Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do Teachers Unions do more Harm than good in Japan?

One percent of Americans claim they have been abducted by
aliens! Isn`t that amazing!

Do you believe them? If so, where are these aliens?

You have to wonder about whether the hype that many
English schools are bad, that is promoted on the
internet forums, is not simply a way to try to get
more union members.

The unions will tell you there are hundreds of complaints about
English schools every year. How many are valid? What percentage?
What percentage is simply whining? How many of these people
complained about their employers in their home countries?
Why do they stay with their schools?

As a young man and being rather left wing, I scoffed at the suggestion that unions were not all good. My father pointed out how they can try to intimidate employees to get their way.

Being young and inexperienced, I refused to believe him, but it seems to be true. In spite of the hype, unions are not always good for you and don`t always do what`s best for you. Even if they think they do.

Some unions are great and represent their members well. Others are not.

One of the reasons I enjoy teaching at my English school is because of the stress-free environment. But that relaxed feeling has recently changed. This has occurred not because of the students, the management, the company or the location. Surprisingly, the dissent among instructors is due to the new teachers union, which has created a hostile workplace. And as if erecting barriers between coworkers isn`t enough, the union is damaging the entire English-teaching profession here in Japan.

--Joseph Barker, is an English teacher in Japan

Originally published in Metropolis Magazine

Wow! Strong words from Joseph Barker (a pseudonym). I have never had problems with unions myself. In my case, when I have been a member, I think on the whole I was represented well. I sympathize with unions on the whole, being rather left in bent, but I also have come to sympathize with managers, having been one myself now for nearly 20 years. I think if you are working for a company that is not fair, having a teaching union available to back you up in case of a grievance, is a great asset.

However, you need to ask yourself if the union works for your best interest. Every school is different. Some employers are very good--very fair. If your employer is one of the kind ones, is it worth it to join a union?

Can there be potential problems as alluded to in the above quote? Unions can sometimes lead you astray.

Sometimes what unions do in the spirit of improving the situation of the employee, ends up backfiring and hurting the teachers, as the actions of the union, incur unimagined consequences.

I don`t understand how unions can say that they are fighting for all teachers` rights while encouraging union members to bully non-union workers.
"--Joseph Barker again, in Metropolis Magazine

The above is what my father was warning me about. He had been a member of a union while working in an airplane factory. Unions often feel they know best, which doesn`t necessarily agree with how you feel about things.

"Our union representative posted a bulletin in our teachers`room stating that instructors who covered a striking teacher`s shift were betraying their family, their country, and even their God. The newsletter compared so-called "scabs" with Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus."

--Joseph Barker, in Metropolis Magazine

Indeed some unions can be just as bad or worse than undesirable employers. Unions the world over have gone to extremes for their cause.

And is it your cause though? You need to answer that for yourself. If it is, then join the union.

In certain instances, I would think joining a union would be a great idea. But you need to decide for yourself.

A good union should never bully you to join it. It should have the integrity and respect of the employees, and workers join because of that respect for the well earned reputation.

So refuse to be bullied. But decide for yourself.

About the Author

Kevin Burns edits the website How to Teach English in Japan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy People

"Happy people live secure in the knowledge that
the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present
will also lead to a fulfilling future."

-Tal Ben Shahar, Ph.D

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We learn, We Grow, and We Move On Hopefully Together

We learn, We Grow, and We Move On Hopefully Together

Posted by preparedcitizens on October 16, 2008

I can not stop talking about pandemic preparedness any more than I can stop breathing.

The fact is that this virus is still marching on, changing, drifting, shifting and becoming more adapted to the human respiratory track. So please do not punish yourselves because of my ineptness.

The truth is, none of us know the future with any certainty. We could be preparing for a pandemic of H5N1 and find ourselves responding to some other catastrophe. The prudent course of action is all-hazards preparedness. But pandemics require a more specific type of preparedness. Medical emergencies usually do. The length of time that we will need to shelter in place is quite long compared to a hurricane or tornado emergency. They blow by us rather quickly but not a pandemic with waves and waves of illness.

We do have to be concerned about the continuity of our town government. The best thing that we can do for our town and our neighbors is to be prepared at home. We should be SO prepared that if our town departments need to close shop for a time, we are able to respond to emergencies within our own homes.

That means that our smoke detectors should be not only hardwired but battery operated (in case power is out)and they should be in good working order. Other ideas for self reliance:

* Have enough fire extinguishers and of the proper types for the different fire emergencies. Fire extinguishers of the proper type should be located in the kitchen, the laundry room, the basement, garage, and any workshops. Firefighters become ill during pandemics just like the rest of us. Extinguishers should be serviced each year.
* Clean and service water heating system and furnaces.
* Sweeping chimneys to reduce chimney fires. If the power is out we will be putting extra strain on our chimneys while heating with woodstoves.
* Install battery powered smoke detectors in proper locations and make sure to have extra batteries. If the power is out, our hard wired smoke detectors will be as well. Rolling brown outs and black outs make be more frequent during a severe pandemic as employees and repairmen also become ill. Smoke detectors should be on each floor of a house and outside all sleeping areas. Batteries should be changed every spring and fall when we change the clocks as a good reminder.
* Escape plans in case of fire for all family members. Making sure that there are two ways of escape and that there is a meeting place outside of the home is crucial. As a parent I know how we typically overlook this advice.
* Practice Stop, Drop, and Roll with your children. Good advice for any time.
* Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to reign in hot embers.

The next subject I approach with some trepidation. Discussing how we should best protect ourselves in our homes from home invasion and other threats during a pandemic when the police may not be available to respond to our calls is a touchy subject.

And this is where there simply must be a discussion in town about what residents should be expected to do. A neighborhood watch may be crucial in ensuring the safety of the residents of this town when absenteeism may be high.

SophiaZoe of A Pandemic Chronicle wrote a post “Law Enforcement and Panflu” that addresses this topic far better than I ever could. As a former LEO she has a much deeper understanding of the problem.

As for EMS and ambulance personnel in town, they will succumb just like the rest of us. Maybe even more so because they will be exposed more. Calling an ambulance is a moot point if the surge of patients and lack of supplies has closed our local hospitals. Having a heart attack during a pandemic will not usher you through the emergency room that has closed because there aren’t supplies to treat the patient.

At this point you may be saying to yourself that I just have an overly glum outlook, that I am overly pessimistic about the outcomes. You may be thinking that I am overstating the impact of a pandemic. That H5N1 will be the flu as usual and there is no need to plan. You may be saying that “its just flu” how bad can it be? You may be saying that “so people become ill, a week or two and they will be back to normal”. And you may be saying “there is nothing that we can do so why bother thinking about this or planning for it”.

All I can say to this is that there is a whole lot of planning going into pandemic preparedness at the federal and state levels. A lot has been done at the community level as well. Our town government cannot do this alone. Continuity of government means continuity of the services that we rely on now. We need a very deep bench to be a resilient community. Don’t take my word for this alone. Search out what others have to say about the issue. Ask the board of health if what I say is true and worthy of your concern. Planning is being done and volunteers for the medical reserve corps are welcomed with open arms - even when not from a medical background.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt has stated

“Any community that fails to prepare with the expectation that the federal government or for that matter the state government will be able to step forward and come to their rescue at the final hour will be tragically wrong, not because government will lack a will, not because we lack a collective wallet, but because there is no way that you can respond to every hometown in America at the same time.”

Prepare for your family first - then let’s prepare this town - YOU are needed.