I’m impressed: he’s amazingly intelligent and eloquent when provided a stupid question or assertion from which to work, and he only swears twice. I would have trouble stopping at a dozen swears, honestly.
Why are libertarians even talking to Matt Damon in the first place? He’s a Harvard arts major Hollywood elite liberal. He is the very thing that they seem to always try to blame for everything that goes wrong.
He is being disingenuous, though. Not all people can follow their dream career. A lot of people also get their dream job only to discover they don’t like it very much. I have no idea how to improve education in America, because I have never worked in the education sector, but I am quite sure closing my eyes and pretend all teachers are wonderful Dead Poet Society wannabes is not the solution.
Actually, this makes me wonder… where did Matt Damon go to school that he apparently never encountered a shitty teacher? A teacher who didn’t give a damn? A teacher so dull and bored by his own voice it was impossible to pay attention.
@DistantFred: They’re talking to him because he’s there with his mother, a teacher
@Juan Arteaga: I never encountered a teacher who didn’t give a damn in school. That’s not saying I liked every teacher I was in class with, but still I never met any that seemed to be phoning it in. Oh, and I went to public school in rural Virgina if you’re wondering
I’m not sure I ever had a teacher who didn’t give a damn, but I didn’t always have a particularly good teacher. Maybe I didn’t respond to their style, or maybe they sucked.
Basically, teaching is a goddamn harder job than acting. All professions have pros and cons, of course.
@Juan: “Not all people can follow their dream career. A lot of people also get their dream job only to discover they don’t like it very much.”
It takes a non-negligible amount time, effort, and money to become a teacher. Can 10%(as the cameraman asserts) or even 20% of the people who make that investment be a large enough group to cause the problems, or oppose the solutions to the problems, our education system seem to have?
“I am quite sure closing my eyes and pretend all teachers are wonderful Dead Poet Society wannabes is not the solution.”
True. Neither is assuming that ALL teachers are shitty, don’t give a damn, and are so boring and dull its impossible to pay attention to them. Or will become such, after gaining tenure.
That last was perhaps a bit snide, and for that I apologize. It seems clear that Juan has had teachers like that, and that’s wrong. But I have to wonder how many people are looking at the big picture through that “I-had-a-Bad-teacher(s)” lens, and yet come away from Parent/Teacher night with every confidence with their children’s school? There are real, complicated problems with our education system that need real, complicated solutions. Which is Damon’s point.
Whole video is fantastic, but the best part, for my money, is when the cameraman claims ten percent of teachers are bad.
Cameraman: Ten percent of teachers are bad.
Matt Damon: Where do you get that number?
Cameraman: I don’t know.
…Later on, Damon would see the Cameraman in a diner, tap on the window and say “Hey. Do you like apples?”
The cameraman would say “What?”
Damon would say “Do you like apples?”
The Cameraman would say, “Sure.”
Then Damon would say, “Public school systems employed about 3.3 million teachers last fall, resulting in a pupil/teacher ratio of 15.3. As a result, the percentage of high school dropouts among 16- through 24-year-olds declined from 11.8 percent in 1998 to 8.1 percent in 2009. HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES?”
Does it seem reasonable at all that the cameraman should be bailing out the interviewer? That seems a little odd.
Y’know, I’ve always been a Matt Damon fan, but his stock just went up about ten points in my opinion.
> It takes a non-negligible amount time, effort, and money to become a teacher.
It takes a lot of effort to become a civil engineer. My dad is a great civil engineer; he is so good he gets hired by other civil engineers to do the stuff they find too hard to do themselves. MY dad told me that if he could reboot his life, he would study medicine. Of course, this also means that not all people who dislike their jobs are bad at it either, but to think all people who spend years pursuing a career love it to pieces is absurd and naive. I know people who ended up graduating of something because their parents pushed them into it, or because they thought it was going to bring them easy money. This even reminds me of an interview with Stephen Hawking where he revealed that in retrospect he would have preferred to study genetics rather than astro-physics. In fact, after checking his bio, the only reason he ended up with physics was because the university he attended didn’t have degrees in math.
> Can 10%(as the cameraman asserts) or even 20% of the people who make that investment be a large enough group to cause the problems, or oppose the solutions to the problems, our education system seem to have?
I don’t know the percentage, and neither does the idiot cameraman. What I do know is something that people don’t know about Unions. Now, I am not anti-Unions. I believe people have the right to get together and fight for their common interests. Here is the thing, though: People always forget that unions, just like corporations, are guided and governed by their own self-interests and those self interests are not the interests of everybody else. For instance, making teachers really hard to fire benefits the union, but it sure as hell doesn’t benefit anyone else.
What I am saying is that you don’t need a specific number of crappy teachers to gum up the works, just opposing interests. Assuming the problem is that there are shitty teachers that can’t be fired (I frankly wouldn’t know if that’s the big problem, or the real problem, or the only problem) you don’t need a majority of shitty teachers to gum up the works, because even good teachers don’t want to be easy to fire. Who the hell wants to be easy to fire? I don’t blame the good teachers for opposing being easy to fire. I wouldn’t like that either.
> Neither is assuming that ALL teachers are shitty,
Who is doing that? Point at him and I’ll help you beat the shit out of him.
> There are real, complicated problems with our education system that need real, complicated solutions. Which is Damon’s point.
That’s a very nice point, except that Matt Damon is simplifying the issue himself by claiming that all teachers love their job and that the only reason why anybody would do it is because they love it. Of course, he is talking from the point of view of a smart, talented, handsome Harvard Alumni. But Matt seems oblivious that not everyone can follow their dream (either they didn’t have the same opportunities, the money to go to college or the talent to do what they wanted), which is why not most kids grow up to be astronauts.
Look at the people who clean up septic tanks for a living. Outside of German porn, do you think there is a large contingent of people who want to wallow in human filth? That they have a passion for it? Using Matt Damon’s logic, they should love their jobs. I mean, the pay is crap and the work hours are long too. Surely they must love shit.
I am quite sure the ratio of people who don’t like their job is lower in teaching than in septic tank cleaning, if only because I cannot imagine it otherwise. But seriously, Matt seems to think all teachers are like his mom, and kudos to his mom but that is naive and it goes against the point he was making.
I think if only 10% of teachers are bad we are doing a pretty good job. 10% of a lot of people are bad at their job, that is a pretty damn good ratio.
Reason’s take on this (http://reason.com/blog/2011/08/02/is-matt-damon-right-that-teach) is (surprisingly) in disagreement. I normally like them, but it does make me wonder why my family was so poor for so long, being supported by “solidly middle-class” earnings.
Also, I thought teaching required a master’s degree. Their article says it only requires a bachelor’s?
I think it depends on the state. I know you can be a SUBSTITUTE teacher with a Bechelor’s, which is what a lot of people do while getting their teaching credentials.
Also, that article claims that teachers make that much because of their shortened work year, and shortened work days. Right, because as we all know, teachers never stay after-hours or work during the summer.
Most of the time that teachers spend committed to their school is unpaid, but it’s things like grading papers and setting up back-to-school nights and supporting sporting events. Things which, while technically not part of their job, would also be looked at negatively on job performance review were they not to do them.
Prefect: Teaching at college level generally requires a Master’s, though you can do adjunct teaching with less. For secondary level, a bachelor’s and a teaching certificate is sufficient, at least where I live.
What I love about this argument is that libertarians never turn around and apply it to CEOs.
Well, Juan, do you want to introduce any more logical fallacies into your argument? I’ll wait…
I’m not sure what the long misdirection involving your father’s career as a civil engineer, or the hypothetical German porn actor has to do with anything.
What Mr. Damon is talking about is vocation vs. avocation. Septic tank cleaner is a vocation. So is civil engineer. Actor and teacher, for most of the people who set off for that career, are avocations. That is his point. It’s also his point that the reductive libertarian (although I much prefer the Balloon Juice-ism Glibertarian, particularly in this context) cosmology that humans are only or primarily motivated by selfishness doesn’t work where there are other complex factor that go into the decision, like a lifelong desire to be an actor, or a teacher. That was Mr. Damon’s short intelligent answer to a stupid, leading question.
I’m not sure how your point about Teachers’ Unions undermines Mr. Damon’s point. Unions are an advocacy group, and I fail to see how advocating for a group of professionals has any impact on why someone joins that profession. Do you think there’s anyone who becomes a teacher to join the union? I don’t.
So, in the end, no, Mr. Damon’s not simplifying the question, he’s displaying the absurdity of an overly simplistic and pat worldview in light of the complexity of the decision to follow a career, particularly like teaching that has a different set of factors that go into that decision other than remuneration.
As someone else pointed out, a Master’s degree is not necessary for primary or secondary educators. In fact, speaking as someone who knows people in this situation, in the current economy a Master’s is something of a liability at that level, because by their own rules they have to pay you more if you’re better credentialed. So a lot of places are cutting corners by only hiring people with Bachelor’s degrees.
>Well, Juan, do you want to introduce any more logical fallacies into your argument? I’ll wait…
Look, I want to keep this conversation in an adult level. If you want me to reply to your points avoid making snippy remarks like that one. I am being courteous with people whose opinion differ from mine, and I expect the same courtesy back. I don’t want this conversation to derail into shouting and personal attacks. If I wanted that I would argue about this at 4chan.
If you want to try again try posting again keeping in mind that there are other ways for people to argue.
All right Juan: Do you believe anyone grows up wanting to be a septic tank cleaner?
Did your dad grow up wanting to be a civil engineer, even an extremely good one? Did he feel a calling for that profession other than to provide for his family?
Because if not, your post completely misses the point of what Mr. Damon is talking about. He says people enter into the teaching profession because of reasons completely unrelated to the ‘incentives’ Reason is talking about.
I still have no idea what Teachers Unions have to do with anything Mr. Damon said in the clip above, that’s a issue you brought into the converstaion as a way to rebut an arguement that was never made. So please tell me what the existance of a union has to do with the decision someone might make to become a teacher, since motivation by something other than money is exactly what Mr. Damon is talking about in that clip.
Finally, this is the internet, and snark happens. I didn’t call you an idiot, or a fool, or ask you to die in a fire. You decided to attack arguments that are not addressed in any way in the clip above (Everyone forgets about Unions! His argument is invalid because of something something!). That’s a logical fallacy.
The whole “but 10% of teachers are bad, because 10% of every profession is bad” point is such a breathtaking non sequitur that I’m amazed Damon managed to keep his jaw from hitting the floor. As it is, you can see him boggling that the cameraman even thinks that’s an argument.
As pointed out, “teacher” is a profession people aspire to, like “actor” and “policeman” and “astronaut”, as opposed to the kinds of jobs that “just” make money. It comes with a certain level of respectability and importance that’s missing from a lot of other jobs. Of course people can aspire to any position in life–I’m sure “civil engineer” is a profitable profession, but I’m just as sure that there are people who are passionate about that field and aren’t doing it for the money–but given the relatively low pay, bureaucratic hassles, and the importance of teaching in our society, teachers have got to generally fall much closer to the “passion” end of the spectrum of motivation than many other jobs (“actor” and “cameraman” included).
There are, of course, shitty teachers, but these guys, and a number of right-wingers of late, seem to be specifically targeting the profession. I guess it’s because of the kerfuffle in Wisconsin, the fact that teachers are government employees, and (if I may be cynically partisan for a moment) the fact that teachers are one of the things that turn people into well-informed, civilized human beings and prevent them from becoming mindless, pliable consumers and Tea Partiers. There’s no other reason I can think of to go after teachers specifically–I mean, if you’re just honestly concerned about the budget and government bureaucracy, there are about a million better targets. It’s like someone on the left badmouthing those lazy soldiers, who have it so easy. Why, I hear all their work is done by robot drones nowadays!
Whatever, I kind of wish these guys would keep going after teachers. Most people either know a teacher or had their lives changed by one, so seeing this kind of argument is only going to show people how silly and detached from reality most glibertarian arguments are.
I seriously don’t understand how Libertarianism stays around. Well, that’s a lie. The motivations (benign and otherwise) are fairly easy to understand. But what bothers me is the degree to which being Libertarian seems to come hand-in-hand with being immune to rational argument.
Y’know, between trying to do the reporter’s job for her and the shaky video, this guy does seem to be a pretty shitty camera man.
There are indeed shitty teachers. They agree not to teach evolution. They go along with the banning of books. They don’t push for better sex education…
Hmmmmm well if we’re worried about bad teachers how do we make them better, i guess we could look at all these countries that do better than us with their public education OH, HEY, they actually have much stronger teachers’ unions than we do and pay their teachers better than we do, hHhUuUhHHh.
Like okay so: you’re John Q. Libertarianidiot and you snap your fingers, and the teachers’ unions are gone, BAM. You get to run around firing all the teachers you wanna fire.
So: now what’s your plan? You’re going to replace those teachers with, what, some giant pile of highly qualified people who are thrilled to accept shitty pay, long hours, endless bureaucratic bullshit, budgets that have long since been cut to the bone, and now of course a total lack of job security?
Does anyone, anywhere ever think about this shit past step 1?
“For instance, making teachers really hard to fire benefits the union, but it sure as hell doesn’t benefit anyone else.”
THIS is the main anti-Union argument and is bullshit for several reasons
Imagine a world without a teachers union (stop smiling) in such a politicized world what’s to stop, for example, Tennessee, from firing every teacher that wants to teach evolution? Or sex ed? What’s to stop a single person with hiring/firing capabilities from dictating the entire educational course of an entire school district?
In your Libertarian paradise nothing. Of course this is where the Free Market kicks in an then everyone who doesn’t like those teaching policies magics themselves away magically to a new place they DO like where magic magic magic and everybody’s happy!
Now you have a nation where children on one block are taught completely different facts than children on the next block.
And hey, wanna guess what happens to the minority teachers that person doesn’t like? Bye bye!
No, Unions are a necessary evil to fight another necessary evil. Power Holders need SOMETHING to keep them in check and Unions are it. The fact that people without power can stand up for the Power Holders like this is disgusting, people are standing up AGAINST their rights, AGAINST their own best interest. They’re blocks of wood holding up signs demanding we stop picking on woodpeckers. And make no mistake, those people are peckers.
And if that “10%” argument is, in any way, true, what sense does it make to punish 100%? By that argument 10% of the people in your profession are shit, should you be punished for that?
You know where the cameraman pulled that “10% of teachers are bad” from? Sturgeon’s Law. He’s got it all wrong, of course, but I’m sure that’s some bad teacher’s fault.
[I had some bad teachers in school. One was marking time until retirement, and was allowed to do so for several years. The others were coaches who also ran classes – not teachers who coached, mind you, though I’m sure they saw it that way.]
While this has increased Matt Damon’s “cool” factor by times 10 in my estimations, you have to forgive my ignorance cos I have no idea what the political background to this is since I live in the UK.
Can someone briefly tell me what the political context of this video is?
@Radiate: It’s a video made for and by these people (from the indispensable Balloon Juice Lexicon http://www.balloon-juice.com/balloon-juice-lexicon-q-z/ ):
Reasonoids- Collective nickname for the glibertarians who write at Reason’s Hit and Run blog. Known for long and syrupy odes to the free market despite the fact that the magazine itself is a fully funded wingnut welfare endeavor, Reason’s writers as of late have contributed little more to the public discourse than regurgitating right-wing talking points and dressing them up with a libertarianish spin. A one word summation of the Reasonoids would be “SMUG,” and their defining characteristic is the inability to differentiate levels of government over-reach. For example, to a Reason writer, the government requiring someone to wear a seatbelt is just as bad as detaining someone indefinitely and torturing them. General consensus is that Radley Balko is the only redeeming characteristic at the website anymore, although the Reason staff has consistently done admirable work regarding the Drug War, police over-reach, and pornography.
(Attempt at US/UK filter on)
These are rabid Thatcherites. They’re deeply angry about the fact that most US state schools have strong unions representing the teachers. Actually, if you dig a bit they’re just deeply angry about the existence of state schools, full stop.
10% of teachers comprise the worst 10% of teachers. So there.
No, I don’t know what this is supposed to prove either.
Yeeeeesh! Not your typical Thatcherites but rabid ones too?! Good luck is all I can say.
Bonus Round to what John 2.0 quoted: Radley Balko recently left Reason, but does still defend their work.
So no, no reason at all to read them, now. Pun fully intended.
You know…he was a shitty cameraman…and we see the limits of what conservative bimbo reporters can do.
Hey, thanks for bringing your sexism to the party.
> All right Juan: Do you believe anyone grows up wanting to be a septic tank cleaner?
Maybe a few do, but I would hazard a guess and say that most would rather do something else. My point is that not everybody who works in a profession with low pay and long hours does it because they love it.
> Did your dad grow up wanting to be a civil engineer, even an extremely good one? Did he feel a calling for that profession other than to provide for his family?
Yes, you might be surprised but some people who work in technical fields do it because they love it. I don’t think it is any different from teaching, really. I know this Korean girl who loves accounting. God knows why, but she does. She really does, she even posts on Facebook how much she does. She scares the crap outta me, but she loves accounting. Not all accountants love accounting though, I know an MPA, which means he went back to school to study even more accounting, and the password for his Wifi is “accoutingsucks”.
>Because if not, your post completely misses the point of what Mr. Damon is talking about. He says people enter into the teaching profession because of reasons completely unrelated to the ‘incentives’ Reason is talking about.
I get that much, which is why I think he is wrong. I believe that some teachers are not as passionate about the profession as he thinks. It is a very romantic notion to think all teachers are like that, but I think it is unrealistic and putting teachers on a pedestal above mere humans does not help solve the problem. Now, I don’t know about the incentives, if there is one thing I have learned in management classes is that monetary incentives are the easy way out and not particularly effective, but my concentration was not managing people so I only know a little about the subject. Still, one thing I do know is that when people know that nothing happens if they do a bad job, that’s when things start going wrong. If Matt Damon wants to fly against years of research on the subject and proclaim teachers are above and beyond such mere human traits, he is welcome to say so and I am welcome to say he is talking out of his ass.
Going back to the subject of people loving a profession, just because a person loves a field doesn’t mean he is any good at it anyway. Fanfic writers love to write, and they do it completely for free, and 99% of them are utter shit. I would never doubt that Liefeild loves comics, but he can’t draw to save his life. Love and passion does not equate talent, just the will to use it if you have it.
There is also the case of people who probably thought they were going to like it but ended up seeing that their dreams did not match the reality. I met someone at grad school. He had graduated from Harvard and started working as a teacher. He went back to college because he soon discovered, in his own words, that “he hated that shit.” How many probably discover the same thing but don’t have the money, the time or the inclination to go back to college for one, two or three more years to switch careers?
> I still have no idea what Teachers Unions have to do with anything Mr. Damon said in the clip above, that’s a issue you brought into the converstaion as a way to rebut an arguement that was never made. So please tell me what the existance of a union has to do with the decision someone might make to become a teacher, since motivation by something other than money is exactly what Mr. Damon is talking about in that clip.
I was not replying to Matt Damon, I was replying to Kaisus (5th post in this thread) who asked how a minority of shitty professor (if we accept the cameraman’s 10% number which he pulled out of his ass) could damage the system. My answer, again, is that you don’t need a majority of shitty anything to bring a system down, just conflicting interests. I brought the Teacher’s union as an example, because a big complain against the education system is that bad teachers can’t be fired and because we were talking about teachers already. Some people want to make it somewhat easier for schools to get rid of bad teachers, but obviously the teachers (good, bad and mediocre) don’t like this. Again, I have nothing against unions, but I think that in all professions, bad professionals should be within reason fireable.
> Finally, this is the internet, and snark happens.
But it doesn’t have to. Look, the second I read your post I was about to escalate with slightly more insulting snark. And that’s the slippery slope and how most discussions degenerate into shit flinging. And you know what? I said Fuck it. I don’t want to do that, I want to have an actual civil conversation. I know snark is expected in the internet, and I think that’s the major cause of internet cretinism, so instead of responding in the same manner I changed the paradigm, I changed it like a motherfucker. Because that’s not the type of interaction I want to engage in the web.
I don’t normally weigh in on these sorts of discussion, but I have to de-lurk here because, unlike many of the above posters, I am a teacher. I have a PhD with a specialization in 13th-14th Century British Literature, and I have a position as an Assistant Professor at a college in the United States. I’m not bragging about my credentials: I merely want to point out that I have been in the US educational system a long time both as a student and as an educator. And, while Matt Damon was speaking about K-12 teachers in his comments, the same principle applies to Higher Ed as well – it doesn’t matter if 10% of teachers are bad, rather what matters is that 100% of public school/university teachers are treated badly in every state. You have your funding cut every year, and with an economy in a severe downturn, you have it cut down to the bone. In short, you have to cry, beg and plead for government funding just to keep your job, most of which falls on deaf ears unless it is an election year. In fact, most of us do not know if we will have a job in August until the new fiscal year begins every July. Our benefits are a joke, and without the Union, most of us would not even get the little we do. In my state, educators have not received cost-of-living adjustments, and we have had out base salaries cut over 13.6%, not including the added 8.6% in additional cuts due to furloughs. Don’t get me wrong: I am damn grateful to have a job, but keeping that job gets harder every year. And the idea of tenure looks more like a distant dream than a happy reality, mainly because universities in my state are getting around tenure protections by simply closing entire programs, whether they have students in those majors or not.
Despite all of these frustrations, I LOVE my job. Nothing is better than seeing the light go on in my students’ eyes when I make literature relevant to them. But I understand how teachers can go or be bad. Most of it has to do with the low moral caused by constantly having to justify why we should even exist. How would you feel if you constantly had to justify why what you do matters to a world that seems to care less – after all, any idiot can teach, right? I mean, those who can do, and those who can’t, teach.
I’ve heard it all, and quite frankly, it makes me nostalgic for the days when the only demeaning thing I had to hear about myself was the latest blonde joke. At least some of those were funny.
All the Matt Damon love aside, I don’t get her comparison with actors — like, the only thing actors have to do to have a well-paying, secure job is to be good.
MOST actors (like, 95%) are paid poorly and work long hours. Among these actors are many, many good actors, and some great actors. MOST actors do stage work or commercial work, or bit work in films. Yes, there are unions, but unlike some other unionized industries, acting unions don’t guarantee you jobs — they just ensure certain conditions.
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