Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day!

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  1. Part I
    Actually, ALL the "benefits" you mention WERE the result of ONE PERSON'S dedication to improving the lot of ALL American workers' lots in life--Frances Perkins, FDR's and the nation's FIRST female, Secretary of Labor! When FDR called to ask her if she would accept the position, she gave Roosevelt a laundry list including these specific issues, among others, as a NON-NEGOTIABLE requirement of her acceptance! He told Perkins he would honor her requirements, so, over the next 12 years, Frances Perkins remodeled the American workplace, establishing the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, Social Security, Workman's Comp Insurance, holiday and vacation pay, and more--often over the STRENUOUS objections of Labor "leaders", who wanted these "privileges" (their language) RESERVED only for "union members"!
    Unions made (accent on the past tense) brave, even heroic) and dedicated sacrifices and actions, in the EARLY years of the labor movement. However, since the 1950s, Lord Acton's irrefutable dictum, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" has set in. From Jimmy Hoffa's funding of the Mafia, to the death of the steel industry in this country, unions have invariably operated on the wrong side of progress. Since that time, union membership has declined, the only area growing in modern times being the Public Employees, whose job-security and pay are well-above industry standards (there is no one HARDER to fire "for cause" than someone in "Civil Service", an oxymoron of staggering implications, and the single biggest reason it does NOT matter WHO gets elected, because the REAL power is in the bureaucracy, and always has been!), while ordinary Americans are shut OUT of jobs, because they DON'T have a relative or friend in the "system", to get them IN the door! Unions HAVE become FIEFDOMS, and enablers of the lazy, the criminal and the petty!
    A good example is the NEA, the most important reason education has followed a depressing downward spiral of results, leading to the churning out of kids graduating with high school diplomas, but who are UNABLE to do simple math, write intelligent sentences, and differentiate between your and you're, there, their and they're, and quite, quiet and quit! In the late '50s, the NEA threw its even-then considerable weight AGAINST the teaching of Phonics, in introductory lessons. Consequently, the average American younger than 60 CANNOT spell unfamiliar word, figure out definitions from context and structure, or use unfamiliar terms correctly in a sentence. I place full responsibility for the decline in educational standards and results on the NEA, their insistence on paperwork one of the principle reasons for the explosion in "administration" positions, with the concomitant diversion of funds for OVERPAID deadwood.
    One of the most egregious examples of the kind of contributions from that class of employee was California's "Self-Esteem" law, an act that essentially GUTTED grading standards, and led to an entire generation of students unable to exert "Critical Thinking" skills, because they’d never been exposed to criticism, even for the worst sort of effort! This led inevitably to the very class of people you spend a great deal of time ridiculing in these pages! My son took an “Honors” English Literature class, in his Senior year. I asked the instructor, “How many book reports will he need to do, to excel in the class?” She said, with a straight face, “Oh, we don’t require the student to do ANY book reports. We don’t have a reading list. We make recommendations, and they are free to do as they wish.” I had to physically close my mouth, I was so shocked! An “Honors” English Lit class, with NO book reports and NO reading list? My 12th Grade English teacher was spinning in her grave, I could just visualize it! I had never took an English class, that didn’t require at least FOUR book reports per year!

  2. Part II
    Just HOW does one LEARN Critical Thinking, UNLESS one applies one’s ONE critique to a piece of work, so as to be CRITIQUED, on one’s spelling, sentence structure, syntax, and organization? I’m not sure it’s even possible; the approach explains why young people today are so easily swayed by illogical campaign slogans and rhetoric! I’d like to see Logic taught, as well, to help students decipher the mine fields of political rhetoric, in which politicians use a great many words, to say absolutely nothing, which are then distilled down to meaningless “sound bites”! With the application of Phonics, a stricter approach to learning, and an appreciation of Logic, education can be rescued from the debilitating influences of union, and bureaucratic, thinking. We all benefit from a better-educated society, as we did between 1900 and 1960--you should hear the “horror stories” our parents told us, of THEIR school days!
    I taught at the local Junior College for seven years, until my contract was not renewed because I refused to "give out" more A's! I told the head of the Department (a man with an "education" doctorate, but not a scintilla of education in WHAT the department actually was supposed to teach!), "For 15 years, I've had a steady stream of young people come to me for jobs, who told me they'd taken every class available at this institution, but who didn't know the FIRST THING about what they would be asked to do! I came here to CHANGE that, to give the students who took my classes a real understanding of WHAT employers WOULD be expecting from them." I accomplished that in each class, despite complaints from students who expected an “Easy A”.
    In my first class, a 4-hour, three-nights-a-week behemoth, I brought in professionals, one each class session, to TALK briefly, about their expectations of employees. I only lost ONE student, over the course of the term; in fact, one rainy Wednesday evening, the dept head stopped by, shortly after 9:00 pm, and stood agape, shocked to see everyone, except that one drop-out, at their desks, bent over their work. He asked, “How did you manage to keep them all here, this late?” I replied, “I treat them like they want to be treated—as students who wish to be taught. I take time to explain what to do, answer questions, and make critical comments, as they work.” He stared at me, as if I was a three-headed dog, and asked, “Don’t you think that’s over-simplifying it?” I said, simply, “Not at all. I do this, every day, and have, for twenty years now.”
    The biggest problem with education, in my humble opinion, of course, is that it IS larded with yahoos like that department head, more concerned with his land sailing business, than with the education of the students who came to the college to try to improve their economic outlook. He might not have been a “union member”, but his attitude was exactly the same, “You can’t fire me, because I’m a union man!” No employer should be held hostage for such obnoxious hubris. When unions CHANGE the rules, to dump the dead wood, and enforce standards of behavior, to correct the problems that led directly to Lemon Laws in ALL 50 states, then, I’ll consider changing MY opinion of unions! Maybe. I’ve made it just fine, without having to suck you-know-what, or PAY part of my income, to ensure my “good standing”. I make sure of that, with the work I send out.
    Skip down to this quote, on the Frances Perkins site, “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.” Then read the paragraphs following, to learn of the demands a WOMAN made of FDR, and accomplished. You should read about her battles with the unions, to keep them from making whatever gains were accomplished the personal property of "union members" only! That's probably too much to expect, though.


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