Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Working for Peanuts Is All Very Fine . . ." If You Are a Billionaire Hedgefund Manager Who Hates Unions!

You won't look this good after an eighty hour week.

I took the plunge recently and applied for a full-time job as a sports director at an Illinois radio station.

The operations director at the station called me up, and we had a nice phone interview.  When we got to the end of the conversation, he sprang the salary on me.

"Uh, the job only pays about $26,000 a year, Jim, but you can do radio advertising sales and earn a little extra money," the operations director told me.

$26,000?! for a full-time 12 month a year job?  And if this job is like other radio jobs I've had, I'd be working 60+ hours a week.

Where are the labor unions when we need them?

A radio station owner once told me that he had trouble competing with jobs in the public sector.  "Government jobs pay too much," he said.  "I can't make any money or hold on to good people.  My station is a revolving door because people like you who teach school make way too much money."

This from a guy who owns at least seven radio stations and who owns two houses and acres and acres of farm land.

The media report regularly on the polarization of wealth in American society, and it's no joke.  The good paying jobs are in the public sector.  Look at all the ex-radio and newspaper people who have left the business and now work as "spokespersons" for governmental entities.

Ray Hanania
Every time there is a controversy in Cicero, I hear town spokesperson Ray Hanania, a former newspaper/radio guy on TV or radio.  Hanania makes a lot more money working for Mayor Larry Dominick in Cicero than he ever did pulling a weekend shift at WLS Radio in Chicago or writing for the Sun-Times.

When I left radio to become a teacher in 1981, the Fremd H.S. principal asked me how I could leave a career I had invested 9 1/2 years in for a job that pays less.

"Pays less?"  I said.  "I'm getting a $4,000 a year raise coming to work for you!"  He couldn't believe it.

The situation is even worse today.  Companies hire part-time workers in order to avoid paying benefits.  Wages are low and benefits are few.  A woman who was an award winning news reporter just left her radio station job because the station refused to pay her health insurance.  She left for a job with a non-profit organization.

Hedge fund billionaire and union hater Ken Griffin and his wife Anne.
Meanwhile, hedge fund managers like Ken Griffin rail against public employee unions and write op-ed pieces filled with lies.  In an op-ed piece in the Tribune last November, Griffin screamed that retired teachers get free health insurance.  I sat there wondering where the $12,000 +  I paid to the State of Illinois for my wife's and my health insurance went to.  Maybe into Griffin's pocket!

Griffin just gave $2.5 million to Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, another billionaire who never misses an opportunity to bash public employee unions and teachers.

You have to wonder when Griffin and Rauner will be happy.  When my teacher's pension and Social Security benefits are taken away and I'm working 80 hours a week doing news, sports, sales, and programming for $26,000 a year?

Nah!  These greedy bastards will never be satisfied.  Their greed and the greed of those billionaires in the so called "Civic Federation" know no bounds.

So despite the fact that there are some warts on faces of the unions, a good union is something that helps the middle class maintain its wage structure in the face of all the anti-union negativity.  When the media give Rauner and Griffin a platform to spout their anti-union venom, don't believe a word they say.  They just want more money for themselves.

Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold allows lies to be printed on his editorial page.
And to you media pawns like Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune who give Rauner and Griffin the platform where they can spout their lies:  There's a nice warm place in hell waiting for you, buddy.  You, Dold, have scared downstate women teachers who are barely scraping by, by printing lies from Griffin and Rauner.

Burn in hell, liar!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Big Chill: How Noodle Spined Administrators DUMB DOWN American Education

The confrontation is a classic one.  Little Joanie has her seat moved in the third grade classroom because she can't keep her mouth shut and talks to her friend Ellen all the time.  Mrs. Meyers, the girls' teacher, moves Joanie's seat to separate the two girls.

Joanie runs home after school and tells her mom.  The mother, a member of the school's parent-teacher organization, calls Mrs. Neri, the school principal, and tells Mrs. Neri that Joanie should be moved back to her original seat.  The next morning Principal Neri "suggests" Mrs. Meyers return Joanie to her original seat.  Mrs. Meyers complies.

That afternoon Joanie and her friend Ellen chat continuously during the quiet reading period, Mrs. Meyers ignores their whispering and giggling.  Mrs Meyers doesn't even look up from her book.

Now Joanie feels empowered.  At age nine, she has discovered that with the help of a parent and a willing administrator, a student can tell a teacher what to do.

Flash forward ten years.  Joanie attends the local community college.  She's taking freshman composition, a required course.  When Mr. Bowers, the instructor, returns Joanie's first paper, the grade is a "C."  Joanie tells her classmates as she leaves Mr. Bowers' class that she is going to complain to the dean about the grade and about Mr. Bowers' teaching.

Off Joanie goes to Dean Carter's office.  Joanie makes an appointment, fills out the proper complaint forms, and schedules a time to seen Dean Carter in person.

When Joanie and the dean meet, Joanie tells Dean Carter that all the students in the class object to Mr. Bowers' teaching methods.  "No one likes him," Joanie tells Dean Carter.  "He marks up our papers something fierce and then tells us to re-rewrite them.  I don't have time for that!  I'm working 30 hrs. a week!"

Dean Carter tells Joanie that he will have a talk with Mr. Bowers, and he does, telling Mr. Bowers that his grading is too hard and that requiring students to rewrite essays is not part of the community college curriculum.

Joanie smirks in class the next day when Mr. Bowers tells the students that they will not have to re-write their papers any longer.  Joanie feels empowered, knowing that she is now in control of the English composition class.  Her grades on her essays go up to "B's," and she wonders if she can also manipulate her "C" grade in her American history class.

The next semester Mr. Bowers stops grading English papers so closely.  He now uses the English Department rubric for each paper.  Few, if any corrections appear on Mr. Bowers' students' papers.  There are brief comments on the rubric--very brief.

Mr. Bowers also stops giving grades below a "B-."  He raises a grade if a student complains, and the student does not have to revise and edit the paper.

The above examples show what's happening in American schools.   Teachers who are tough and want their students to learn are being pushed aside in favor of those teachers who are "nice" to the students and give everyone high grades.

I know one school where there used to be two or three students from each grade school class at the quarterly honor roll breakfast.  Now almost every student attends.  One teacher who was holding out was reprimanded by the principal for only having three students at the honor roll breakfast.  "Mrs. Radke has all of her fourth grade students going," the principal said.  "I hope next quarter you can up your student count."

Ah, the velvet hammer.

I'm not sure how things got this way in the short time since I left Fremd High School in 2007, but the problem is pervasive.  I sat for countless hours in a dean's office at Kishwaukee College last semester  because a student complained to the dean that I was censoring his journalism/newspaper stories.

You know what I was doing?  I was trying to figure out how to revise his sentences so that they made sense.  The kid couldn't write three words without making a mistake.

But this student knew he had the upper hand.  He bragged at the Kaleidoscope editorial board meetings that he was going to meet with the president of the college because the dean wasn't moving fast enough for him.

I guess it worked because I'm sitting on my butt writing this, and he's blissfully going to class at Kishwaukee bragging to his friends how he ran "the bitter old man" out.

What can be done?  I have no clue.  I know that I'm not going back until I get a guarantee that requiring my students to write COHERENT papers will be encouraged.

So the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce or the Illinois Manufacturing Association moaning how Illinois students can't write or do math, think of little Joanie and of all the other students who now run our schools.   And think too of the administrators who are empowering them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Stupid or How a College Adjunct Got Religion

December 17, 2013 was the day I said goodbye to stupid.  I walked out of Kishwaukee College in Malta after a semester of harassment and dealing with students who could give a shit about education.

One of my English Composition I classes at Kish was a late start class, meaning it began on September 23rd rather than August 29th.  Only ten out of twenty-two students showed up the first day.  "What's going on?" I thought to myself.

Two weeks later three students were standing outside of my classroom as I walked in the door.  "Are you Mr. Wyman?" one of them asked.

"Yes I am," I replied.

"I'm ______ ______, and I'm in your English class," one of the students said.  The other two also introduced themselves.

"No, you're not in my class," I replied.  "We started class two weeks ago, and the students have done five writing assignments.  You'll never catch up!  Where were you?"

"I had some business to take care of in the city," one of the students said.

Yeah, sure you did!  I had heard the stories of Chicago Public School students showing up for class in late September and the CPS push to cajole parents into getting their kids show up the day after Labor day (the traditional first day of school in the city), but this was the first time I had seen this debacle live.

There's more.

There was a student in my other comp. class who, according to his classmates, showed up to class every day reeking of marijuana.  The class met at 2:00 p.m.  I had allowed the young man to enroll in the class at the beginning of the semester even though the class was full.

When it came time for the argumentative paper--the last major essay in the class--the student plagiarized the paper from the internet.  I had been reading his papers all semester so the difference between his argumentative paper and the other papers he had written was glaring.   I found the paper he plagiarized on the internet in five minutes.  I told him he was going to fail the class.

However, the student went to the dean, persuaded the dean to give him a medical withdrawal, and the student withdrew from the class with a full refund.

Take that, Wyman!  You lose, big boy!

Then there was the student in my journalism class at Kish who went to the dean and claimed I had made racist comments about him and that I had censored his newspaper stories.  The student had left us in the lurch by not completing two stories for the first issue of the school newspaper.  He and the editor-in-chief, the only carry-over from a train wreck of a prior newspaper staff that simply printed college press releases the previous year, had attempted to turn the new newspaper students against me.

I laughed at him. . . . at first.

The dean who had hired me at Kish was on maternity leave so I had to deal with another dean who took the Hispanic student's charges seriously.  All I could think of as I sat for hours in this stupid dean's office for hours was how Fremd principal Tom Howard would have thrown the kid out of his office if this had happened at Fremd High School.

But this was not Fremd.  This was the new world of education where students have been empowered to make-up accusations against teachers, and deans and department chairs back the students against the teachers.  The teachers are wrong; the students are right in this new world!

It's enough to make a teacher pick up his ball and go home.  And that's what I did!

This wasn't the first time Wyman got in hot water teaching college.  At Dominican University, one of my students wrote on my evaluation, "He told us we were dumber than his community college students."

When the English Department chair at Dominican was prodded by the dean to confront me on the student's comment, I told him it was true.

The chairman said, "Mr. Wyman, we are admitting students from Chicago into Dominican who have scores of 11 on their ACT tests.  These students don't need to be told they are stupid."

I guess they already know, I thought to myself.

Imagine, students going to college with an ACT score of 11!  Dominican has little remediation for these students, and from what I could see the college is passing them right through the English courses.  Heck, the football players at Miami have to have a score of 16 on the ACT.

This wasn't the same Dominican my mom had attended in 1929.  "We are a Hispanic serving institution!" the dept. chair said proudly.

Pick up your ball, Jim, and go home. 

Colleges like Kishwaukee, Dominican, and Monmouth College are struggling to find warm bodies to fill their desks.  Enrollment has dropped so the schools are actively recruiting students from the City of Chicago.  Lowering standards is the rule these days.  I had students at Monmouth who scored 32 on the ACT and others with 12s.  Imagine teaching students in that wide a range.

I had one student at Monmouth who would come in for extra  writing help.  "You wouldn't believe how bad it is in Chicago schools, Mr. Wyman," he told me.  I believe it now, Ozzie!

So I'm sitting here on this cold late spring day getting all my frustration out and wondering what the hell I'm going to do with myself.  The radio station gig doing basketball games in Galesburg ran out last week, and I don't think there's anyone pregnant at Fremd so I can't do a maternity leave.

I guess I'll just blog.

But here's a warning to all of you teachers.  Be careful what you do and say in the classroom.  The world of education is far different in 2014 than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Stupid has won!

Teachers Unions Should Get Blame for Quinn vs. Rauner Election Campaign Fiasco

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn gives his victory speech at the Carpenters Union Hall.
As a member of both teachers unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and the Illinois Education Association (IEA), I was surprised when current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn showed up for his primary election celebration at the Carpenters Union Hall in Chicago.

How could a labor union like the carpenters be endorsing a governor who supported a pension bill that screwed teachers.  The IFT is part of the AFL-CIO--same as the carpenters!  Shouldn't the carpenters join the teachers by opposing Quinn?

Then the news came out this week that the Service Employees International Union of Illinois also endorsed Quinn.

Can endorsements from the IFT and IEA be far behind?

Shouldn't these unions dump Quinn for his support of Speaker Mike Madigan's pension bill which royally screwed downstate and suburban teachers?

The wife and I crossed over in the primary, asked for Republican ballots, and voted for Kirk Dillard, the former WIU frat boy.  I was holding my nose the entire time I was in the polling booth!

As most readers know, the two teachers unions endorsed frat boy Dillard despite the fact that he is anti-gay marriage, pro-life, and pro-gun.  The ads running on downstate radio stations trumpeted Dillard's stance on all these issues, never mentioning the union support or Dillard's "no" vote on Quinn's pension bill.

Dillard lost, but teacher support closed a 20 point gap to only three percentage points.

So now we are faced with Quinn or Bruce Rauner.  What a choice!

I will never vote for Quinn or for any other politician who voted to dump the 3% cost of living adjustment for my pension.  Never!  I'll never vote for Rauner either.

So it looks like I'm sitting this election out!

Quinn will wheedle his way into the good graces of what his opponent calls the "union bosses," and teachers will crawl back and vote for the lesser of two evils.  I can hear the rhetoric from the unions now:  "Do you want another Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?"  "Governor Quinn believes in raising the minimum wage!"  "Pat Quinn is a friend of organized labor!"


Pat Quinn is the worst political hack in the state, and that's saying something in Illinois.  I've written before about his phony populist campaigns of the 1970's when he and his entourage would arrive at the radio station in Galesburg, and the news director would literally hide in the janitor's closet so that he wouldn't have to listen to Quinn's babbling.

We teachers are the ones who helped Quinn defeat Bill Brady four years ago.  Quinn was running behind during the entire campaign.  Brady was so confident of victory he started releasing his plans for what he was going to do in Springfield prior to election day.  The polls all said Quinn was toast.

Then the teachers stepped up.  We voted for Governor Gadfly in droves in 2008, and the thanks we got was a pension bill that makes active teachers work longer for less money and screws retirees out of their 3% annual cost of living adjustment.

Who caused this mess?  I blame the teachers unions.

As far back as 2002, the teachers unions were supporting jailbird Rod Blagojevich in the primary because he was married to Chicago Alderman Dick Mell's daughter Patti.  Mel's another political hack.  The IFT and the IEA even supported Blagojevich in the 2006 election when they knew he was dirty. 

Bruce Rauner declares victory on primary election night.
Rauner talks about the back-room deals that union leaders made with the state legislators in order to boost the union leaders' pensions.  Rauner is right, and we're going to be hearing all about it during the upcoming campaign.

For example, Reg Weaver, the former IEA president, gets a Illinois Teachers Retirement (TRS) pension of $242, 657 a year, according to the Chicago Tribune.  Weaver is able to roll over his union salary into TRS.  Other state union executives have subbed one day in the classroom in order to have their union salaries rolled into TRS.  This is wrong!

All of these examples of union leaders cozying up to Illinois legislators in order to enrich themselves will be coming your way in Rauner's TV ads.  Get ready!

I always thought that union officials were supposed to be workers who did the union business out of the goodness of their hearts.  This obviously is not so.  Cinda Clickna, current IEA president, made $197,212 during the 2012-13 school year.  Clickna won't have to worry about losing her COLA with a pension like she'll have.  The rest of us?  We're blankin' worried!

So until the teachers unions clean up their acts and put their own houses in order, I'm going back to my WIU days and proclaim myself a GDI--God Damned Independent!