At a recent rally for teachers in Washington, D.C., Matt Damon defended teachers against the old “Teachers get lazy when they have tenure” argument. When the reporter from Reason TV asked Damon if he thought teachers would be more motivated to teach if they didn’t have job security, she made the mistake of comparing Matt’s acting career with teaching, pointing to actors’ inherent lack of job security as a motivator for good performance.
Matt’s response was priceless: “You think job insecurity makes me work hard? … A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?” He pointed out the argument against teacher tenure as an “…intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that…”
When the cameraman piped up that “ten percent of all teachers are bad,” Damon’s mom, standing at his side, asked where he got that number. He backtracked and said, “Ten percent of people in any profession maybe should think of something else,” to which Damon quipped back, “Well OK, but I mean, maybe you’re a shitty cameraman, I don’t know.”
The reporter was attacking Damon where he lives. His mom is a university professor of early childhood education. You had to wonder if the reporter had ever seen Damon in the movie “Good Will Hunting” where Matt plays a janitor at an Ivy League school in Boston, who, because of his social class, is derided by pseudo-intellectuals from a competing school. He redeems himself and the class he represents by besting his wealthy, callow offenders in both intellect and bravura. Damon displayed the same quick-witted skill at deflecting a growing collective condescension toward a favorite working-class scapegoat: teachers. Matt is powerful, convincing, and laudable as a common-sense champion of the people who really matter: those who work tirelessly and conscientiously to educate, and to keep people thinking. You go, Matt.