Winter storm Stella offers a moment of clarity.
For twenty-two years I have heard many people comment on the perks of teaching: summers off, snow days, family friendly schedule, excellent health care, many paid vacations, retirement pensions, etcetera. These are undeniably wonderful reasons for teaching — and often one of the reasons women gravitate towards the profession.
If so many Americans value these teaching perks, albeit begrudgingly, why aren’t more citizens clamoring for more workers to have some of these benefits? Why have more workers lost their pensions? Why is union membership down? Why do workers in the United States work more hours a year than most Europeans? Why do we still have employer-based health care for most people? Why did the Republicans sweep the 2016 election with the repeal and replace the ACA mantra? Why is the average American worker not awarded more than a few weeks of vacation time?
A portion of the answer to my queries above is that American citizens have deferred the American Dream. After the second world war, many European countries used their country’s destruction as a means to rebuild social programs. Taxes are high in Europe, but so is the standard of living. In the United States, the post-war era has seen an increase in the industrial-military complex. The has led to corporate profits, a stagnation of wages, and an increase in the gap between rich and poor.
I do not want to live in a European country. Their grass is not greener. They have problems. The EU is on shaky ground. Nationalist candidates are leading in France, Holland, and Germany. I only use European countries as an example. In many ways, European countries have figured out how to give social benefits while surviving in a global economy. I am wondering why we can’t do the same.
I know, the three people who might be actually reading this post (and thank you) are thinking I am just one of those liberal teachers from upstate New York. My three readers may pity my idealism and think me naive. Dear readers, you are probably correct. You see, I teach about the American system. I see the definition of American in the faces of my students. I try to instruct my students to trust the system. I want to believe my words. And yet, I think I am misleading my students with my optimism. Because as long as profits are more important than people nothing will ever change. Unless citizens get very loud, nothing will change.