Don’t get me wrong, I admit that I am a football fan. Even if I wouldn’t admit it, my wife, family, friends, students, colleagues, and even neighbors within ear shot would attest that I am indeed a fan. While I was in elementary school in Livingston Parish, my Dad received season tickets for LSU and we had those seats on the aisle in the South End zone until his legal blindness and my move to teach at a college in Georgia. Even when I lived in Starkville, Mississippi, I would drive down on Friday night to spend noon until 30 minutes till kickoff Saturday tailgating and regardless of score remain in the stands following the game until they began to dim the lights so that traffic on Highland Road, College Drive, and back to the interstate would ease just a bit. On Sunday my AFC team was Miami because of Coach Don Shula and the connection of his Hungarian heritage to mine. Unfortunately, I’m not old enough to have any firsthand knowledge of the Perfect Season. NFC always was and always will be the Saints. Paper bags and saying Aints were fighting words in my parts. Occasionally I got to go to game at the Dome, and then one year my Dad received free season tickets up in the nose bleed section. I can’t remember if it was Pepsi or Coca Cola, but his K&B store sold more 12 packs during a promotion than the local Wal-Mart and grocery stores such as Delchamps, Albertsons, and Schwegmanns. That was the year of the Dome Patrol, Swilling, Johnson, Mills, and Jackson and that great 3-4 D. Unlike Tiger Stadium, we entered the Dome early for warm-ups just to watch Morten Anderson put on a kicking exhibition during warm ups.
When I reflect on watching football during childhood and even as an adult, fond memories dominate over that awful feeling of individual losses during a given season. The sport, however, saddens me this morning. Actually, it is not the sport itself but an example of the realities of today’s mentality made more evident by the sport. Consider that the current United States Congress has been one of not just partisanship but actual obstructionism. State governments have enacted massive budget cuts in many areas, and if you haven’t noticed, we are also in a Presidential election year where negative campaigning is far more common than biographical or feel good advertisements.
In Louisiana, I won’t rehash the education fight. Most are aware of a few of the major issues such as vouchers, using public money to fund private schools, and essentially a push to privatize the educational system. Teachers are often the scapegoats for student performance because it is not politically popular to mention the external issues which impact the learning process. Let’s evaluate teachers based on performance sounds great, but there are just too many factors beyond the classroom which cannot be quantified into any value added model. Like any profession, there are great teachers and sadly some really horrible ones but the majority are between those extremes. I would argue most are skewed toward great as either good or very good based on the fact that they would most likely be successful in private business and probably earn a larger salary and better benefits package.
Even Wisconsin and Illinois
Wisconsin has had all of the anti union protests in its state government. Chicago has recently experienced a teacher strike. Fingers have been pointed all around, and typically a government and sometimes even societal levies of blame are placed on teachers and the unions. Teachers are turning their backs on students; it’s a dereliction of duty are among many of the quotes in the media reports.
I find it interesting, however, that in regards to teachers, evaluations are one of the key points. Granted, I feel evaluations are needed in every profession. The question though is how is that evaluation constructed and what measures determine success versus failure. In regards to unions, many of the things we take for granted such as safe working conditions, child labor laws, overtime pay, and so on are the result of work done by unions.
Can anyone tell me why the person or group who designs and conducts the evaluations of teachers are not being evaluated themselves on the same criteria?
National Football League
Well here is NFL football. After three weeks of replacement referees interacting in a game played at a much faster pace than they had ever experienced, the possibility for more has ended as the League owners and Commissioner Goodell reached an agreement with the referees’ union. A quick glance of Yahoo Sports confirms the importance.
Michael Silver: “Our three-weeks-too-long national nightmare is over, and now that America’s most popular sports league will no longer be officiated by men who should have been wearing Ghostface masks, most of us want to scream with joy.”
Doug Farrar: “As it turned out, the NFL’s nightmare scenario — a team losing a game it should have won — was all it took for the league and the NFL Referees’ Association to get back to the bargaining table and wrap up a new deal….’That game reshaped everything … it shook me. I think it shook a lot of people,’ one NFL owner told Mike Freeman of CBS Sports.”
Dan Wetzel: “My fellow Americans, our brief national nightmare is over – the NFL’s regular referees are headed back to work.”
The above are examples from three writers discussing how my fond childhood memories past may be considered a nightmare through events of the past three weeks in future reflections. A seemingly infinite number of comments on blogs, broadcasts, and everywhere seem to affirm that people have indeed witnessed a nightmare scenario. Wetzel provides a description on the root of the nightmare. “The league failed to protect the replacement’s psyche by offering zero tolerance for complaints from players and coaches. Instead, the substitute teachers were mostly thrown to the wolves. Weeks of watching enraged stars, often just trying to gain an edge from what they perceived as a weak official, grated on fans and broadcasters. All the arguing further undermined the replacements’ credibility.”
Hmmm, a teacher thrown to the wolves is interesting. Oops, my mistake “substitute teachers were mostly thrown to the wolves.” I don’t know about you, but I have learned a few things. Vouchers and privatization of educational systems suggests that anyone can be a classroom teacher or open their own school. Unions who advocate for better working conditions are evil unless you happen to be the one employed and working in those substandard conditions or it impacts professional football. Teacher unions are also evil in that they reject the responsibility bestowed upon every individual teacher that they are the sole reason why little Johnny or Jane are not perfect. If little Jane or Johnny, however, are successful it is because they either made that success themselves or parents, church, elected officials, care about little Jane and Johnny and the teachers really just watched them for a few hours a day.
None of the above, however, is nearly as important let alone the nightmare imposed upon society by replacement officials in the NFL. Well, I hope at least that we see more emphasis placed on preventing the devastating effects of head injuries that many players experience after their playing days. That’s a hope, but at least I can feel confident that this weekend there will not be a simultaneous call of touchdown and touchback on the field.
What I learned from the media
Anyone can do the job of a teacher, but only those with superior training, respect from owners, coaches, and fans, can be a zebra in the NFL. Since the NFL referees are part-time employees, it would not surprise me if some are teachers. I wonder how much respect they receive in that job.