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Thanks for the Feedback. Really.

By Joe Wessels · December 17th, 2008 · Wessels

One of the great delights of being published in a widely read publication is the occasional communication from readers.

Journalists, as if clarification is needed, are a curious bunch wrought with variably sized egos and a determined sense of right and wrong. Generally speaking, this isn’t a profession chosen to make fortunes but typically to tell a community’s stories with the awesome hope that we can help make change happen.

Occasionally we help bring about change. More often we don’t. It’s the attempt that I feel is noble.

Readers who’ve contacted me made me want to question harder and ponder longer the best way to approach what I wrote.

A colleague wrote to me early to say he was happy CityBeat had finally gotten around to putting a conservative voice in what I remember him calling a “liberal rag.” I’m not exactly Michael Moore, as much I love that big ol’ tub of goo, but I wouldn’t go around labeling myself a “conservative.”

I was taken aback by the harsh response I got to a column I wrote about Lakota schoolteachers facing a contract impasse. I hadn’t been called out that severely since the mother of the subject in one of my Cincinnati Enquirer stories — he’d been shot twice in two weeks, once in the ass, the other through the brim of his ball cap — threatened my life and caused a lockdown in the Enquirer newsroom nearly 10 years ago.

I thought the Lakota column rather benign at the time I wrote it (“School Funding Fight in the Burbs”), but the vitriol flamed into my inbox proved otherwise.

A person calling himself or herself “School Supporter” wrote to say teachers get paid too much, especially because they only have to work nine months of the year.

That person then got a little personal.

“After looking at your online resume it looks like you can’t hold a job for more than 18 months, you would be a perfect candidate for a teaching job,” he/she wrote. “And probably the biggest question I have is since you live in (my exact address and apartment number) and don’t pay taxes in Lakota, what business is it of yours?”

Thanks for the feedback, scary asshole. My business is that I care about the education kids get in Lakota and everywhere else as well as how happy their teachers are to give it.

Everyone deserves a wage representative of their skill level, even if it takes standing together to get it. I’ve heard about some service sector employees who would love to have the same opportunity.

Others just seemed misinformed, like a guy who said he was sick of the teacher sob story.

“Yes, they have an important job in shaping the minds of our children,” Mark C. wrote, then switched gears completely. “They are adequately compensated for a career in which they have no fear of layoff, have little if any evaluation or accountability for their individual performance, has no fear of being dismissed for under performance, are immune from the economic impact of recessions, and receive benefits for which most Americans would kill.”

No fear of layoff? Tell that to the hoards of teachers who have been laid off or the ones who spend hours teaching to a test. And benefits? He must mean health care, but hardly anyone has great health insurance in this country anymore. The only difference is many don’t have it at all, which I’d say is a major moral dilemma for a majority Christian country.

No one has ever badgered me for columns in which I touted the greatness of our firefighters, police officers or the soldiers in the military — who definitely don’t get paid anywhere near what they’re worth — but plenty of people found teachers to be an easy target.

I’m mystified by such a back-ended approach to dealing with our country’s ills. With better schools comes better citizens. With more a more responsible, more educated citizenry, crime is reduced and we need fewer police officers and have fewer fire and emergency medical runs.

Yet some people find it wasted money when we spend it on educating children or paying their educators a decent salary? Come on.

It’s like the fallacy that building more jails reduces crime or the death penalty deters it. More jails just means more people in jail, and we barely bother any more with reforming those already there. More people dying for their crimes just means more dead people.

But keep writing. I might disagree, but that’s where the discussion can really get going.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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