A few days ago, I was driving while listening to NPR. The Oklahoma Repetition News Network was reporting that the #OkLeg had just passed an important new measure: With HB 2997, the red-tailed hawk had been designated as the state’s official raptor.

Wow. That OkLeg was solving big problems, much like I suggested in July 2017. The Oklahoma State Legislature: turning ridicule into reality since 1907.

‘Nerdstock’ descends on the Capitol

On the first Monday in April, cold weather confronted teachers and state workers during their walk-out demonstration at the Capitol. So cold that there were no red-tailed hawks or “Oklahoma” scissor-tails to be seen. There’s only the poor Capitol building, falling down on it’s rotten foundation, scaffolding surrounding it like crutches, the building straining to keep former Gov. Frank Keating’s dome in the air.

The walkout was festive considering the conditions, as much pep rally as demonstration. Of course, that is what one would expect from state workers and educators: organized, polite and fun. News choppers from channels 4, 5 and 9 were circling overhead as the All-Star Teachers’ Pep Band played Stevie Winwood before breaking into Twisted Sister, with everyone singing, “We’re not gonna take it any more!” A couple of my favorite demonstrator signs were, “I Have 158 Reasons to Walk!” and “Those that can, TEACH! Those that can’t, make laws about it!” I would describe the event as Nerdstock.

What do teachers do?

We know what they do: They teach. They teach the three Rs. They take care of snotty noses and toilet accidents. They send kids to detention. They discipline and train. They teach manners. They make your children feel safe and instill self worth. They teach biology, algebra, physics, Shakespeare, lit, chemistry and history of the world. They break up fights. They console children from broken homes, from economic worry and from fears of deportation. They coach soccer. They teach them to play the clarinet. They train our future leaders and sadly deal with future criminals. They make them ready for adulthood and to be responsible citizens.

What we might not know is just how totally strapped teachers are to do their jobs. Not enough textbooks for every student, broken-down school houses and moldy buildings, schedules reduced to four-day weeks and even some classrooms with too few desks.

A history teacher at the walkout told me she had 158 individual students. I talked to an English teacher with three class preparations who started the year with 210 students until attrition dropped that number to 150. Sure, the pay is low, but the attending factors make it so much worse for our children and their families. These conditions are tough enough when we consider the weight of responsibility and corresponding stress a teacher must feel even in the best of conditions.

Walkout continues

The teachers continue demonstrating today. I didn’t see any strong-armed union tactics from the notorious NEA/OEA. There were no 2nd Amendment gun-carrying teachers there. Pretty innocuous. Other than the threat of persistence, hardly any pressure on the OkLeg and Gov. Mary Fallin at all. Certainly not effective like the threats from those gray billionaires.

Heck, even the kids are “student council types.” No students from detention hall there threatening anyone or spitting bubble gum on the sidewalk. What a shame if that legislator parked on the east side would step in some old gum with his ostrich cowboy boots and smear it all over the leather trim in his black Beemer? The car that karma might poop-bomb from a red-tailed hawk or “Oklahoma” scissor-tail.

It was quite a happening. Maybe the largest demonstration ever, even bigger than the Women’s March. I left the rally to warm up and get some coffee, with The All-Star Teachers’ Pep Band playing Another Brick in the Wall in the background.

John Langston holds a master's degree and is retired from Tinker Field with 34 years of total federal service. He has been married 41 years and is the father of two sons. His hobbies include riding motorcycles, traveling, taking photos and yakking about politics.