In a nanosecond, I went through the possibilities the conversation could lead to: a friendly humor about not working to a little tongue-in-cheek remark about how teachers have their summers off. Unless I wanted to pick a fight, there was no point dealing with any snide remark. I don't like to fight. I am like Bugs Bunny, as a video recently pointed out, who always shied away from fights; but then he is always poked! ;)
"Yes, this is the first summer that I am not teaching any class" I replied as I continued to walk. I worried that if I stopped, then the friendliness might be at grave danger.
"Oh like a real vacation then."
I smiled and continued to walk. How do I explain the concept of a life in furlough?
The United States is famously a nation of people who think they should be on the job—and be on the job and be on the job. We work more hours than the Japanese. We work more than the Germans. We’re the only first-world nation that does not mandate vacation time or sick days. And let’s not even discuss our maternity leave policies.The Protestant work ethic has seeped into the Catholics, the Mormons, the Hindus, the atheists, ... Wait, it gets worse, writes that author at Slate:
Yet we don’t seem to be aware of how second-tier our standards are compared to other nations.
If you don’t take part in this orgy of work and more work? Something must be wrong with you— and that’s you, specifically.How do I begin to explain that I intentionally chose this profession even though it pays less than other professions that I could have easily signed up for? And that the nature of this profession is that we have only nine-month contracts, which results in an appearance of leisure time, even though I am working every day?
At least, they don't beat up on me. But, the political rhetoric in this country beats up on the poor and the low-income households. As if they are all poor only because they are lazy bums who don't work long hours--even though the data clearly show otherwise. What gives?
Here’s a thought: In an era in which decent, high-paying jobs are hard to find, and in which the workforce-participation rate is at lows not seen since the late 1970s, gainful employment turns into something of a status item. That allows us to rationalize the increasing hours we put in on the job—often done because we fear the consequences of saying no—as choice. Then we turn around and demean others who don’t work.It is a strange life that we lead.