Being the geek I am, I came armed with a notebook and pen so as to be able to jot down any pieces of interest. Because of flight delays, Mr. Weaver was almost an hour late arriving. I passed the time drinking coffee and perusing old data structures notes — Big O analysis, C++ class templating, Dequeues, various sorting algorithms, and the like.
After a time, the Montana Education Association President stepped up to give a short precursor speech as we all continued to wait. Of course, as Montana education funding has been a huge topic in Montana and both sides have been in court duking it out, the MEA president talked mostly about that. (I should stop right now and let you know that I do not have great feelings towards unions — especially those in the education sector.) I kind of quit listening to MEA President Eric Feaver when he talked about Montana teachers’ salaries. His summary, regarding salaries, was “$30,000 is great, but they could go work in Nevada for $40,000.” First of all, in Montana, $30,000 is pretty good for a 9 month job. I’m sorry if I sound rude, but it’s true. Also, depending on which part of Nevada one is in, there is a much different (higher) cost of living than in Montana. Of course salaries will be disparate.
Finally, Reg Weaver arrived. He’s a small, but dynamic man. I could immediately feel his fervor. And I immediately liked the guy. That’s not to say that I agreed with his message, but I liked the messenger.
What proceeded can be called nothing but a union rally. I came expecting a speech regarding solutions to the so-called “education crisis” occurring across the nation. I received nothing of the sort. The ensuing speech involved various topics including the underfunding of schools, funding inequality, social justice in K-12, and jobs going overseas (because that takes away tax money that could go to education — don’t get me started). He also commented “how can we expect children to do better with [so much] bureaucracy, paperwork, and testing?” (Apparently the bureaucracy of the NEA is okay though. Check out this book for more on the NEA. It’s quite the eyeopener).
There were lots of criticisms thrown about, but distressingly missing were possible SOLUTIONS to the problems of our education system. I found this the most frustrating. Yes, there are problems in our education system, but how are we going to fix them? I have my ideas, however, I wanted to hear Mr. Weaver’s. And, no, more money is not the answer. Also, notably absent was any regard for economics’ place in education.
As much as I liked Mr. Weaver, I very much disliked the union rally atmosphere that took hold after his arrival. I was uncomfortable. Most everyone in attendance (save for a few students most likely attending for the promise of extra credit) was an educator and, thus, a member of the NEA. I felt silly not clapping and yelling. However, I couldn’t clap and yell for something I firmly disagree with. It’s time for the NEA to wake up and realize they need to stop complaining and start proposing legitimate solutions. It would also be nice if they recognized that they are part of the problem.