile]
They get what they deserve.

@The Drake- I hate that book. If Barbara had stayed at any one of those jobs for a year she would know what it is like for people who do a good job and stay with an employer.

I completely agree with you. The people who make minimum wage after more than a year at a job aren't very good employees. Yes there are rare exceptions to that, but overall employers pay good employees more. If they don't the employee goes somewhere else. I was a "wage slave" for ten years. I spent 8 months at minimum wage in those ten years. That 8 months was spread across three different jobs. I even had 7 different employers during those 10 years, and still made above minimum wage almost everywhere I worked. Keep in mind that all of those jobs, except for one, required no previous experience or education, and the one job only required me to be a college student.

I don't have any sympathy for the people who make minimum wage. If they don't get paid more, it is their own fault. (again, with the very few rare exceptions, and in those situations they need to go and find another employer, so it is their own fault if they stay at that job)

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Haggis
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quote:
In a merit-based society, those lacking in ambition will achieve only bare survival.
I may be nit-picking here, but advancement in corporations and "merit" often times do not go hand in hand. I've found who you know is often more important than "merit". I put this in more as an aside rather than seeing it as a flaw in the argument.

[ December 09, 2004, 02:01 PM: Message edited by: Haggis ]

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Haggis:
I may be nit-picking here, but advancement in corporations and "merit" often times do not go hand in hand. I've found who you know is often more important than "merit". I put this in more as an aside rather than seeing it as a flaw in the argument.

That's a fair statement. We all know of people who got ahead because their Dad went to an ivy league school, or because they were given a company to run because it was a family business. And, it is also true that capable employees who don't know how to advertise the good work they are doing will not receive their deserved rewards.

But ususally the "who you know" connections come from doing something deserving of merit. You're noticed and remembered. Sometimes, that lets people rest on their laurels or allows somebody to get a different job for which they lack the proper qualifications.

It's not a perfect filter, but especially at bottom tiers, one can progress on merit.

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philnotfil
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Who you know can get you the job, but if you don't do the job, they find some one else. The obvious exception is the job where you don't actually have to do anything, but it is hard to get one of those by working anyway [Smile]
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SC Carver
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"I came into teaching with the idea that testing is a horrible idea. I now realize that the only subjects taught, at least at my school, are those that are tested."

For those of you who are against "testing” how do you propose we find out what students have learned. How do we know where they need help if we don't test them? I am all for teaching analytical skills, but at some point you have to see if their analysis is getting them the right answer.

I realize that no test can fully measure what a person knows or is capable of learning, but you have to start some where. Life is full of tests, most of which aren't written and don't come in multiple choice. Learning to pass tests in school prepares people for the tests they will face later in life. A person who tells their boss they are sorry they blew a sales pitch, but they just aren’t good in pressure situations isn’t going to be in sales very long.

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Ivan
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Well, I'll just toss in my anecdotal experience as well: I worked at Kash 'n Karry one summer in the Deli. They knew from the start that I was only going to be there a couple months, but they were desperate so they hired me. Anyhow, the head of the deli was a lady who'd been there for 10 years. She worked hard, dealt with the customers well, but more importantly, she was working to feed her family, and I think that's the point. We talk about people who lack ambition not getting advancement without recognizing that perhaps their ambition simply isn't to become a district manager and drag their kids around the country to do so. It's really tough to be a parent raising a family when you work nights and have to move ever two years to keep working your way up the ladder. When career advancement isn't your concern, its probably more than a little tougher to get to these better jobs.

Oh, and it remains true that ceteris parabis, you'll higher the high school grad over the drop out.

-Ivan

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The Drake
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Ivan, I agree 100%, and other posters have said the same thing. If your goal is other than that of making money, you will not advance as quickly and will tap out. That's all fine and good - more power to you. But you shouldn't get a big "you're a great person" bonus.

If you like your low paying job, and you're content with the tradeoff, that's on you - not on society.

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potemkyn
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The Drake,

I think Ivan was trying to say that they didn't like the low paying job, aren't happy with the tradeoff, but can't afford to raise kids well and put in the extra effort to get to the next rung on the ladder which only gives you more work to do...etc, etc.

Plus, illicit activity pays more and faster.

"Professor says, 'what you want to do sell drugs or get a degree?'
I looked at him and smiled with 32 gold teeth
and said, 'what you make in a year, I make it in a week.'"

[ December 10, 2004, 03:49 PM: Message edited by: potemkyn ]

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The Drake
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That's a pretty rough tradeoff, being a dealer. Talk about high-risk, high-reward. It may pay more and faster, but what's the life expectancy of a dealer? Gotta teach them kids math and such, so they can do the calculation and really understand the tradeoff.

Nobody is ever happy with a tradeoff, that's why it is a tradeoff. If a single mom, abandoned by her deadbeat husband gets stuck trying to raise kids on her own, her priority is to make as good a life as possible for her kids. (well, hopefully - and often true)

She's got to decide if she's going to limit herself to jobs working "mother's hours", for example, to be there to pick up her kids from school. Teaching them how to live vs. earning money to get them clothes. Working a second job so they can have cable tv, and go on a school trip.

Now, if the federal government weren't pulling 15% off the top of her paycheck in payroll taxes, that might help out. If restrictive zoning, neighborhood associations, and environmental groups weren't preventing the construction of cheap housing, that might help out.

But what won't help out is jumping in and mandating a higher salary. It would either eliminate available jobs, or raise the price of goods and services. More job supply = fewer unemployed = higher wages.

And I also think some of those working regulations are more harm than help. When I was 15 years old, I got a job making gaskets using heavy machinery. Kind of a no-no in the labor world. I was paid piecework as an independent contractor, and made $15-20/hr. The forty hour work week makes it impossible to get more money by working a few more hours. When I was managing, it was not unheard of to pay someone their regular rate under the table for the overtime.

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