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Danehy

The right-wing GOP attack on teachers makes no sense whatsoever

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The other day, I was in the studio during the radio show I co-host with Republican/Libertarian curmudgeon Emil Franzi. Our guests were Arizona National Republican Committeeman Bruce Ash, and state Sen. (for a while, anyway) Frank Antenori. Bruce was going on about how the Democratic Party was targeting certain Republican lawmakers for removal from office come Election Day.

Please pardon the digression, but I have to mention this: Bruce and others have this really annoying affectation of referring to the opposition party as the "Democrat Party," and not the "Democratic Party," which is correct. This is lame-ass, third-grade stuff, like intentionally mispronouncing another kid's name. (Since it's childish and stupid, naturally, Rush Limbaugh does it.)

William Safire traced the use of the term as an epithet to the presidential election of 1940. Not content to take one of the worst ass-whuppin's of all time, GOP candidate Wendell Willkie decided to poke the bear with a sharp stick. He continually referred to the "Democrat Party" because he felt that the Dems were controlled by "undemocratic bosses." In (ahem) 1984, the Republicans, riding a Reagan high, tried to change the wording of the Republican platform to read "Democrat Party." Congressman Jack Kemp objected, adding that it "would be an insult to our Democratic friends," and it was dropped. Boy, was that a long time ago!

In 1996, the Republicans, poised to take another whuppin', did change it to "Democrat Party" in their platform, explaining that they "wanted to make the subtle point that the Democratic Party had become elitist." This, from a party whose standard-bearer thinks that a middle-class person makes around $250,000 a year.

A similar proposal to use the term in 2008 was voted down after panel chairman Haley Barbour said, "We should probably use what the actual name is."

You don't see Democrats calling the opposition the "Republic Party." That would be grammatically incorrect and, you know, STUPID! I don't expect Rush Limbaugh to stop doing it, but I kinda wish Bruce would stop. He's better than that.

Anyway, I mentioned that while I like Frank Antenori personally, I don't want him within 200 miles of the state Legislature. Attempting to put words in my mouth, Emil said, "Why? Because he hates kids?"

I said, "No, because he hates teachers."

Frank exploded. "I don't hate teachers! I hate teachers' unions! I despise teachers' unions!"

Apparently, there's a lot of that going around. When the Chicago teachers went on strike a couple of weeks ago, the shrieks could be heard from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times. Much of the outrage focused on the few days of school that kids were missing, and the minor pay raise the teachers were requesting when, in fact, the main point of the strike was to protest the use of standardized test scores as a means of evaluating teacher performance.

The haters of teachers' unions all act as though these unions just popped up out of nowhere, for no reason whatsoever. (In fact, the prevailing right-wing thought is that all unions came into existence just to give the poor, misunderstood bosses a hard time.)

When I was in high school, we had this really cool math teacher named Dr. Anderson. He had a doctorate in math and had worked for Army intelligence and the CIA, but he was teaching math in an inner-city school, because he was just cool like dat. One time, at a meeting of the Math Club, he told us that he was going to have to leave teaching: He and his wife were having a baby, and he couldn't afford to raise a family on what he made as a teacher.

Like many teachers at that time, he had more than one job. And I'm not talking working as a day-camp counselor during the summer. I'm talking Tina Fey working nights at a T.G.I. Friday's clone in Mean Girls. He taught night classes at a local community college, and we always accused him of cracking codes for the National Security Agency on the side, a subject about which he would clam up in a most-curious way.

Through roundabout means, we found out that he made around $3,200 a year as a full-time teacher in the Los Angeles city schools (and that was with a doctorate). You might correctly note that it was a long time ago—and it was—but adjusted for inflation, that $3,200 would today be just less than $19,000. That means that Dr. Anderson would be part of Mitt Romney's deadbeat 47 percent who don't pay taxes.

The L.A. teachers later went on strike, and it was quite contentious. The strike was settled, as all teachers' strikes in all cities since then have been. However (for all those people who think that teachers are overpaid), here in Tucson, the starting salary for beginning teachers isn't appreciably above that aforementioned, inflation-adjusted $19,000 figure.

What I find most hilarious is that politicians and right-wing talking heads all claim to love teachers individually. But when teachers begin to congregate in groups, they apparently present a threat to the American way of life. Antenori and his cronies have already gutted the educational system in Arizona. Maybe the resolution of the Chicago strike will show that the insanity isn't spreading.

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