Hold your heads high
After reading the essay by Savanna Kucerak (NYSUT United, October 2011), I was left with a bit of a lump in my throat. I am a recently retired foreign language teacher with 33 years in the classroom. Miss Kucerak has poignantly explained everything many of my colleagues have been saying for years. No one in the private sector gets it; teaching is not a profession one chooses, rather, it chooses you. The countless hours of work, the frustrations, the criticisms are only bearable for one reason — the kids. All like-minded educators must always hold their heads high and never allow themselves to be beaten down by those who are ignorant, misguided and small-minded.
The worth of a good teacher is immeasurable, and Miss Kucerak sounds like the type of teacher her students will treasure long after they have left her classroom. I wish her a long, rewarding career and the company of those who do believe in her.
Caren Brancati | Smithtown
CEOs should clean up acts
More than 2,000 years ago, a Greek politician, Chilon of Sparta, advised that it was bad luck to speak ill of the dead. So maybe we should be careful about what we say about the late Steven Jobs, former Apple, Inc. CEO. After all, he is generally considered to be a great inventor, businessman and genius who gave the world innovative electronic devices that revolutionized the way we communicate. Sadly, however, while he was alive, Mr. Jobs did not hesitate to speak ill of teachers. For example, at a conference in 2007, the Associated Press quotes Jobs as saying, "I believe what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-chart-crazy."
Chilon of Sparta offered another piece of advice: We should regulate well the business of our own house. Therefore, perhaps Mr. Jobs, like so many of his fellow millionaires and billionaires, ought to have spent less time fretting about teacher unions and tenure and spent more time reflecting on why he outsourced thousands of American jobs to other countries. Instead of railing against teachers, perhaps he should have criticized those corporations that, to avoid paying a fair share of taxes, manipulated tax codes and gamed the financial system enough to create an economic crisis. Perhaps, before his death, Mr. Jobs might have asked why so many corporations, bailed out by taxpayer money, continue to hoard enormous profits but refuse to create more jobs for Americans. Critics of teacher unions like Mr. Jobs need to regulate their own house first.
Richard E. Herrmann, President
Valley Stream Teachers' Association
Set more realistic goals
I do not have a solution to the economic malaise gripping our country, but I do know that Robert Reich, and so many others, should not aspire to repeat what he terms, "The Great Prosperity — from the end of the second World War to the mid-1970s." (NYSUT United, November 2011) That time period was a total aberration in history. It will never repeat itself. The only country left unscathed from total destruction was the United States. How could we not prosper? The rest of the world has rebuilt. We have economic competition beyond anything that generation could have imagined, since they had none.
If the destination is illusory, to suggest time-honored directions to reach it is an exercise in fantasy and futility. We must set more realistic economic goals. Once we do so, there's a possibility that appropriate programs can be designed, and agreed upon, by all.
Donard Pranzo | Miller Place TA
Most ignorant of labor history
I graduated from Flushing High School (1957), and I remember learning about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in the Flatiron (New York City, March, 1911). Samuel Gompers started unions to protect workers' rights. This past March, PBS-TV had a documentary about the fire. I lost a 15-year-old cousin in that fire. I am now residing in Florida and I asked several native Floridians in their 50s if they ever learned about the fire, Gompers, or if they know why unions were started. They said no. Maybe if they had learned about the conditions workers had worked under, they would be more empathetic towards unions.
I experienced the first New York City teachers' strike in 1962. I was a newly appointed permanent sub at Flushing HS. My former teachers were picketing and no way could I cross the picket line. Many of those teachers were near retirement age, and they were fighting for my future.
Marianne Gruskin | Jupiter, Fla.