What US Teachers Can Teach Us All

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In late February 2018, a call went out to the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association for teachers across West Virginia to go on strike.

Reasons for the strike included need for: higher pay for both faculty and staff, higher educational budgets allotted, expanded school facilities to alleviate overcrowded classrooms and over-worked teachers, as well as other problems that needed to be addressed.

The strike in West Virginia ignited a spark across the US; and soon Oklahoma and Arizona joined in with similar state-wide strikes. Smaller-scale strikes by school staff popped up across the nation in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Virginia and Kentucky, inspired by the success of the strikes in West Virginia.

In some areas, teacher pay has not gone up in a decade. That is bad of course, but in other areas the pay for teaching positions has actually gone down over the last 10 years. New teachers are consistently given less and less pay, most of them unaware of the difference.

Considering the importance of teachers in society, right beneath parents in terms of influencing and shaping the youngest generations, giving them less pay means that we value their contributions less. As a result, the caliber of teachers drops, along with our children’s test scores.

In short, you get what you pay for.

Though students had carried out large-scale protests for better gun legislation prior to the teachers’ strike, and while that event may have inspired the latter one, the teacher strike was a separate situation completely. While both events serve as an example for as to how it can be done and what can be accomplished when people come together for a common purpose, they only encompassed a small subset of the population. They were fighting tooth and nail, giving it all they had, but they were fighting mostly alone.

And both are important also, in that they set a precedent. In order to reach our goals and aspirations as progressives, many small steps are recommended, like not rushing headlong into traps and far-too-convenient situations. This likely won’t be about convenience, it will be about acting rationally, learning the hard way, and responding….Adapting.

But one thing is becoming more and more apparent all the time: we’re going to need to do more than just vote.

From Transparency International: “There has been a slight increase in the proportion of people saying that some form of direct action away from the ballot box would be most effective ” speaking out on social media, joining a protest march, joining an anti-corruption organisation, signing a petition, talking to friends or relatives, or boycotting a business. Collectively, a quarter of people in the United States now think these are the most effective things they can do, up from 17 per cent in 2016.”

In light of the efforts of both teachers and students in 2018, the data from this year will likely be most enlightening in reference to people’s attitudes about mass civil disobedience on a grand scale. It is this attitude that should be closely watched in order to gauge our collective acceptance of mass action and it’s mass action that will likely be our only salvation from oligarchy.

But this action must not be violent. It must not be based in primal impulses but rather well-considered moves in a great game of cards. Collectively we hold many cards that we can use to win, in spite of what we’re constantly told by mainstream media. We must play these cards carefully and wisely, in order to avoid losing any ground we may gain. As soon as we lose control of ourselves, they will gain it completely.

One of the cards we hold, is our sheer numbers. But this can’t just be teachers, it can’t just be teenagers, it can’t just be progressives, …it can’t just be any small subset of society.

It has to be everybody. It has to be across the board, the likes of which this country has never seen before.

Many will already condemn this idea to the realms of the impossible, even before the words finish reaching their eyes. “We will never achieve that level of unity.” they will say.

But they are wrong.

If we get to the heart of our disconnects and conflicts as a shattered population, we begin to see that the crux of many of these disagreements is an intentional lie. We are splintered due to injury, rather than defect. These conflicts are not meant to be resolved, they are meant to linger for generations, while both sides quarrel endlessly, and unnecessarily, over two completely idiotic (yet conveniently opposing) viewpoints.

The first major lie is that Federal spending requires tax money. As long as that lie is perpetuated, those who earn the most feel the entitled to that which tax money buys at the Federal level. At the same time, these same people will regard poorer people, who they perceive as contributing less to the economy, as less deserving of benefits. This of course extends downward to those whom they view as contributing nothing to the economy, while taking and taking from those who do.

The fact is that when Congress budgets money into existence, that money belongs to all US citizens, without regard to how much they make, or to how much they pay in taxes. That tax money is simply deleted from the economy. It does not entitle anyone to recieve preferential treatment, and it does not entitle anyone to disparage anyone else.

Dems want to raise taxes to pay for things at the federal level, and conservatives want to cut benefit programs to accomplish the same goal. Both are harmful, and more importantly both are completely unnecessary. Both sides quibble over arbitrary semantics while real issues for real people are completely ignored.

…Which brings us to lie #2, that the national debt is the sum total of money that the US owes to other countries.

Again, the Democrats’ solution is to raise taxes, and the Republicans want to cut ‘entitlements’. They’re fighting over whether it’s better to choke us with a rope or drown us. What stake do we have in the victory of either side?

Meanwhile, the US’s monetary sovereignty provides us, as a nation, with the ability to honor any debt in US dollars, at any time -without question. We do not owe US dollars to anyone else. That is NOT what the term ‘national debt’ means! Stop fighting over a lie and join together in truth. It’s really fairly simple.

There is one school of logic which destroys all of these lies. Modern Monetary Theory or MMT, has been referred to as ‘neoliberal kryptonite’ for good reason: it eliminates all justification and legitimization for austerity in US government spending. But it does more than this, it also destroys lies which are designed to keep the masses in forced opposition, rather than finding unity in a common purpose: the business of running a country which is both by the people and for the people.

Teaching MMT is difficult, and perilous. It puts people at odds with many peers who hold comfortable notions very closely to their hearts and at the front of their minds every waking moment of their lives. To challenge these notions is to put yourself at risk of ridicule, derision and instant dismissal. But challenge them we must, if we want people to see through them in any great number.

And we desperately want that, in as great a number as possible. The more people realize that their tax money doesn’t go toward buying federal programs, the fewer people will be screaming about how ‘their’ money is misused. The more people wake up to the fact that our national debt is simply the sum total of all dollars issued in the US since 1789 that have not been taken back and deleted via taxation, the fewer paid public servants will be wasting time arguing over how best to suffocate us. More importantly, a major source of division between conservatives and liberals will be dismantled.

Fighting to enlighten people about MMT is hard, but it is arguably the most important discussion you could be having right now, because its introduction into the conversation calls everything we’re fighting against into question. Our fiscal differences are artificially divided, along with so many political ones, and what’s more perfect and enduring to bind us all together again, than shared knowledge?

So WATCH teachers,, and their students in the US… LISTEN to them, and take heed.

“Teach To Act, Act To Teach”

…Good luck, warriors.

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