Imagine for a moment, you are a Pulitzer and Tony award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter. You have written some of the best films of the last 40 years. You are one of the go-to names when Hollywood wants a literate and biting screenplay.
And then you decide, to hell with this, I want to be Marjorie Taylor Greene.
That is what happened to legendary playwright David Mamet, who wrote Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-The-Plow and American Buffalo among others for Broadway. He did the screenplay for The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, The Untouchables, Wag the Dog, The Edge, Ronin, Glengarry Glen Ross and Hoffa.
And then, some sort of 20-watt bulb went off in his head, and he decided it was a good idea to be a guest on a Fox TV show hosted by Mark Levin, who took voice lessons from the late Gilbert Gottfried.
And then, this respected artist opened his mouth and actually said this about America's schools..."What we have is kids, not only being indoctrinated but groomed, in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it, or not, sexual predators. Teachers are inclined, particularly men, because men are predators, to pedophilia." I don't know if Levin offered him coffee, but he shouldn't have because coffee is for closers.
When I saw the story, I assumed this couldn't be the same David Mamet, but alas, there he was smearing his reputation on the walls like Cheetah and insulting every teacher in the land of the free in the bargain.
Then I found out he has written an apparently spittle-flecked new book full of conspiracy theories and other nonsense called “Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch,” where he channels his inner Kanye.
Now, I've never taught, but both my grandparents were teachers, one of them in Little Rock when President Eisenhower decided to defy that old son of the south Orville Faubus and let a black child attend Central High. And I know that teachers have become the catalytic converter for all of society's disagreements and failures in the hopes that they will flow down the tailpipe and what will emerge is clean air and respectable, smart kids.
I remember interviewing the then Houston School Superintendent Joan Raymond back in the 1980's and she told me that the city takes all its disagreements and social wrangling, dumps it on the school house steps and expects teachers to sort it out, and make sure their kids are well behaved, educated, patriotic, reverent virgins when they graduate.
And of course, since it is a mantra preached by our leaders in Austin, who apparently were sleeping during basic math, that we need to keep whittling away at property taxes, the inefficient way we have chosen to fund education in this state, the money to do all this is now less than is needed.
The result? Teachers in our state have seen their salaries not just stagnate, like the rest of us, but actually go down after inflation. In the last ten years, the average pay for new teachers decreased according to a new study. That study called "The Lost Decade," analyzed figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2010-2020 and the average salary for Texas teachers remained virtually unchanged and for starting teachers, actually is now 4% lower after inflation.
So, the one profession we depend on to train the next generation of leaders, workers, scientists, military officers, and professionals of all types, is the one we devote the least attention to, pay like members of a roofing crew and seemingly feel free to insult daily.
And why this particular insult? The answer is as simple as one letter. Q.
You saw it in the Ketangi Brown Jackson hearings. No one actually said the word QAnon, but they didn't have to. Beneath all the feigned concern for light sentencing for pervs, which wasn't true by the way, was the conspiracy theory that posits that Hollywood, Democratic politicians, media, the financial sector, the medical establishment and of course, Hillary, are all part of a satanic pedophile underground hell-bent on preparing our children for a world of sex changes, gay marriage and dogs and cats sleeping together. The new catchphrase for that is "grooming," which we are all good and sick of by now. It's the new "woke."
And now, the libraries and classrooms of America are the new battleground, well, that and Disney. Yes, Disney. Because they dared to oppose the so-called "don't say gay bill" in Florida, Governor
Orban DeSantis is going after their tax breaks as the largest single employer in the state. So now, opposition is the equivalent of approval of pedophilia. Yes, that has actually been said. Witness our own Junior Senator Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) who actually declared he expects to see Mickey and Pluto going at it in a cartoon soon. I am reluctant to speculate on the fantasies that created that image in his head, but all I know is it's ruined my dinner tonight.
So, in addition to the arguments over what to say to a kid who asks about people who are different, a teacher now has to walk a tightrope when discussing race and US history along with the civil war and whether we place traitors on pedestals. The women's, civil rights or gay rights movements are now a minefield for history and sociology teachers, and never mind if you have one of the 1.5% of the population who identify with the opposite sex in your class. They're on their own.
And you do all this for roughly $57,000 a year in huge districts like Houston or San Antonio, and much less in smaller towns. Are we really surprised that teachers are leaving the profession like the stampede in Red River? You went to college, like your best friend who became an engineer or businessman, and now you are paid the same as a garbage truck driver in Houston. Actually, drivers make as much as $60K a year.
And now, since the pandemic took a toll on test scores, the legislature in its wisdom says that K-3 teachers in Texas have to complete a 60-120 hour Reading Academies course to remain employed. The Texas Tribune says, it’s taking some 120 hours on their own time to finish. And they aren't paid for that time. The Trib quoted one teacher, “I just feel like a lemon just squeezing, squeezing, squeezing,” said Christina Guerra, a special education teacher in La Joya Independent School District. “But there's no more, there's nothing that you squeeze out anymore. There's no more juice.”
Guerra told the Trib, she plans to leave the profession at the end of the school year.
The number of teachers in Texas has fallen 20% in the last decade, while the population has increased. But don't worry, Greg Abbott is appointing a task force to fix all of it, like he just fixed concerts. But how do you fix the workload, the salary, the lack of support, the insults from people who accuse you of every perversion except liking cats better than dogs? And now, Dan Patrick is looking over your shoulder, and more importantly, at the bathroom door to see who enters.
Think back to the teachers who meant a lot to you. Those who finally made that boring subject sink in, and perhaps, made it interesting as well. Yes, we got rudimentary sex ed back in my day, but it was usually about disease prevention and not dating some clichéd floozy twirling her purse, leaning on a lamppost. Seriously, that was in one of the films. Of course, none of that mattered in Dad's Malibu parking behind the Free Will Baptist Church in Pasadena, but we at least got the information. Hey, you didn't expect me to park behind my church, did you?
But those teachers obviously weren't in it for the money or the prestige. And there's less of both these days. It's a brutally tough job that doesn't end when the bell rings. And now, we've decided to add a heaping tablespoon of conspiracy theory nonsense on their plates.
And the only reason for that is the abject, lickspittle political cowardice of our political class. Do you really think Abbott believes kids are being "groomed" in schools to service some lib cult sex ceremony? Does Dan think our schools will be flooded with a swarm of trans kids wanting to play bathroom roulette and win every track meet? Well, in Dan's case, I'm not as sure, but I hope not. But they and some of the dimmer bulbs in our legislative chandelier, know that it plays to the Q crowd, and they are deathly afraid to say anything sensible in the face of it.
It's like illegal immigration. Let's be honest, my fellow Texans. My wife and I have built 3 houses in our 40 years of marriage, and not once did I visit the worksite and hear rock and roll or country on the boom box. The general sentiment among employers was, as long as we get the labor we want, and the lawn care and hospitality industries are healthy, we can turn a blind eye. Now, it's an invasion. Well, OK, an invasion of hard workers.
Orban DeSantis says there is critical race theory in math books, for crying out loud. That's how silly this is. Unless you want Mrs. Johnson in third-period history to join the rapture of Texas teachers, we need collectively to make her efforts worthwhile and most importantly, get off her back. Otherwise, the AV kids will simply have to fill her class time showing those cartoons Ted is fantasizing about.