Spencer discovers a genre I was not aware of: students hating, striking out against, putting down, trying to embarrass their teachers, and recording their work for YouTube. I feel a strong sympathy for the young, female teacher, whose ass is being filmed while classmates’ joke or the elder European teacher who is being threatened by an angry, male student. Both teachers appear in these clips to be stuck inside awful systems of disrespect. Overall, you feel the tension that often overcomes this profession, particularly at the lower levels where classes are too large, teachers are under-trained and under-paid, and the government has transformed the profession into standards and test taking. These folks aren’t teaching. They are the contemporary version of the Fordist assembly line worker. Berlin was not entirely correct; we haven’t reached post-Fordism completely.
This weekend, the Detroit Public School System has been ordered by a local judge to come to an agreement with the teachers’ union and prevent a strike. The sticking point? Under-paid teachers must take a pay cut. Asking the teachers to make up for the DPS’ errors (a $105 million deficit) is as absurd as many of these YouTube videos. The DPS is sending a message loud and clear to present and future teachers. Don’t work in Detroit. Your job is not secure. Your job conditions will only get worse. Any financial mistakes the DPS makes, you will pay for.
Don’t work in Detroit unless you, too, want to work the new assembly line of education (it’s hardly ironic that we see similar gestures made in the auto industry, even today). I particularly feel for this situation because this Fall, in my undergraduate advanced writing course, I am sure I will see prospective elementary and high school teachers (I always do). And since the course is a night course, I assume there will be students already teaching. I did a year in a public school system elsewhere, teaching in two “bad” elementary schools. But that’s all I did, a year. I knew it was not a career choice, and while I saw much stupidity (the summer pink slip – “oh don’t worry, we’ll rehire you in the Fall”), I didn’t face anything compared to what DPS teaches face today. What do we tell the prospective DPS students who come to Wayne? Find work in the ‘burbs? Leave the state? Do something else? No. . . . but we, the supposed gate keepers of “critical thinking” should say something before these folks wind up in a metaphoric YouTube space of embarrassment and humiliation. And, at that time, it will probably be too late for them.